The NCAA’s sanctions against Penn State have just been announced, and they are devastating. Penn State has been fined $60 million dollars, the equivalent of one year’s profits from the football program. They’ve been banned from the postseason for four years, which in practical terms means they won’t compete in the postseason for at least eight years. Penn State’s wins from 1998-2011 have been vacated—meaning that Joe Paterno is no longer the winningest coach in college football history. That distinction now goes back to Bobby Bowden.
This is not the “death penalty,” but it might as well be. Penn State recruiting is dead. Current players are allowed to leave and begin play immediately at their transfer school. The Nittany Lions will be a team of walk-ons within two years. Penn State football got annihilated today. The effects of these sanctions will likely be what they were with the “death penalty” at SMU. Penn State football may never recover from this. The only thing missing from these sanctions is the symbolic statement that comes from the “death penalty.”
Joe Paterno’s legacy at Penn State and within college football in general has been decimated. His statue is gone. His record as winningest coach is gone. His respect is gone. There really is nothing left.
Read the full story at ESPN.com. Watch the announcement of the sanctions below.
UPDATE: Some readers have asked me what I think about the sanctions. Were they enough? Should Penn State have gotten the death penalty? My answer to those questions is that I am ambivalent about it. On the one hand, it seems impossible to come down too hard on what happened at Penn State. Strong sanctions—such as the death penalty—send powerful signals that this kind of corruption will not be tolerated. That’s exactly the kind of message I’d like for the NCAA to send to Penn State and the rest of college football.
On the other hand, I hate to see the innocent fans, students, players, and citizens of State College suffer for something they had nothing to do with. By “suffer,” I’m not merely talking about the lack of competitive football to cheer for. I mean that the economy of State College is built to some extent around the football program. Killing the football program could decimate that little town (watch this report). Their fortunes rise and fall with the football team. I hate to see State College in the doldrums for crimes that they themselves abhor as the rest of us do. Therein is my ambivalence as far as sanctions are concerned.
Having said that, I really do think that the sanctions issued by the NCAA are really tough. The economic impact is already being felt in State College (again, watch this report). The Nittany Lions may never come back from this. Ten years from now, we may look back on these sanctions as that which killed Penn State football for good. We’ll see.