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What We Can Learn From the Sandusky Trial

Posted on the 26 July 2012 by Candornews @CandorNews

Aftermath of the Sandusky Trial: A Lesson for All

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The dust is finally settling around the Penn State, Gerry Sandusky scandal.  Most people at this point know at least some of the large sanctions passed unto Penn State from the NCAA.  Now all that’s left is for people to decide what they think of the punishment, what it means for the future of college athletics, and, for Penn State, it’s time to begin rebuilding.

The punitive punishments that NCAA president Mark Emmert listed to Penn State are as follows:

  • A $60 million fine, which amounts to about one year of revenue for the football team.  All of this money is going to programs that will help victims of child abuse.
  • A ban on playing any postseason (bowl or playoff) games for the next 4 years.
  • A loss of $20,000 worth of football scholarships each year for the next four years, totaling to be an $80,000 loss.
  • All football wins have been revoked between 1998-2011.  1998 was the first time suspicion of sexual misconduct between Sandusky and a child was reported.  This also means the Joe Paterno is no longer the most winningest coach in college football.
  • A five-year probation on all sports at Penn State
  • Adoption of all recommendations for reform in section 10 of an FBI investigation into abuse at Penn State
  • Appointment of an Athletics Integrity Monitor, to be selected by the NCAA, for the next five years.
  • Current players for Penn State are allowed to transfer to a new school and play that same year, instead of the usual one-year period of waiting.
  • Further individual punishments could occur after the end of the criminal proceedings.

These punishments are unprecedented and very severe, but they could have been much worse, like giving Penn State football the death penalty and completely terminating the program; for one year, fours years, or indefinitely.  While these punishments are harsh, many people believe that they are just and fit the crimes committed by the Penn State football program.  The authorities of the program, including the iconic coach, JoePa, allowed the actions of a child rapist in their facilities for 13 years.  When confronted by the issue, which they were in 1998 and again in 2001, these four men—President Graham Spanier, Senior Vice President‐Finance and Business Gary Schultz, Athletic Director Tim Curley and Head Football Coach Joe Paterno—did little to investigate the victims or to prevent this from happening in the future.  In fact, on the second occurrence it seemed as though their main concern was to keep it from happening within Penn State’s facilities again, not to keep it from recurring altogether.

With these punishments the NCAA was doing more than punishing Penn State for its role in a cover-up, it was sending out a warning to all college athletic programs to take a step back and re-evaluate the role sports are playing in their institutions, because if these programs do not, the NCAA will.

Emmert even stated, “Football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing and protecting young people.”  He went on to ask “Do we have the right balance in our culture?”

In the past decade the NCAA has been surrounded by football controversies and cover-ups, dealing out the worst punishments when there is evidence of a lack of “institutional control.”  That typically means rule breaking such as improper benefits given to players and recruits.  It can also fall under rule breaking committed by players and covered up or ignored by program officials, like what happened last year when Ohio State University football players sold memorabilia for money and tattoos, while coach Jim Tressel turned a blind eye.

This is an era of out-of-control college football that needs to be sized down to the reality that it is just a game.  Football coaches should be respected, not worshipped, although someone should tell the many OSU fans that still don the iconic Tressel sweater vest.  For many, the realization of how much football programs are idolized came when Ohio State University President Gordon Gee was asked if he was planning on firing Jim Tressel during the growing scandal. His notorious response: “I’m just hopeful the coach doesn’t dismiss me.”

Regardless, this post-Sandusky period should be a time for all universities, not just Penn State, and re-evaluate their athletic programs—especially football—and make the necessary changes for a future that isn’t so caught up on college sports.

For more details on the Penn State Sandusky scandal check out the Freeh report (PDF).  The Freeh report was an independently carried out investigation on Sandusky’s crimes and the NCAA used it to make many of the sanctions.  An easy summary can be found between pages 19-30 where there is an easy-to-follow timeline.

Past college sport scandals can be looked at here.


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