Down goes JoePa’s statue – and Penn State athletics

Sunday was a day Penn State University is likely never going to forget. The day began with the seven-foot tribute to everything that went wrong at Penn State University, a statue of the late Joe Paterno that adorned Beaver Stadium the home of the Nittany Lions football team being removed by the school’s president. Later Sunday morning the NCAA announced NCAA President Mark Emmert will announce "corrective and punitive measures" for Penn State on Monday morning. CBS News reported the sanctions will be unprecedented, while ESPN suggested Penn State’s football program would not receive the death penalty – shutting down the football program completely for at least one year.

“The purpose of the NCAA is to keep a level playing field among schools and to make sure they use proper methods through scholarships and et cetera. This is not a case that would normally go through the process. It has nothing to do with a level playing field.” a former NCAA Committee on Infractions chair and current Division I Appeals Committee member who wished to remain anonymous told ESPN.

The NCAA more often than not has spent anywhere from six months to a year investigating rules infractions that include payment of student athletes and grade fixing. The NCAA had no rules in place prior to the November 4, 2011, the day of the Jerry Sandusky indictments and his subsequent conviction on 45 of 48 charges. Ten days ago former FBI Director Louis Freeh released a report that suggested in no uncertain terms Paterno, the school’s Hall of Fame football coach, Graham Spanier, the school’s fired President, and other keys members of Penn State’s athletic department and administration, participated in covering up the rape of young boys by Sandusky while he as a member of the school’s football coaching staff and once he retired.

CBS News reported Sunday evening the NCAA could fine Penn State as much as $60 million. Does the NCAA believe the governing body for collegiate athletics can help Penn State buy their way out of the worst scandal to ever impact college sports in America?

On July 9 Penn State reported the school had raised $208.7 million in donations the institutions last fiscal year, a record for Penn State. The school’s football program has generated an annual profit in excess of $50 million over the last ten years – Penn State football has generated $500 million in revenues for the school. Record donations, a football team that is making $50 million a year, the football team will have the fine paid off after the 2012 season is completed – what message is the NCAA sending out by making a fine one of their key penalties?

There have also been reports the NCAA could ban Penn State from playing in bowl games for as many as five years – bowl games are loss leaders for schools. Penn State may have a significant challenge in recruiting football players if NCAA announces a five year bowl ban for Penn State.

"This is unique and this kind of power has never been tested or tried," a former NCAA chair told ESPN. "It's unprecedented to have this extensive power. This has nothing to do with the purpose of the infractions process. Nevertheless, somehow (the NCAA president and executive board) have taken it on themselves to be a commissioner and to penalize a school for improper conduct."

The death penalty is used in extreme cases when the NCAA believes there is a lack of “institutional control” at an NCAA member school. While the NCAA didn’t have rules in place regarding the tragedy that unfolded at Penn State, the Sandusky case may represent the greatest single example on lack of “institutional control” in NCAA history.

The Harrisburg Patriot-Herald who won a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of the Sandusky scandal Sunday reported Penn State will not appeal any of the sanctions and penalties the NCAA will impose on the school. If indeed one of the cornerstones of the NCAA sanctions is a $60 million fine – that amounts to little if anything given the school’s alumni and the revenue the football team has generated over the last decade.

"But this has nothing to do with NCAA business," the former chair said. "This is new. If they're going to deal with situations of this kind that have nothing to do with the games of who plays and so on and rather deal with members of the athletic department who act immorally or criminally then it opens up the door to other cases."

The NCAA, the chair reminded ESPN, the NCAA historically doesn’t get involved in punishing the school for criminal behavior.

"The criminal courts are perfectly capable of handling these situations," the former chair said. "This is a new phase and a new thing. They are getting into bad behavior that are somehow connected to those who work in the athletic department.”

The NCAA needs to send out a message to their member schools that deviant behavior is unacceptable at any level. The NCAA needs to send out an even stronger message to the leaders of young men and women who play college sports that they, the leaders, will be held accountable for their actions. NCAA President Mark Emmert is facing a true test of his leadership and whether or not he’s worthy of being the president of the governing body for college sports in America.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom