I never thought I'd say this but the NCAA got it right today, for the most part.
In the words of NCAA President Mark Emmert "No price the NCAA can levy will repair the damage inflicted by Jerry Sandusky on his victims." He's right, it can't; but that doesn't mean the NCAA should simply have done nothing or looked the other way.
Isn't that what so many of us were upset about in reading even just the initial reports surrounding this scandal?
Unlike the leaders at Penn State written about in the Freeh report, the NCAA is trying to do something.
For a moment, put the overall sanctions aside and simply focus on the monetary fine the NCAA slapped on Penn State: $60 million.
As I understand it, $12 million a year for the next 5 will go into an endowment fund to help not only the victims of sexual abuse but also the detection and prevention of it. Instead of just taking money away from the program, the NCAA is putting it to good use. The organization I've often criticized for not trying to instigate change, finally did just that.
Again, no amount of money can repair the damage that's been done, but money can help in the ongoing fight to raise awareness about sexual abuse, to protect children, and to help those who are victimized. $60 million will go a long way in that fight.
That brings me to some of the other sanctions and my belief that the NCAA got it right "for the most part."
Take the 4 year bowl ban. Instead of a ban, why not let Penn State go to a bowl if it can get there and simply take any bowl revenue for the next 4 years and give it to that endowment?
I guess I have a hard time punishing the current program for the wrongs of the past. I do believe in the team concept with the program being a team, but my issue here is that the program has changed. Penn State is trying to get out from under this "reputation black cloud" with new leadership on the field and in the program as a whole. So I'm not sure how punishing the current players/program helps in going forward.
Again, nothing can undo the harm Jerry Sandusky inflicted. At least in the case of the endowment, there may be help for others in the future. I'm not sure how not playing in a bowl game is going to help anyone.
As for helping the players who wish to leave, make it another pat on the back for the NCAA. That looming "reputation black cloud" is like few I've seen and no one knows how long it will take to escape it. The NCAA allowing immediate transfers is the right thing to do. Like I said I have a hard time punishing the current players/program for the wrongs of the past.
That brings up the vacated wins. This one's more complicated for me. I've long said vacated wins are meaningless. You can't take away memories from teams or fans. The players, whether it's the Fab 5 or Reggie Bush's USC comrades or Joe Pa's PSU teams from 1998-2011, did the work required to win. They know it as does the world.
However, I also understand the meaning behind this often used NCAA action. It's the statement vacating wins makes. In this case the statement being anything that happened during the cover up outlined in the Freeh report should be seen as tainted. It hits at the reputation of a program, it's heart, and one that in the case of Penn State already seems beyond repair.
Again, I feel for the players who left it all out on the field during the time in question and now are being told their wins don't count. I just see it a bit differently than those players who are under new leadership.
Earlier, I was listening to a former Penn State player ask why everyone was being punished for one man's actions. Why? Because you were a part of a team.
I have no doubt that with as great of a coach as Joe Paterno was (and I do believe he was great) he taught the basics of the team concept: working together as one unit. To me that means whether you succeed or fail, you do it as one unit.
In this case failure means punishment as well.
None of this is black and white and there was no precedent here. Thankfully, that didn't stop the people in charge from taking action, no matter what it meant for their collective reputation. Like I wrote at the start, the NCAA got it right today.