Because no NCAA bylaws have been violated in the Penn State matter, many of the school’s supporters argue the NCAA should stay out of it and let the criminal and civil courts hand down justice for the victims. That was Paterno’s point in a letter released jsut this week. “This is not a football scandal and should not be treated as one,” the coach contended.
The NCAA’s rulebook is heavy-handed. There are extensive guidelines prohibiting recruits from accepting so much as a T-shirt. The NCAA dictates how much contact coaches can have with players — and when such interaction is permitted. Major violations can lead to athletes losing eligibility and teams being banned from postseason competition.
Former FBI director Louis Freeh revealed the findings of an independent investigation into the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
Released on July 12, the Freeh report contains the reported findings on an independent investigation on the actions of Penn State surrounding the child abuse committed by the school’s former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky
In writing its rules, however, the NCAA could have no more anticipated the Penn State scenario than the framers of the U.S. Constitution could have envisioned freedom-of-speech issues related to the Internet. That’s why new laws are written.
Undoubtedly, the NCAA will discuss how to revise its manual to address the off-the-field atrocities Paterno and others ignored. But as Freeh correctly pointed out, many of Sandusky’s crimes occurred in the football team’s headquarters close to Paterno’s office. They were committed by a man who played a major role in helping Penn State become a national football power.
This is actually one of the biggest football issues the NCAA has ever faced.
Paterno is the most important figure in Penn State’s transformation from a regional agricultural school into a nationally recognized research institution. The football team’s emergence during his nearly 46 years at the helm drove fundraising efforts and provided the school’s identity. The program and the university’s image are linked.
With Sandusky jailed, Paterno gone and Penn State under new direction, some would suggest there’s nothing for the NCAA to gain by hitting Penn State with any Sandusky-related sanctions, let alone eliminating the football program for a period. That would hurt only the current coaching staff and players, they say.
But virtually all NCAA actions against institutions are handed down after the perpetrators have left town; the point is to deliver messages to be remembered. The fire that both fueled Penn State’s rise and ultimately led to destroying its image is still burning. It needs to be put out.
No one should have to be reminded that protecting children is more important than preserving an institution’s reputation. But if schools lose sight of that, as Penn State so clearly did, then the NCAA should throw the book at ’em.