Time for the NCAA to bring back the death penalty

BY foxsports • November 17, 2011

Penn State and Ohio State will play each other on Saturday, and that's a shame.

Maybe college athletics would be better off if these schools, and others like them, spent some time on the sidelines instead of carrying on as if nothing happened, cheered on by 100,000 fans and still raking in huge profits.

Yep, it's time to bring back the Death Penalty. And let's start with Penn State.

Heck, players have to sit out games for selling their own stuff to make a few extra bucks. Why shouldn't a school such as Penn State, wrapped up in a child sex-abuse case involving its former longtime defensive coordinator, have to sit out, too? For an entire season, or even two?

NCAA president Mark Emmert repeatedly has said the death penalty remains a possible option. But, in all honesty, he doesn't seem to have the stomach to actually use it - or, more accurately, to use his bully pulpit to persuade the committee on infractions to pull the trigger every now and then.

''I would only support the death penalty structure in very rare circumstances,'' he told The Associated Press back in August. ''So I don't know that people are as adamantly opposed to it as they are reserving it for the most egregious violations.''

Well, sir, we're beyond that point. Ohio State, Miami, ... there's so many rogue schools, we've lost count. And if the very idea of a death penalty makes the NCAA a little queasy, let's start calling it a school suspension, which is a more appropriate title anyway.

The death penalty was put in place to shutter a wayward program when the violations were repeated and especially heinous. But it's been used only once, with SMU's outlaw football team way back in the 1980s, and never seriously considered again.

Behind closed doors in Indianapolis, officials with the governing body will tell you the penalty is simply too severe in light of what it did to the Mustangs, who more than two decades later still haven't come close to matching the success from their Pony Express days.

But if the horrifying allegations at Penn State don't warrant the most serious sanctions, should they be proven, then it's hard to imagine any case ever reaching that threshold.

Joe Paterno, the winningest major-college coach ever, was among several school officials who didn't think it was necessary to call the cops when presented years ago with disturbing allegations against former assistant Jerry Sandusky, who is accused, among other things, of sexually assaulting a young boy in the very showers used by the team.

So far, the NCAA has stayed out of the scandal in Happy Valley, which already took out Paterno along with the school's president and athletic director. Nothing wrong with that, for now.

Already, though, some people are reasoning the NCAA might not have much of a case against the Nittany Lions if none of its very specific rules were broken. Without objection, we'll concede this case doesn't involve sleazy boosters or players taking under-the-table payments - you know, the stuff we've come to expect in the cesspool that is college athletics.

Still, let's not forget another little guideline in the handbook, the one about ''institutional control'' or lack thereof.

Those are the most dreaded words a school can hear, because they usually lead to the harshest sanctions. If the criminal case against Sandusky results in a conviction, then it'll be hard to dispute there was absolutely no institutional control at Penn State, even while Paterno preached ''success with honor.''

Ohio State, meanwhile, will face the Nittany Lions on Saturday while awaiting its punishment from the NCAA after former coach Jim Tressel failed to tell his bosses that players were trading memorabilia for tattoos and cash.

On the surface, the Buckeyes' case doesn't appear as worthy of the death penalty as, say, Miami. The Hurricanes looked the other way for the better part of a decade while Nevin Shapiro claims to have lavished dozens of players with cash, cars, gifts and sex - all of it financed by a Ponzi scheme that eventually collapsed.

Shapiro is where he should be. Behind bars. The program he once cheered for should probably be headed for its own version of prison.

What about Ohio State? If not the death penalty, what?

Here's an idea. Much like the NCAA sits players who break the rules, why couldn't it tell the Buckeyes they can only play an eight-game schedule next season instead of 12? Or how about playing an entire season on the road? That would seem to address one of the biggest concerns Emmert raises in regards to the death penalty - that it would hurt other schools who did nothing wrong, the very reason the NCAA became reticent about imposing television sanctions.

Well, if Ohio State were to play an entire season on the road, no one else would be affected. In fact, some schools would get an extra home game. Hard to see them complaining about that. Better yet, those home-and-no-way-we're-going-to-your-home games that every school schedules to pad its record would suddenly be on the road, too.

This season, for instance, that would've meant Ohio State having to go to Akron and Toledo, not the other way around.

Collateral damage?

Hardly. That sounds like justice.

So does the death penalty for Penn State.


Paul Newberry is a national sports writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org or www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963


AP Sports Writer Mike Marot in Indianapolis contributed to this report.

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