But perhaps the most significant individual sanction in the context of college football history is that all of Penn State’s wins from 1998 to 2011 have been vacated, which means that Paterno, who oversaw the Nittany Lions’ football program for nearly 46 years, no longer is the all-time winningest coach in college football’s Division I. That distinction now returns to the late Eddie Robinson, who recorded 408 career wins in 45 years as the head coach of Grambling State — a number surpassed by Paterno on Oct. 29, his last game as Penn State coach before he was forced to step down.
The punishment was not the so-called “death penalty,” a drastic measure banning a rule-breaking program from competition that has been imposed only once in the modern era — in 1987, the NCAA prohibited Southern Methodist from fielding a football team for one season (and the school added a second year). But the impact on Penn State football is likely to be similarly devastating.
The $60 million fine dwarfs any levied by the NCAA in the past; the four-year bowl ban will cost the school tens of millions of dollars; and the reduction to 15 from 25 annual new scholarships, while not unprecedented in scale, will significantly handicap recruitment efforts, especially given the other negative fallout from the Sandusky scandal.
Opposing football programs looking to take in Penn State castoffs may receive an unanticipated gift: The NCAA is considering whether to allow them to do so without counting the former Nittany Lions players against their allotment of 85 scholarship players.
At many Division I athletic departments, football ranks supreme and, in some cases, the school’s hierarchy is adjusted to reflect as much.
That, NCAA President Mark Emmert concluded, was what took place at Penn State during the years in which Sandusky was found to be abusing young boys, and that was exactly the sort of environment he hopes these sanctions will deter.
While examining the case, Emmert said Monday, the NCAA “kept foremost in our thoughts the tragic damage that has been done to the victims and their families. No matter what we do here today, there is no action we can take that will remove their pain and anguish.
“But what we can do is impose sanctions that both reflect the magnitude of these terrible acts and that also ensure that Penn State will rebuild an athletic culture that went horribly awry. Our goal is not to just be punitive, but to make sure the university establishes an athletic culture and daily mind-set in which football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing and protecting young people.”