The National Collegiate Athletic Association is poised to disclose sanctions against Pennsylvania State University, which today removed a statue of former football coach Joe Paterno amid criticism that he and the school didn’t do enough to investigate allegations of sexual abuse of children.
ESPN said the NCAA may elect not to shut down the Nittany Lions football team -- the so-called death penalty -- even after a report by former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Louis Freeh said school officials tried to cover up abuse by former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
“Any punishment has likely already been agreed to by PSU,” David Ridpath, a sports administration professor at Ohio University in Athens, said in an e-mail. “I doubt the death penalty would be something they would entertain.”
Mark Emmert, the president of the NCAA, will detail “corrective and punitive measures” at a press conference in Indianapolis at 9 a.m. local time tomorrow, the college athletics’ governing body said in a statement.
The association, which is based in Indianapolis, has imposed the death penalty five times and only once at football’s top level.
“I don’t know that past precedent makes particularly good sense in this case, because it’s really an unprecedented problem,” Emmert said in an interview with the Public Broadcasting Service’s “Tavis Smiley” program July 16. “I have never seen anything as egregious as this in terms of just overall conduct and behavior inside a university.”
Shutting down the football program is the “only punishment that fits this crime,” Geoffrey Rapp, a sports law professor at the University of Toledo in Ohio, said in an e-mail.
“The failure here was at the highest levels of Penn State’s leadership,” Rapp said. “Anything less than a break from football would not address the fundamental cultural shift needed here.”
CBS News reported on its website, citing an NCAA official it didn’t identify, that the school and its football team face “unprecedented” penalties.
Should it choose not to impose the death penalty, the NCAA may ban postseason play for football or all sports and strip the school of scholarships.
Penn State should not be allowed to make a profit from football for as many as four years, said Jason Lanter, a professor of psychology at Pennsylvania’s Kutztown University and former president of the Drake Group, which defends academic integrity in intercollegiate athletics.
“Any money Penn State football makes above and beyond the bottom line of football expenses goes straight to a fund to support the prevention of child abuse and to help cover the college expenses of the victims,” Lanter suggested in an e- mail.
Closing the football program would harm businesses in and around State College, Pennsylvania, that rely on the 100,000 fans who regularly attend games at Beaver Stadium, said Lanter and Ellen Staurowsky, a professor of sports management at Drexel University in Philadelphia.
“A meaningful response to the Penn State situation should come from an organization that is a moral exemplar,” Staurowsky said in an e-mail. “Does the NCAA have the moral authority to impose penalties that have such far-reaching consequences not only for an individual program or institution but, in this case, an entire region?”
Southern Methodist University’s football program was closed in 1987 after it was found that 13 players received $61,000 from a slush fund provided by a booster. The Dallas-based school was unable to field a team in 1988 and had one winning record over the next 20 years after it returned in 1989, before bowl game appearances in 2009, 2010 and last year.
The NCAA also shut down the University of Kentucky basketball team for the 1952-53 season; the basketball team at the University of Southwestern Louisiana for two seasons from 1973-75; the men’s soccer team at Morehouse College in 2004 and 2005; and the men’s tennis program at MacMurray College for two seasons from 2005-07.
The seven-foot statue of Paterno outside Beaver Stadium was removed this morning after Freeh’s report, which was commissioned by the university, said Paterno helped cover up child sex-abuse allegations against Sandusky.
A forklift behind blue screens about six-feet high could be seen, in pictures broadcast by ESPN, taking away the statue. It will be stored in a secure location, Penn State President Rodney Erickson said today in a statement on the school’s website.
“Paterno’s statue has become a source of division and an obstacle to healing in our university and beyond,” Erickson said. “Were it to remain, the statue will be a recurring wound to the multitude of individuals across the nation and beyond who have been the victims of child abuse.”
Paterno’s family objected to the decision to remove the bronze sculpture.
“Tearing down the statue of Joe Paterno does not serve the victims of Jerry Sandusky’s horrible crimes,” a statement from the family said.
Penn State will retain the Paterno name on the university library, which was named after the coach and his wife, Sue, in 1994, Erickson said.
The statue depicts Paterno, who won a Division I-record 409 games over 46 years, running onto the field pointing at the sky, jacket open, tie blowing to the side, like any fall Saturday afternoon at the stadium.
Sandusky, 68, who spent 31 seasons with Paterno, was convicted last month on 45 criminal counts tied to the abuse of 10 boys over a 15-year period and is awaiting sentencing. Paterno did not face criminal charges in the case.
Freeh said in his report published July 12, that Paterno, whose motto was “success with honor,” had known of accusations against Sandusky before and after the assistant’s retirement in 1999 yet didn’t ban him from the university and failed to act aggressively to protect victims of potential future abuse.
Paterno, who was fired four days after Sandusky was arrested Nov. 5, was prevented by the university from telling his side of the story when the allegations emerged. Paterno told Freeh he wanted to talk to him, but died of lung cancer in January at the age of 85 before an interview could be arranged.
Freeh said at a news conference in Philadelphia when the report was released that the saddest finding in his investigation was the “total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State.”
Under Paterno’s guidance, the Penn State program became one of the country’s elite, with five undefeated seasons and Associated Press national championships in 1982 and 1986.
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