Penn State’s Punishment

So now it’s over. The National Collegiate Athletic Association rendered its decision today about Penn State’s punishment for allowing and covering up Assistant Athletic Coach Jerry Sandusky’s longstanding sexual abuse of children. Penn State will get to keep its football team, but it’s not being let off easily.

According to a piece by Jeremy Roebuck at the Philadelphia Inquirer:

The NCAA assessed the program a $60 million fine, eliminated several scholarships and banned Penn State from postseason play for the next four years. That prompted the Big Ten Conference later Monday to announce that during that period it would withhold the university’s share of bowl game payments – the equivalent of about $13 million a year.

All current student athletes will be offered the opportunity to immediately transfer and begin playing for other schools.

The NCAA also “vacated all 111 team wins between 1998 – the year Penn State administrators first became aware of allegations against Sandusky – through 2011.” This removes Paterno from his position as college coach with the most victories. He won 409 games but under the NCAA decision he will only get credit for 298 wins. The records of Penn State football players on the team between 1998 and 2011 will also be erased.

Penn State also removed the statue of Paterno that has stood in front of the school stadium since 2001.

The Paterno family objected to the decision, saying that “the sanctions announced by the NCAA today defame the legacy and contributions of a great coach and educator without any input from our family or those who knew him best.”

Well, nor should there be any input from your family. Or Jerry Sandusky’s family. Or the families of the victims.

But the punishment is a little odd.

Penn State, after all, did win all of those games between 1998 and 2011. Perhaps by the trick of the rules former Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden has now won the most games in history, but come on. Paterno won 409 games. Bowden won 377. Paterno won more games. One can’t go back and change history like that. This isn’t like a performance enhancing drug, in which the violation resulted in an inappropriate number of victories. It’s not like the sexual abuse caused the school to win the games.

Jordan Weissmann over at the Atlantic points out that even the $60 million fine isn’t that severe. Penn State, unlike most colleges, has a profitable athletic program. Last year Penn State’s annual revenue, in fact, was $72.7 million.

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Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer