Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


NCAA poised to hit Penn State with ‘corrective and punitive measures’

On Monday, the NCAA is scheduled to hit Penn State with ‘corrective and punitive measures’ for the university’s failure to prevent repeated sexual abuse of young boys by former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

The NCAA appears ready to hit Penn State with stiff sanctions because of the university’s failure to prevent years of child sex abuse by former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

The organization — the National Collegiate Athletic Association — has scheduled a Monday morning press conference to announce “corrective and punitive measures” against the university’s football program. The NCAA is empowered to enforce infractions of the rules agreed to by member schools, although critics over the years have said the organization typically is not tough enough in addressing offenses.

While the NCAA has yet to detail its findings and whatever sanctions it might impose, a high-ranking association source told CBS News that penalties against both the Penn State football team and the university itself would be “unprecedented.”

That could include no post-season games, loss of scholarships, and a TV ban, but it could go as far as the so-called “death penalty” — shutting down Penn State’s football program for one or more seasons.

Article continues after advertisement

The last time that happened to a major football school was in 1987, when Southern Methodist University had to sit out a season for paying players.

In a PBS interview last week, NCAA President Mark Emmert said he’s “never seen anything as egregious as [Penn State’s situation] in terms of just overall conduct and behavior inside a university.” He said he doesn’t want to take “anything off the table” if there’s a finding that Penn State violated NCAA rules. 

Those rules limit the maximum penalty to colleges already on probation that commit another major violation. But NCAA leaders have indicated in recent months they are willing to use harsher penalties for the worst offenses.

“This is completely different than … anything else we’ve dealt with,” Mr. Emmert told PBS. “This is as systemic a cultural problem as it is a football problem.”

“There have been people that said this wasn’t a football scandal,” Emmert said. “Well, it was more than a football scandal, much more than a football scandal. It was that but much more. And we’ll have to figure out exactly what the right penalties are. I don’t know that past precedent makes particularly good sense in this case, because it’s really an unprecedented problem.”

Sunday was a particularly tough day for Penn State following months of tough days since the Sandusky child abuse sex scandal broke last fall.

In early morning hours, the large bronze statue of former head football coach Joe Paterno was moved from its place of campus prominence to a secured storage area because, Penn State President Rodney Erickson said, it had become “an obstacle to healing.”

The university faces what could be years of reflection and rebuilding after Mr. Sandusky, a former assistant coach, was convicted on 45 charges of child sex abuse involving 10 boys over 15 years. He awaits sentencing.

In an independent report on the whole affair, former FBI director Louis Freeh wrote that Mr. Paterno was among a group of senior university officials who “in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity … repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities, the Board of Trustees, Penn State community, and the public at large.”

Article continues after advertisement

“The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized,” Mr. Freeh said in a statement releasing his report earlier this month.

NCAA punishment could have a crippling effect on first-year coach Bill O’Brien and Penn State even if it doesn’t shut down the program, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported Sunday. Mr. O’Brien has laid the foundation of a top-notch recruiting class, but NCAA sanctions could cause recruits that have given a verbal commitment to Penn State to reconsider their decision.

“Penn State lost its first recruit following the release of the Freeh Report Saturday when defensive tackle Greg Webb made a verbal commitment to the University of North Carolina,” according the Tribune-Review. “Webb, one of the top defensive tackle prospects in the country, had given a non-binding commitment to Penn State in April.”