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Declawed Lions

Sports | Critics differ on whether the NCAA's punishment of Penn State fits the crime

Issue: "School choice," Aug. 25, 2012

The NCAA levied stiff penalties last month against the Penn State football program for its failure to properly police former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, a homosexual pedophile found guilty of sexually abusing 10 boys over a period of more than a decade. A report commissioned by the school found that top staffers, including head coach Joe Paterno, concealed allegations against Sandusky, allowing his despicable behavior to go on unchecked.

Citing a desire to change the Penn State culture that apparently valued preserving football over protecting the innocent, the NCAA crippled the college's football program past and future with 13 years of nullified victories, reduced scholarships, four years of bowl ineligibility, and amnesty for any current players desiring to transfer elsewhere. The punishment ensures Penn State will field a losing team for many years to come. A chorus of criticism and praise followed the NCAA's announcement. Here's a sample:

I don't understand why the NCAA would get involved with a situation that is really criminal and doesn't involve the athletic department.
-Franco Harris, Penn State alumnus and Hall of Fame running back

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The NCAA action for Penn State may give the NCAA and its council of presidents a brief moment of moral superiority. They have punished and humiliated a bad actor-and they may think they don't have to hold a mirror to themselves.
-Anne D. Neal, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni

I applaud the NCAA for standing up and doing the right thing. There have to be consequences to this type of behavior. ... No consequence cuts out all wrongdoing, but this makes people think.
-Fran Tarkenton, Hall of Fame quarterback

Sadly, in our experience, which has been mostly with church organizations, monetary fines have little impact with decision-makers. These are long-standing attitudes and practices that can't be fined out of existence.
-David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

In truth, the scandal at Penn State is only incidentally about football. Mostly it is about the collapse of authority. There was a day when our colleges held themselves to higher standards than the society around them. Today they look to police, the courts, and outside institutions such as the NCAA to do a job they are clearly unwilling or unable to do.
-Bill McGurn, Wall Street Journal columnist

I think all members of the NCAA should be worried about what this means down the road. This is clearly a precedent that expands the NCAA's authority over member institutions.
-Gary Roberts, dean of Indiana University's School of Law

The genius of the sanctions is that they speak directly to the coaches in the most powerful football programs in the country and say your records are at stake. That will deter these kinds of cover-ups in the future.
-Marci Hamilton, attorney representing an Ohio man in a sex-abuse lawsuit against Sandusky and Penn State

[T]o eliminate those wins, I think, is idiotic. What the hell did those kids have to do with it? They're not punishing Paterno. Paterno's dead. They're punishing these kids that graduated, that played the game. I think that is ridiculous, that part of it.
-Bobby Knight, the second-winningest basketball coach in NCAA history

What's important in the Penn State case is that this be seen as a wake-up call for people in charge of institutions that they will be held accountable for what they do to human beings, especially the most vulnerable in our midst.
-Rev. Thomas Doyle, a Catholic priest who has testified about church cover-ups in hundreds of sex-abuse trials

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