If you think the NCAA should punish Penn State, prepare to be disapointed
Jerry Sandusky was convicted on 45 of 48 charges related to child molestation Friday night in Bellfonte, Pennsylvania. While justice was ultimately served to one of the new signature child molesters in our country, more punishments will be handed out in time for those who either decided to allow Sandusky’s actions to continue, or just turned a blind eye to incidents playing out in front of their own eyes.
The judicial system will play out for Gary Schultz and Tim Curley, and given the developments of the case it could only be a matter of time before the legal process catches up with Graham Spanier. With so many close ties to officials at Penn State, and given the history between Sandusky and the university and football program, many have been quick to calling for NCAA legislation, some going so far as to call for the heaviest of NCAA sanctions, the death penalty.
The first line in the NCAA’s outline of principles of institutional control should put Penn State at some ease.
“In determining whether there has been a lack of institutional control when a violation of NCAA rules has been found it is necessary to ascertain what formal institutional policies and procedures were in place at the time the violation of NCAA rules occurred and whether those policies and procedures, if adequate, were being monitored and enforced.”
While what happened at Penn State as it relates to Jerry Sandusky was grotesque, disturbing, and shockingly happening on Penn State’s campus there was never a violation of NCAA rules. Without a single NCAA rule broken, the issue of institutional control should be put to rest. This will not be settling news to some who want to see more punishments handed out, but it is the reality of the situation.
As it relates to the NCAA, Penn State’s alleged chain of command did fail to handle the situation, but without NCAA rules being broken there is little ground for any case for NCAA sanctions to stand firm, despite the strong verbiage used that could easily point out the potential faults of former Penn State president and Bowl Championship Series Presidential Oversight Chairman Graham Spanier.
“Obviously, general institutional control is exercised by the chief executive officer of a member institution,” the NCAA outlines. “However, it is rare that the chief executive officer will make decisions specifically affecting the operations of the institution’s athletics program.”
Spanier, now out of a job, will have larger issues to worry about than what would have happened to his school if the NCAA had a case to handle here.
The NCAA also notes that at larger institutions, including Penn State, it is expected that an outline of a chain of command should be put in place, dividing responsibilities to athletic directors, head and assistant coaches and other assistants where needed. Each member of the school and athletic department staff is then responsible for upholding NCAA standards.
“Their failure to control those matters so as to prevent violations of NCAA rules will be considered the result of a lack of institutional control.”
While various coaches and athletic department and university staff officials do seem to have fallen short of upholding the law, no NCAA violations were covered up in the Sandusky scandal. While that will not sit well with most, this is the only reason the NCAA would take a look in to Penn State. Simply put, there is no NCAA case for sanctions here.
Section C of the principles defining control outlines the acts that are likely to demonstrate a lack of institutional control. Again, while some of the acts describe some of the likely culprits in the Sandusky scandal in vague terms, it all relates back to a breaking of NCAA rules.
There is one thing to keep in mind when it comes to the NCAA, and that is that there is no standard for NCAA punishment. Sure, perhaps Penn State could receive some form of punishment from the NCAA, but an appeal would look to be very easy for Penn State to win without any actual NCAA violations. Penn State officials appear to have gone against the grain of the NCAA’s principles, but with no NCAA rules appearing to have been broken it would be unlikely for the NCAA to issue a formal response and sanctions against Penn State.
Death penalty? Not for Penn State.
Sandusky, on the other hand, will face up to 442 years in prison.
But what about the reports and testimony that suggested Sandusky would promise boys would make Penn State’s football team in exchange for sexual acts? Certainly that would be an obvious NCAA violation and should be handled appropriately. But the NCAA has a four-year statue of limitations for any possible breaking of NCAA rules.
“Allegations included in a notice of allegations shall be limited to possible violations occurring not earlier than four years before the date the notice of inquiry is provided to the institution or the date the institution notifies.”
There are three exceptions to this statue of limitations. Allegations involving violations affecting the eligibility of a current student-athlete, allegations in a case involving information developed to indicate a pattern of willful violations in favor of a single institution or individual and allegations that indicate a blatant disregard for the NCAA’s fundamental philosophies in recruiting, extra-benefits, academics and ethical conduct of regulations would allow the NCAA to take action outside of the four-year statutes of limitations. None of those examples appear to relate to Penn State.
With Sandusky last coaching at Penn State in 1999, that stature expired nine years ago. It should also be noted that at this time there is no confirmation anybody who played for Penn State’s football team was a victim of Sandusky.
Will the NCAA keep tabs on Penn State? They already are. The NCAA admitted before that this may fall beyond their reach, but it is important for the NCAA to investigate it and ask questions so they can see what they can learn from this scandal just as they do any other problem on any campus. Lessons learned here will not only change the way those employed by Penn State conduct themselves, but will also shed some light on how the NCAA can help influence awareness on such sensitive issues everywhere.
But will the NCAA feel it within their power to reduce scholarships, issue a postseason ban, or place the program or multiple programs on probation?
Penn State will pay, of course. A statement released Friday night following the verdict announcement suggests that the university is ready to work with the victims to settle claims against the school that ultimately failed them in the whole process. And it could take generations to repair the pristine image once placed on a banner for the school in the middle of Pennsylvania.
This will cost Penn State, make no mistake about it.
This column was originally posted on Examiner.com by the author.