The NCAA today announced swift (some would say too swift) and severe punishment against Penn State University in response to the cover-up of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky's sexual abuse of children that was laid bare only 11 days ago by a university-funded investigation.
Penn State faces a $60 million fine, with a directive from the NCAA that the funds "must be paid into an endowment for external programs preventing child sexual abuse or assisting victims and may not be used to fund such programs at the university." The football program must reduce 10 initial and 20 total scholarships each year for a four-year period. The Nittany Lions will not be allowed to participate in post-season play for four years, as well. The program has been placed on probation for five years.
Though short of the so called "death penalty" that some had argued for, the penalties are nonetheless unprecedented from an NCAA enforcement standpoint.
Moreover, the NCAA vacated all of Penn State's football victories from 1998 to 2011, effectively stripping the title of winningest coach in major college football history from former head coach Joe Paterno, who died in January and whose John Gagliardi of Division III St. John's in Minnesota remains the all-time winningest college football coach at all levels.
According to Stefanie Loh of The Patriot-News of Harrisburg, Pa., the NCAA has also rescinded the 2011 Ford Award given to Paterno as someone who has provided leadership in intercollegiate athletics.
The Big Ten Conference, meanwhile, announced that it would be donating to charity the $13 million in bowl revenue otherwise earmarked for Penn State over the next four years.
The NCAA did not launch its own investigation into the Sandusky scandal, but association president Mark Emmert considered the internal report submitted by former FBI director Louis Freeh to have provided "actionable evidence." Penn State reportedly will not appeal the NCAA sanctions.
In separate statements, Penn State president Rodney Erickson and acting athletic director David Joyner called the NCAA's sanctions a "step forward." Current PSU coach Bill O'Brien released the following statement, as reported by The Patriot-News:
"Today we receive a very harsh penalty from the NCAA and as Head Coach of the Nittany Lions football program, I will do everything in my power to not only comply, but help guide the University forward to become a national leader in ethics, compliance and operational excellence. I knew when I accepted the position that there would be tough times ahead. But I am committed for the long term to Penn State and our student athletes.
"I was then and I remain convinced that our student athletes are the best in the country. I could not be more proud to lead this team and these courageous and humble young men into the upcoming 2012 season. Together we are committed to building a better athletic program and university."