SBD/July 24, 2012/Colleges

Penn State Penalties: Legacy Of NCAA Debated After Handing Down Strict Sanctions

NCAA receives mostly praise from media for its unprecented sanctions against Penn State
The NCAA “as we once knew it may be no more” following the strong sanctions the organization brought down on the Penn State football program yesterday, according to David Steele of SPORTING NEWS. Every aspect of the way the NCAA went about imposing punishment on the program “was almost the exact opposite of how it has handled its business any time before” (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 7/23). In Raleigh, Caulton Tudor writes NCAA President Mark Emmert “made it clear that his organization is anything except a toothless watchdog” (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 7/24). In DC, Tracee Hamilton writes, “If this is the new, muscular NCAA, let me be the first to say I like it. And I hope this won’t be the last time we see the organization many -- including me -- had all but given up on for having barely a bark and a nearly toothless bite flex its collective biceps and deliver a knockout blow” (WASHINGTON POST, 7/24). In Portland, John Canzano writes, “Powerful old Penn State plays on, only now as a hamstrung runt thanks to the courage of the new-era NCAA leadership” (Portland OREGONIAN, 7/24). FOXSPORTS.com’s Dan Wolken writes credit the NCAA and Emmert “for understanding that the Penn State community needed to be grabbed by the collective lapel and shaken until its priorities became properly aligned” (FOXSPORTS.com, 7/24). In Dallas, Rick Gosselin writes the NCAA’s actions yesterday “weren’t all about Penn State.” Gosselin: “This was the NCAA sending a message to all of its member institutions -- what happened at Penn State cannot happen again. Anywhere” (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 7/24). In West Palm Beach, Greg Stoda writes the NCAA established a “strict standard for itself in dealing with a horrific scandal” (PALM BEACH POST, 7/24). ESPN.com’s Don Van Natta Jr. wrote unspoken at yesterday’s news conference “was the desire to flex the NCAA's authority and make an example of a football program that one year ago stood ... as one of the most ethical and successful programs in the country” (ESPN.com, 7/23).

WE'RE NOT GONNA TAKE IT: CBSSPORTS.com’s Gregg Doyel wrote, “This has not been a good story and Monday morning was not a good moment, but it was a meaningful point in time, one of the first times the NCAA has stared so unflinchingly into the abyss of college athletics and said, ‘We're not scared of you’” (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/23). FOXSPORTS.com’s Jason Whitlock writes under the header, “Shocker: NCAA Does The Right Thing.” The NCAA and Emmert “significantly punished Penn State and demonstrated a measure of courage and integrity I did not think the NCAA possessed.” Whitlock: “I’m stunned. I’m shocked. I’m a teeny bit optimistic. I now have a glimmer of hope that the men and women running the NCAA and the school presidents in partnership with the NCAA are capable of being shaken from the lie of shamateurism” (FOXSPORTS.com, 7/24). ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser said the NCAA “has had a lot of trouble for a lot of years applying any penalties to anybody, even when their guilt stares them in the face." Kornheiser: "Now they took a morality stance. That surprised me” ("PTI," ESPN, 7/23). USA TODAY’s Christine Brennan writes Emmert’s actions “were stunning and appropriately devastating for Penn State football.” Perhaps what the NCAA did yesterday “will begin to force everyone in college football to reassess just how out of control big-time football has become on one of the nation’s campuses” (USA TODAY, 7/24).

TOOK IT TOO FAR: In New Jersey, Steve Popper writes under the header, “NCAA Got It Wrong This Time With Penn State.” What the “massive penalties exactly are for is not quite clear, other than allowing the NCAA to step forward and display a shiny sword as the arbiters of right and wrong” (Bergen RECORD, 7/24). In Tampa, Gary Shelton writes the NCAA “went too far with Monday’s punishments.” Shelton: “Is the NCAA so eager to appear outraged (and isn't everyone) over the crimes that it is willing to put a team on probation although it hasn't broken any rules?” (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 7/24). SB Nation's Bomani Jones said, “I just do not believe for a second that this is what we want the NCAA doing. You can make an argument that college needs a commissioner. It doesn’t need it to be Mark Emmert.” Jones: “This is the NCAA beating its chest and grandstanding” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 7/23). In Indianapolis, Bob Kravitz writes under the header, “Throw A Flag On NCAA For Piling On Penn State.” Kravitz: “How delicious is it to hear the NCAA talk about college football as part of the larger mission of the university, when schools are changing conferences to chase the dollar, when football coaches are paid dozens of times more than biology professors, when an unhealthy percentage of black football and basketball players are failing to get a degree?” (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 7/24). SI.com’s Michael Rosenberg wrote Emmert now “gets to look tough and powerful, and Penn State goes away for a while, and it all sounds good, because what happened at Penn State really was abhorrent.” But it may be “time for a new NCAA logo: a picture of a tail wagging a dog” (SI.com, 7/23). CSNBAYAREA.com’s Ray Ratto wrote that is how the NCAA “defines justice -- shooting the survivors and onlookers.” It is “why all forms of NCAA justice aren’t really justice at all, but a feel-good back-scratch that fools some people into thinking the organization is really on top of its game” (CSNBAYAREA.com, 7/23). In DC, Brad Hirschfield wrote the NCAA “used a bomb when they needed a scalpel” (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 7/23).

TURNING OVER A NEW LEAF? In a USA TODAY cover story, Brent Schrotenboer asks, “Will the NCAA’s get-tough message play beyond the Penn State campus? Is this a seminal moment in major-college sports? Or will football continue to be omnipotent at Penn State and the other goliaths of the sport once the sanction smoke clears?” (USA TODAY, 7/24). In Pennsylvania, Stefanie Loh writes the NCAA “obliterated the line Monday morning when it slapped Penn State with harsh penalties.” But this “doesn’t mean the NCAA is going to make a habit of stepping outside its infractions manual” (Harrisburg PATRIOT-NEWS, 7/24). In L.A., Chris Dufresne writes the NCAA “set itself up for years to come by allowing the Penn State case to be compared to all others -- which should never have happened.” Dufresne: “By not going all out against Penn State, Emmert may have compromised future cases that come before the infractions committee. He did take bold action. He also obliterated due process” (L.A. TIMES, 7/24). SI.com’s Stewart Mandel wrote, “Perhaps this truly is a turning point in the history of the NCAA. Perhaps this is the beginning of a new era where Batman Emmert flies in and saves the day every time the forces of athletic evil make a mockery of academic virtues. He'd better. Otherwise, this will instead prove to be a crowning moment in NCAA hypocrisy” (SI.com, 7/23). Big Ten Network’s Gerry Dinardo said Emmert and NCAA Exec Committee Chair Dr. EdwardRay “set a high standard for themselves” because they are now "going to be held accountable that if there is imbalance on someone’s campus they should step in” (Big Ten Network, 7/23).

IS IT THEIR PLACE? The AP’s Tom Coyne notes Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby during the conference's media days yesterday “wondered about whether the college sports governing body should be stepping into a criminal matter.” Bowlsby said, “I don’t know that it is absolutely clear on what basis this becomes an NCAA issue. Having said that, there are certainly elements of our constitution and bylaws that go right to the heart of ethics, and clearly there are some ethical issues here” (AP, 7/24). In Pittsburgh, Ron Cook writes, “I’m still having a hard time understanding how the Sandusky case is an NCAA matter and not one that should be settled in the criminal and civil courts, but I won’t begin to argue that Penn State doesn’t deserve everything it gets” (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 7/24). In Austin, Kirk Bohls writes, “I worry that this heavy-handed vigilante justice -- without benefit of due process and a rightful hearing for Penn State -- has become a landmark decision that could haunt the NCAA for decades.” Big 12 consultant and former interim Commissioner Chuck Neinas said, “It establishes a precedent. I know Mark Emmert says he didn’t think it opens Pandora’s box, but in actuality, it did” (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 7/24). ESPN’s Jemele Hill asked, “Is this a slippery slope when we have the NCAA trying to become a moral authority and mete out punishment?” ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 7/23). SportsNet N.Y.’s Jonas Schwartz said the NCAA normally "wouldn't get involved in a criminal case and normally they’d allow the criminal justice system to handle certain things." Schwartz: "But not when the cover-up happened, primarily because of the power of the football program. That’s why I thought they sent a very good message" ("Daily News Live," SportsNet N.Y., 7/23). 

FOOTBALL'S POWER ON THE SCHOOL: In N.Y., Joe Nocera writes, “On the one hand, the sanctions point to the degree to which the NCAA views college sports through the prism of money.” The decision not to suspend football “was, in part, a business decision -- which only makes sense since college football is very big business.” In effect, “a moral transgression was being punished with economic sanctions.” On the other hand, “the sanctions ensure that Penn State will be awful for the foreseeable future.” Fans will “have to find other things to do instead of investing their collective identity in Penn State football.” That will be “a useful discipline.” What was “most galling about Emmert’s news conference was its sanctimony.” He “kept talking about the ‘values’ that athletics was supposed to embody, about how college sports is supposed to be an integral part of academic life, and how it should never overwhelm the mission of the university.” But at “big-time sports schools, football is always placed ahead of everything else.” The notion that the Penn State case “is going to change all of college sports is absurd.” College football “almost can’t help but corrode academic values.” Nocera: “Nothing that happened on Monday is going to change any of that” (N.Y. TIMES, 7/24).
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