So now we know the NCAA penalty for allowing a coach to sexually assault boys.
It is a university’s football program being stripped of all victories from 1998 through 2011, a four-year postseason ban and the loss of 10 scholarships annually for the same period of time. That, and a $60 million fine.
But even with the devastating punishment that Penn State received Monday for disgraced coach Joe Paterno and other school officials’ failure to stop former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky from molesting children, it is an insult to try to quantify his victims’ suffering by means of a silly game. It is also exactly why the NCAA and its president, Mark Emmert, shouldn’t have selfishly taken the unprecedented step of involving itself in a matter for the courts.
Because as debilitating as the sanctions are, the punishment still is not enough. It never was going to be, even if the so-called death penalty had been handed out.
This sordid saga is and should always be about Sandusky’s victims. No sentence will ever return the innocence Sandusky stole from them or erase the personal hell he inflicted on them, not just physically but emotionally.
Emmert was frank about that during his announcement Monday. “No matter what we do here today,” he said, “there is no action we can take that will remove their pain and anguish.”
Yet there was Emmert grandstanding about Penn State being the NCAA’s “gut-check message” for schools to determine whether they have the proper balance in their culture.
“Do we have, first and foremost, the academic values of integrity and honesty and responsibility as the drivers of our university?” Emmert said. “Or are we in a position where hero worship and winning at all costs has subordinated those core values? If that’s the case, then you need to address that and need to address that as quickly as you can. That’s the lesson here.”
That’s real tough talk from Emmert, who has had plenty of chances during his bumbling, scandal-filled, 20-month tenure to take a hardline approach to the type of issues he alluded to (i.e. Cam Newton and his father, Ohio State, etc.) but hasn’t. Just as he still hasn’t done anything about reported violations by Oregon or Miami a year after the fact.
But Monday was Emmert’s attempt to make up for a failed leadership that has made the NCAA as hated as the IRS. He needed to try to save face, and bullying beat-down Penn State was easy pickings.
Emmert knew the university couldn’t fight on for once because doing so would condone child abuse and misplaced priorities. So instead of affording the Nittany Lions the opportunity to go through the NCAA’s traditional infractions process, he simply became the judge, jury and executioner.
Never mind that the NCAA didn’t conduct its own investigation into the matter, or that former Penn State athletic director Tim Curley and university senior vice president Gary Schultz, alleged Sandusky cover-up conspirators, have yet to have their day in court after being charged last fall with perjury and failure to report suspected child abuse.
This was show time for Emmert, an opportunity to repair his image and that of the beleaguered NCAA by making an example of the clawless Nittany Lions. But all his actions Monday did was further expose Emmert as a wishy-washy bureaucrat who preys on the weak.
“We do not see this opening Pandora’s box at all,” Emmert said of the NCAA’s unprecedented punishment of Penn State. “This is a very distinct and unique circumstance.”
So don’t worry, NCAA rules breakers, there won’t be significant punishment unless a coach is caught molesting a boy in a shower and the school tries to cover it up.
Oh, and if you are one of Sandusky’s victims, know there is now a value on your years of suffering. It’s apparently the equivalent of Penn State not being allowed to play in meaningless bowl games for four years.
It’s worth the 111 wins that Paterno racked up over a 14-year period, but not the two national championships he won with Sandusky, who might have been molesting boys then, too.
And, even worse, it now carries a price tag of $60 million, the Nittany Lions’ annual gross revenue for football.
Those proud of the punishment given to Penn State by Emmert and the NCAA should be ashamed of themselves. Because if they believe the penalties have any truly meaningful impact, they are wrong.
The sanctions don’t do anything to lessen the victims’ pain.