Phil’s post offers an analytical view of the sanctions imposed on Penn State regarding the Sandusky affair. I’m going straight to polemics. While a number of writers have made similar points, David Zirin at The Nation parallels my sentiments very closely:
Today marked a stomach-turning, precedent-setting and lawless turning point in the history of the NCAA. The punishment levied by Emmert was nothing less than an extra-legal, extrajudicial imposition into the affairs of a publicly funded campus. If allowed to stand, the repercussions will be felt far beyond Happy Valley. Take a step back from the hysteria and just think about what took place: Penn State committed no violations of any NCAA bylaws. There were no secret payments to “student-athletes,” no cheating on tests, no improper phone calls, no using cream cheese instead of butter on a recruit’s bagel, or any of the Byzantine minutiae that fills the time-sheets that justify Mark Emmert’s $1.6 million salary.
What Penn State did was commit horrific violations of criminal and civil laws, and it should pay every possible price for shielding Sandusky, the child rapist. This is why we have a society with civil and criminal courts.
Instead, under the seemingly limitless mantra of “lack of institutional control” the NCAA has thrown any notion of jurisdiction to the wind and decided that anything pertaining to the athletic department or personnel comes under their purview in their high-minded world. One would think that to apply the “lack of institutional control” banner would mean that the institution is not controlling some activity governed by NCAA administrative rules and regulations. By this precedent, any conduct by athletics-related personnel whether criminal (murder, embezzlement, spousal abuse, …) or possibly civil or not meeting some kind of NCAA-cultural standard that is abetted, covered up, or not punished sufficiently by the university fits into the NCAA world, at least when NCAA enforcers feel moralistic or societal pressure. Given that PSU is in total shame and penance mode (with good reason), they are unlikely to stand up against the NCAA’s aggression (see NBC Sports post.)
In my 30 years of following and studying the NCAA, many adjectives come to mind for its high-level staff and many of the high-profile university academics and presidents who guide it — hypocritical, self-righteous, attention-seeking, politically correct . The characteristic that has been most troubling to me, however, is their ceaseless effort to extend their reach. In the 1980s, it was the (largely successful) effort to have state and federal authorities pass laws that translated their administrative laws into civil and criminal codes (through things like anti-agent laws). In the 2000s, they attempted to co-opt the NFL into an enforcement agent to impost penalties for NCAA violation — an attempt, that has been unsuccessful so far. Now, in an effort to show the world just how morally indignant and serious they are, they impose sanctions in a case that has nothing to do with NCAA rules.