The NCAA should have stayed out of the Penn State situation because it was a legal matter, not a sports matter. The 60 million dollar fine was the only sanction necessary because it went directly to helping victims of sex abuse. The four-year bowl ban, loss of scholarships, and the vacating of all wins from 1998-2011 are not only unnecessary, but they are pointless, as they do absolutely nothing to help victims of sex abuse.

All they succeed in doing is punishing the innocent football players (current and former), fans, coaching staff members, students, and anyone else feeling the effects of the sanctions. Dave Zirin, a writer for The Nation, writes in his article, “Why the NCAA’s Sanctions on Penn State are Just Dead Wrong,” that,“Today marked a stomach-turning, precedent-setting and lawless turning point in the history of the NCAA. The punishment levied by Emmert was nothing less than an extra-legal, extrajudicial imposition into the affairs of a publicly funded campus. If allowed to stand, the repercussions will be felt far beyond Happy Valley.”

The punishments, as he is saying, will hurt innocent people that have nothing to do with Penn State Football. Also, Ron Cook writes in his article “Hold Applause on ‘new’ Culture of College Football,” about how he is, “still having a hard time understanding how the Sandusky case is an NCAA matter and not one that should be settled in the criminal and civil courts.” Just as these two men suggest, the NCAA has taken a sad, emotional, and legal situation centered on a sick and decrepit pedophile named Jerry Sandusky and the people that failed to report his horrific endeavors, and they have turned it into a football issue by virtue of their direct punishments on the football team – both current and past.

In contrast of my view on the sanctions imposed by the NCAA, some believe that they were just in doing so, and some believe that they should have been even harsher than they were. Mike Ozanian, a writer for forbes.com, brings up the USC Scandal in which it was found that current NFL player Reggie Bush and NBA player O.J. Mayo had accepted gifts from their agents, and thus forfeiting their eligibility as collegiate and amateur athletes. As a result, the football team’s final two wins of its’ 2004 National Championship season were vacated, their wins in 2005 were vacated, it was banned from bowl games in both 2010 and 2011, and they lost 30 scholarship offers over the course of three years. The basketball team’s wins in the 2007-08 season were vacated, and they could not play in any postseason game in 2010. Ozanian writes, “In 2010 the NCAA meted out penalties against the University of Southern California‘s football program, including barring it from bowl games in the 2010 and 2011 seasons. The penalties given to USC were the harshest since the NCAA issued the ‘death penalty’ to the Southern Methodist football program in 1986, shutting it down for two years.”

He later states that the Penn State’s punishment in comparison was, “Not much of a price to pay for what was going on at Happy Valley the past two decades.”

He believes the punishments should have been more detrimental to Penn State because the current sanctions will not hurt the program enough. He is arguing that because USC’s penalties were what they were, the Penn State penalties should have gone that much farther because the scandal was that much more extreme in comparison with USC’s scandal.

Another point of view taken is that of Matthew McNeil, a writer for minnpost.com. He believes that the NCAA should have, “shut down the Penn State Football program in its entirety.” He writes, “This crime is far more horrible than any sports-related problem needing the NCAA’s oversight, and if this doesn’t deserve the ultimate punishment, what would?” He goes on to write, “I have no doubt these sanctions will cripple the football team for decades, if not forever. If anything, the NCAA is trying to minimize the pain for the current players, and if the players are still upset, blame the violation, not the punishment.”

Later in his article, McNeil describes that the penalties should have been, “so harsh that it would act as the ultimate warning to colleges and universities. Yes, there are people who’d lose their jobs and there are some businesses that would have to close because they’ve lost their main revenue source, but once again, blame the violations, not the punishment.” Finally, he goes on to write, “A stronger penalty would prevent a winning, bigger-than-life coach, a coach with tremendous power and pull not only on campus but with the neighboring community, from thinking he or she can control reality and determine what laws should and should not be followed.”

While both Ozanian and McNeil agree that the sanctions should have been much harsher, they do so for different reasons. Ozaniann compares the atrocities, crimes, and destructive ways of an evil and repulsive pedophile named Jerry Sandusky to a situation where two USC athletes were given money and gifts while playing at an amateur athletic level.

This is not only a false analogy, but it is belittling to the victims to compare something as petty as paying college players to a situation in which innocent children’s lives will be forever marred by a sick pervert who sodomized them.

The USC matter was an issue that was directly related to the NCAA and to college athletics. Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo were two college athletes who committed acts that were not permissible at their level because by getting money, they were considered professionals and deemed ineligible to play. Yes, what they did was wrong, but it was a direct violation of NCAA rules and regulations; therefore, the NCAA had a right to step in and punish the program.

The Penn State situation, however, was a criminal matter. Jerry Sandusky raped, molested, and abused innocent children, and it was allegedly covered up by Joe Paterno, Graham Spanier, Tim Curley, and Gary Schultz. Three of those men, Spanier, Curley, and Schultz, are on trial for perjury. The matter at hand is sexual abuse, not ineligible players participating in a game. The matter at hand goes beyond the NCAA’s jurisdiction; it goes to the legal system and to the courts. The matter at hand is not an NCAA matter.

There are absolutely no parallels that can be drawn between the USC Scandal and the Penn State Scandal. There is not one legal discrepancy that exists in the entire USC Scandal. Not one person committed a crime. In the Penn State Scandal, a man will be going to jail for the rest of his life for his crimes, and more trials are still pending. Just as there was no criminal violation in USC’s predicament, there was no NCAA violation in anything that went on at Penn State. What went on there was much darker, sinister, and disgusting than anything the NCAA had any business getting involved in. Still, they chose to make the situation about football and punish more innocent people.

The other man who believes the sanctions should have been harsher is Matthew McNeil. This man not only looks at the situation through the wrong perspective, but he looks at it through an extremist’s perspective. When I first read his article, I thought his idea of “shut[ting] down the Penn State Football program in its entirety” meant that he was an advocate for imposing a one year death penalty on the program, meaning the program would be non-existent for one season. However, as I read further, it became clear that he was suggesting something even more ridiculous: “Yes, there are people who’d lose their jobs and there are some businesses that would have to close because they’ve lost their main revenue source, but once again, blame the violations, not the punishment.” The consequences he is suggesting are not consequences that would arise out of the death penalty. They are consequences that would come from literally getting rid of Penn State Football entirely.

McNeil has already stated some of what would happen if this occurred, but so much more would come of it as well. People will lose jobs, companies will go out of business, just as he stated. Then, as a result of the businesses falling apart, people could begin to fall apart as well by going bankrupt because they cannot find, or no longer have, a job that supports them and their family. Subsequently, they may lose their homes as well if their situations progress so that they can no longer afford their monthly payments. He is looking at this situation close-mindedly, as he fails to see how innocent people are already being punished by the current sanctions, and he believes that more should be imposed, and if they feel angry they should, “blame the violation, not the punishment.”

But this is a violation that was committed by five people: Sandusky, Spanier, Curley, Schultz, and Paterno, while the people that are being punished by the NCAA are those that had no way of even knowing anything about the scandal.

McNeil also says that the punishment should have been more detrimental because it will send a message to other universities that will keep another coach, “from thinking he or she can control reality.” It is a false causality to think that because Joe Paterno was revered throughout Penn State and Happy Valley, he had the power to “control reality.” He was given a report by the man, Mike McQueary, who witnessed Sandusky raping a boy in a shower, in the Penn State locker rooms, and he reported it to a higher authority. Those people then, allegedly, lied to a grand jury about hearing of the allegations made against Sandusky. Paterno did not try to justify child sex abuse and make it a new reality that it was now permissible at the University of Penn State and Happy Valley, as McNeil is suggesting.

I am not arguing that Joe Paterno could not have done more, but by law he did what was required of him. Punishing an entire university of innocent people for what the NCAA deems as wrong in what Joe “Pa” did is tantamount to sending an entire family to jail if the father or “Pa” committed a murder. Let the children in the family represent the students at Penn State. It is preposterous to suggest that innocent children should be sent to jail because of something their father did. At Penn State, thousands of innocent people were punished because the father figure of the University did something that the NCAA saw as wrong. From a moral perspective, Joe Paterno could have done more, yet, by NCAA standards and by legal standards he committed no violation.

McNeil contradicts himself throughout his article as well, especially when he writes, “This crime is far more horrible than any sports-related problem needing the NCAA’s oversight.” By this logic, the NCAA would have no business punishing an entire sports organization. Also, if it is worse than any sports-related problem, then why is the NCAA becoming involved in a situation that has nothing to do with sports? More importantly, if he feels that it is so horrible that it goes beyond the NCAA’s oversight, then why is he advocating so strongly for the sanctions and that even harsher ones be imposed? His argument is flawed. Yes, the situation is horrible, and yes, it does indeed go far beyond the NCAA’s oversight. But McNeil’s logic, the NCAA would have stayed out of it rather than imposing its sanctions.

We must take a stand against these sanctions imposed by the NCAA before it is too late. Each one, except the fine, do nothing – nothing to help anyone who has been sexually abused, and they only serve to hurt current players, former players, current coaches, past coaches, students, fans, and thousands of others. I encourage anyone else who sees that the innocent were punished because the NCAA stepped in when a criminal matter was at hand to sign this petition to the NCAA asking them to undo the sanctions while there is still time. Give Joe Paterno – and hundreds of former players – their wins back, allow Penn State to participate in post-season play sooner than the current sanctions would allow, and restore the amount of scholarships Penn State can give back to 25. Making these changes would truly be making the right change.

https://www.change.org/petitions/ncaa-make-a-difference-and-do-something-right-eliminate-the-sanctions-that-punish-the-innocent

10 Replies to “Stop Punishing Players, Fans, Students at Penn State – Editorial by Andrew Domencic”

  1. I for one, really appreciate this article since myself, along with the rest of my family are big Penn State fans. After the NCAA gave PSU the sanctions we too believed that all the sanctions they handed out were unfair.

  2. Someone has to pay for actions taken by an organization. Which an organization is part of the team, they’re a big engine and when one part breaks down, the whole engine suffers. So does it seem fair for that Freshman running back to never have a bowl shot? Yes, its awful for the player(s) and the fans. But coaches stress how football is a ‘team effort’ and that involves the people making the decisions come Saturday. Unfortunately it’s tragic that the entire school must cough up big money, lose scholarships, and national rankings, however actions have consequences. This is the most reasonable way through my eyes.

  3. The sanctions by the NCAA aren’t helping the victims, its just making things worse. This sanctions forced Penn State to lose scholarships and current players transferred. I agree with what you presented here.

  4. I agree with Andrew’s point of view. I do not feel the NCAA should have imposed sanctions on PSU because it was in the past. The current players at the University did not have anything to do with the situation. Very well written piece.

  5. Before reading this I didn’t know much about the punishments that were placed on the Penn State football team until now, and I agree with you one hundred percent. What Sandusky did to those boys had nothing to do with NCAA, only the university and the courts. I don’t believe that their should have been any punishment on the football team at all. Most of the team did nothing wrong. Yes, some of the players may not have said anything about it, but it isn’t their fault Sandusky was abusing them. What happened to Sandusky and the other coaches that were involved, got the punishments they desereved, or will get. But this incident doesn’t even compare to the USC scandal or what McNeil had said. Just like you said, the football team itself did nothing wrong, so NCAA had no right placing that harsh punishment on the team.

  6. Very well stated. I think it would have been interesting to hear from current students and alumni of Penn State to see their opinion on everything. But overall, very well done!

  7. I thought that this article was really interesting and very well written. The amount of information in your article really showed how much time you spent researching and I think that helped to make your argument more believable.

  8. The actions taken by the NCAA are extreme. The punishment should have been placed on who’s fault it was. Placing a punishment that directly affects the students and their education is too far. The students were not part of it and now their reputation is being tainted and their financial aid is being ruined. This could potentially drastically change an athlete’s life as a scholar.

  9. I agree that the sanctions were a little harsh but the NCAA would have been criticized if they weren’t so bad. You make some good points with the USC situation though.

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