Motivations Exposed Behind Harsh NCAA Sanctions
My dad liked to use clichéd phrases and he frequently added his own words for spice. One of his favorites when referring to an individual he believed off base, out of touch and frankly full of it: “He’s out to lunch…without a sandwich.”
If alive today, that’s how he’d be branding NCAA President Mark Emmert, who imposed his oppressive and over-the top, knee-buckling sanctions against Penn State. In doing so, he not only hurt the innocent– students, coaches, players, fans, other sports and its participants, who had nothing to do with Jerry Sandusky’s crimes — he elevated his power to another level.
By appointing himself, judge, jury and executioner, Emmert all but rewrote the NCAA rulebook, miles beyond the province of the organization he represents. No hearing, no trial, no independent fact-finding investigation.
Shame on Emmert and shame on the NCAA.
Though Emmert is being praised in certain circles for his misguided brand of justice overkill, feeding the Shadenfreude of Penn State-Paterno haters everywhere and the self-righteous indignant, it was no bold and brave move, but an easy and hypocritical one — a grandstanding spectacle wrapped in political correctness. After all, that’s what the angry mob wanted, hardly content with their pound of flesh, but craving a truckload and Emmert was all too quick to oblige.
In slamming Penn State, he cowered to public sentiment, caring more about public perception than fair play, decimating a football program long venerated for its virtue, never once NCAA disciplined for anything while fire-bombing a coach’s wins as if they never existed, with a callous disregard for the dispiriting impact on any former players who earned those victories on the field.
Even if Emmert felt compelled to set an example, a clarion call to all other colleges to toe the line or heads will roll should they transgress thusly; he harmed the guiltless and set a chilling precedence in the process.
First off, the NCAA as a governing body exists as a rule-based organization, responsible for policing and enforcing rule violations of its by-laws, competitive, recruiting-type issues surrounding college athletics, economic and academic wrongdoings, cheating behaviors, and eligibility abuses that provide unfair advantages. What kind of competitive gain did the football team curry by allowing a former coach-pedophile unfettered access to its facilities, no longer employed by the university while a few of its leaders arguably looked the other way?
If anything, since they accepted the Freeh report as if celestially handed down from a mountaintop and seared onto tablets, the NCAA should have pointed their pitchforks at the individuals complicit in the scandal, though it almost seems pointless now. Darth Vader sits in a cage for life. Coach Joe Paterno is dead, fired tactlessly over the phone, his statue and legacy dismantled; the other suspected administrators face trial, probable imprisonment, public disgrace and unemployment for life, a young assistant will likely never coach again on a level past Pop Warner because of one youthful lapse in judgment.
Instead of at least waiting till these trials end and connecting their own dots of culpability before acting, Mr. Emmert lowers the boom on blameless kids, most of whom forever fantasized of donning that bland uniform before six-figure screaming crowds, emblematic of all things upright and clean in college sports and for a legend that cared more about graduation rates than silly records. And, now it’s snatched away from them because the NCAA needs to show the world it by golly means business, especially now when the cameras are rolling and the media sharks smell blood in the water.
Give me a break. Scholarship reductions? Penn State, first and foremost remains an institution of learning with an enviable academic reputation and now the NCAA’s stealing away educational opportunities, again from kids with no connection to Sandusky’s evil, based on the missteps of a few on campus. Twenty players over four years will be losing scholarships including standouts QB Matt McGloin and running back Silas Redd. Though we’d all agree that’s hardly comparable to ten-year-olds suffering the terror of rape, it’s abusive, a far less profound and enduring type of abuse, but abuse nonetheless.
And let’s be real here. What purpose or value does it serve to punish a child sexual abuse scandal with scholarship loss, bowl bans and vacating past wins, trivial and inadequate when looking for a deterrent to this cultural epidemic? No penalty would ever suffice.
In fact, the NCAA’s been punishing schools for years, while overlooking others — head meet sand– and it has never proven to be a deterrent to anything. Schools continue to break procedural rules time and time again — even those previously hit like SMU — to gain that competitive edge. Everyone knows its part of the “winning at all costs mentality” in the shadowy world of college sports.
Only, this is the first time the NCAA — a group that most reasonable minds concur wields alarmingly far too much unchecked power — has arrogantly upped the ante and decided to grab more of it.
Drunk on that power and his Texas-sized ego, Dr. Emmert contradicted himself outright when he offered up his rationale for not serving up the death penalty on Penn State — the suspension of the football program indefinitely. He did not want to “create hurtful, unintended consequences for those not responsible for the actions of others.”
So he said. And, yet he did just that for current and ex-players such as Adam Taliaferro nearly crippled for life playing for dear old state and countless others who attended class and earned degrees the right way, the “Penn State way.”
Even former basketball coach Bob Knight addressed the inequities of the harsh NCAA sanctions. “They’re not just taking those 112 wins away from Joe. A coach does not win games. The players do and they did a huge disservice to players who played by the rules. It deprives them of what they accomplished, worked hard for and should be proud of.”
And, now with Penn State football looking at a decade before regaining relevancy, current players now must choose whether to stay the course or move on for self-preservation — and who could fault them for choosing the latter.
So, who exactly are the beneficiaries of these sanctions here? Well, we should rightfully applaud the $60 million dollar fine levied and earmarked to aid child abuse victims nationwide, even though we can’t assume Jerry’s kids will see a nickel of that. And, lest we forget the other schools with big time football factories — Michigan, Florida, USC rewarded here. Yeah, what a sad tragedy at PSU, so many of the top Division I coaches lamented publicly. How awful, they said, lowering their heads and expressing their sympathies before the buzzards started circulating and onto their cells with their cheerful PR pitches, looking to grab up disillusioned players.
You see, whatever President Emmert stated in his glib, carefully crafted, finger-wagging speech should be viewed with skepticism. In truth, he cares little about cleaning up the soiled image of college sports.
The death penalty was not withheld altruistically (wink, wink), snake oil he was hoping to sell. The DP as King Emmert and his underlings’ see it, spells no stadium-filled, and no million dollar TV contracts. No so good for the NCAA who has a serious moneyed interest in keeping their Happy Valley cash cow in business and they’d rather hold on tightly to that bundle of booty, even if they sold out the memory of JoePa and all he stood for, the students, the coaches and players — past and present — and lied to the BOT, a spineless group of jellyfish who took the bait and rolled over like scarred puppies, never once challenging the legality of the sanctions.
Besides, Emmert and his henchmen know all too well that Nittany Lion fans are true-blue, loyal to-the-core, so emotionally and psychically over-identified and tethered to Penn State football that, that no matter how pathetic the product on the field and however long it takes to rebuilt the brand, they will always show up in full regalia, fill the stadium to capacity, and support the team, rah rah, “WE ARE…” boosters, students and proud alumni alike and the money will flow their way, like champagne on New Year’s Eve.
In most parts of Pennsylvania, the entertainment ticket consists of high school football on Friday night, Penn State football on Saturday and Steelers-Eagles Sunday. Not sure why the overblown, all-consuming intensity, the wide-eyed mania over a game, a sports-as-the-be-all-and-end-all, entering the bloodstream at an early age and continuing on for generations.
And who can explain the overdone significance placed on sports? Perhaps it’s adults living out their glory days vicariously through their offspring, their neighbor’s kids or mere escapism, desiring a distraction from our routine and mundane workaday worlds or needing something to rally around, to cheer for, to be proud of, to boast about, to bring people together, united not only by family and geography, but like interests and allegiances. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. Sports does wonders for community cohesion, the economy and civic pride and it teaches the young important real life lessons on winning and losing, the spirit of healthy competition and sportsmanship, of dealing maturely with loss and disappointment, never giving up and overcoming defeat and hardships.
Its tradition and like it or not, that’s the way it’s always been and that’s the way it always will be in Nittany Nation.
That’s what the NCAA and its president are counting on.
Art Greenwald is a 1976 Penn State journalism school graduate. An Altoona native, Greenwald is an author, journalist and free-lance writer now living in Fort Lauderdale Florida. He continues his work as a member of the Paterno Field at Beaver Stadium Petition Drive committee in hopes of creating a lasting tribute to the memory of Coach Joe Paterno.
One Response to “Motivations Exposed Behind Harsh NCAA Sanctions”
Great article, Art!
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