In case you were asleep this week, let me recap the NCAA sanctions against Penn State:
The NCAA imposed a $60 million fine, a four-year bowl ban, a reduction of annual scholarships and a five-year probationary period. Many fans and supporters were left agog on Monday when the NCAA released its most far-reaching punishment to date. Bottom line, Penn State avoided death penalty of suspended play.
But by far the most controversial sanction was to vacate all Penn State’s wins from 1998 to 2011.
The general consensus is that the NCAA is trying to erase Paterno as the winningest coach in college football.
But that’s cowardly. For one, Paterno is the winningest coach, regardless of his actions.
No one defends his actions, but ignoring the past does nothing to correct the current environment. By erasing the record, the NCAA is trying to sweep the scandal under the rug. Out of sight, out of mind.
That’s a mistake. Paterno’s legacy would have a greater impact if his record was left standing. There is no better lesson than one of the best college football coaches sacrificing his values for victories.
Paterno’s record could serve as permanent reminder and deterrent against football zealotry for generations to come.
The NCAA’s logic has more holes.
Many fans wonder if the NCAA has any authority to weigh in on the controversy, considering that the abuse cases were handled on a legal level until now. We often forget that the NCAA’s primary mission is to administer and interpret athletic rules. This scandal, albeit of epic proportions, doesn’t fall into their relevant domain. The Department of Education may be more suited to weight in on Penn State.
Kyle Shaner, the Advocate’s sports editor, pointed out that by targeting Penn State’s wins, they re-emphasize their importance. If your aim is to eliminate a culture based wholly upon winning at all costs, then why would the NCAA acknowledge their value in their sanctions. This sends a mixed message to the collegiate world.
Besides, Penn State didn’t violate any NCAA rules during the 1998-2011 period. This sets a precedent that allows the NCAA to intervene to adjust team records as they see fit.
And dishing out sanctions won’t cause Florida or Ohio State to drop what they’re doing and say, “Hey guys, time to make a change.” It’s just not going to happen that easily.
So what can curb the frenzied sports culture?
Money caps on coaches and administrators and a suspension of all play. When you take away pay-scale based on performance, all you have left is your love of the game. The true athletes, as long as their pay is fair, will stick around for the long game.
And finally, some argue that when this appalling behavior has penetrated the highest levels of collegiate football, it’s time to take a break. Suspending play, aka the death penalty, might be the only way for a college to reassess its culture. But would the treatment kill the patient?
But regardless of your opinion, because of the Penn State scandal there has been no better time to discuss the current state of collegiate athletics and make changes.
I do wish that Joe Paterno’s record stood, however. If only to continue to think about who Joe-Pa really was and what he represented for college football.
Ryan Carpe is a sports writer for the Daily Advocate. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.