Standing up and being counted – the NCAA

Leadership – on every level Penn State University’s leadership had a complete failure to lead, to guide, to do what’s right and on Monday it resulted in the toughest sanctions the NCAA has ever handed out to a member institution. Penn State’s football program wasn’t handed the death penalty – at the end of the day the death penalty may have been an easier pill to swallow than what the NCAA decided to do after the late Joe Paterno, Graham Spanier who is Penn State’s fired President, Tim Curley the school’s fired athletic director, and others participated in covering up the rape of young boys by Jerry Sandusky.

“As we evaluated the situation, the victims affected by Jerry Sandusky and the efforts by many to conceal his crimes informed our actions,” said NCAA President Mark Emmert. “At our core, we are educators. Penn State leadership lost sight of that.”

The NCAA imposed a $60 million sanction on the university, which is equivalent to the average gross annual revenue of the football program. These funds must be paid into an endowment for external programs preventing child sexual abuse or assisting victims and may not be used to fund such programs at the university.

The sanctions also include a four-year football postseason ban and a vacation of all wins from 1998 through 2011. The career record of former head football coach Joe Paterno will reflect these vacated records. Penn State must also reduce 10 initial and 20 total scholarships each year for a four-year period. In addition, the NCAA reserves the right to impose additional sanctions on involved individuals at the conclusion of any criminal proceedings.

The NCAA chose to circumvent the organization’s long established policies and procedures in determining Penn State’s fate. The NCAA had become infamous for long drawn out investigations that historically take between six and 18 months to complete and are followed by an appeal process. The NCAA announced their Penn State penalties 11 days after former FBI Director, Judge Louis Freeh’s report.

“There has been much speculation on whether or not the NCAA has the authority to impose any type of penalty related to Penn State,” said Ed Ray, Executive Committee chair and Oregon State president. “This egregious behavior not only goes against our rules and constitution, but also against our values.”

Because Penn State accepted the Freeh Report factual findings, which the university itself commissioned, the NCAA determined traditional investigative proceedings would be redundant and unnecessary.

“We cannot look to NCAA history to determine how to handle circumstances so disturbing, shocking and disappointing,” said Emmert. “As the individuals charged with governing college sports, we have a responsibility to act. These events should serve as a call to every single school and athletics department to take an honest look at its campus environment and eradicate the ‘sports are king’ mindset that can so dramatically cloud the judgment of educators.”

Penn State fully cooperated with the NCAA on this examination of the issues and took decisive action in removing individuals in leadership who were culpable.

“The actions already taken by the new Penn State Board of Trustees chair Karen Peetz and Penn State President Rodney Erickson have demonstrated a strong desire and determination to take the steps necessary for Penn State to right these severe wrongs,” said Emmert.

The NCAA’s decision to vacate the football program’s 111 wins between 1998 and 2011 represent one of the boldest sanctions. Penn State fired Joe Paterno on November 9, 2011. The late Paterno left the game with 409 wins – the winningest coach in college football history. The 111 loses not only makes the late Eddie Robinson college football’s winningest coach but knocks Paterno out of the top ten list. Not an also ran, but no longer among the coaching elite – a body blow to the late Joe Paterno.

“Is it almost unfair to use Penn State as a normal reflection of college athletics? Certainly some of the mentalities like the iconic coach or an enabling administration carry over. But is it almost hard to incorporate lessons from Penn State to other places considering how anomalous the actions of Sandusky were?” Emmert told the New York Times.

“The membership, especially the presidential leadership, has done an extraordinary job in the last 11 months of addressing some of the core problems that we have. They're just beginning to come to fruition. In the coming months as we put them in place, those actions will speak for themselves. We first wanted to tackle the notion that student athletes have to be students, and we stiffened the academic requirements for participation and continuing to play. We did that in a speedy action and in a thoughtful way. In the August meeting we're going to have the first vote on a completely new enforcement penalty structure and adjudication model that hopefully will hopefully be up for final action in October. That will have a profound impact on the way we handle our enforcement cases going forward that everyone is very enthusiastic about. We are in the midst of a rewrite of our absurdly complex rules. That is taking longer, as we knew it would. Our goal is still by the end of this calendar year to have in front of the membership a very different looking Division I rule book. If we can accomplish those things and simultaneously act on our values, which is a bit of what this case is about in ways that everyone supports, then I think we've made some pretty dramatic progress.”

Mark Emmert acted decisively and sent a clear message to his membership. If you are given an opportunity to lead at an NCAA institution you will be expected to lead by example and to the highest standards. Penn State’s failure represents a true lack of leadership among the school’s most important leaders. Monday those leaders were put in their place by the NCAA – paying a price for the sins they committed.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom