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Penn State slammed with staggering NCAA sanctions

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The NCAA has fined Penn State $60 million, banned the team from postseason play for four years, eliminated multiple scholarships, stripped the Nittany Lions of all wins between 1998-2011, and placed the program on probation for five years.

NCAA President Mark Emmert announced severe sanctions against the Penn State football program as a result of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse case and subsequent cover-up by university officials.

Speaking from Indianapolis along with Dr. Edward J. Ray, Oregon State president and NCAA Executive Committee Chair, Emmert outlined the sanctions against the Penn State program, which include the following:

  • $60 million fine, with funds being directed to organizations affiliated with child sexual abuse

  • Four-year ban from all postseason play

  • Elimination of 40 football scholarships over the next four years

  • Vacation of all wins from 1998-2011

  • Five years of probation

  • NCAA retains the right to impose sanctions on any individual

  • Penn State is required to enact all suggestions outlined in Chapter 10 of Freeh Report

“In the Penn State case, the results were perverse and unconscionable,” Emmert said. “No price the NCAA can levy can repair the damage inflicted on Jerry Sandusky and his victims.”

The sanctions are the most severe since the NCAA suspended the Southern Methodist football program for one year in the wake a “pay for performance” scandal in 1987.

Emmert said the $60 million fine was equivalent to the average annual revenue of the football program. The funds will be placed 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 fine also must not come at the expense of any other Penn State athletic programs.

The ban on postseason play includes all bowl games as well as any Big Ten championship games for four years. The Big Ten Conference took action beyond their championship game, cutting Penn State off from any Big Ten bowl revenue generated by other teams in the conference. Penn State's proceeds from Big Ten bowl revenues amounts to an estimated $13 million, which will be allocated "to established charitable organizations in Big Ten communities dedicated to the protection of children," the conference said.

The scholarship reductions will cap the Nittany Lions’ roster at 75 immediately and at 65 for the remaining three seasons under the sanctions – 20 players less than the normal scholarship limit of 85.

The vacated wins from the 14 impacted seasons total 112 overall—111 under Joe Paterno and one under interim head coach Tom Bradley—and include six bowl wins. They also mean that Paterno is no longer college football's winningest coach. Paterno was fired in November with 409 wins, one more than the late Eddie Robinson of Grambling. Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden will now hold the top spot in the NCAA Division 1 record book with 377. Penn State will also have its two Big Ten Conference championships erased.

The Penn State athletic program also will be put on a five-year probation and must work with an athletic-integrity monitor of NCAA's choosing. Any current or incoming football players are free to immediately transfer and compete at another school.

"There is incredible interest in what will happen to Penn State football," Ray said at the news conference. "But the fundamental chapter of this horrific story should focus on the innocent children and the powerful people who let them down."

The NCAA is imposing these sanctions without due process, an unprecedented action by the organization. Typically, the NCAA conducts its own investigation and allows the university 90 days to respond before a hearing is scheduled. In this case, however, the penalties were issued based solely on the findings of the Freeh Report, an investigation by former FBI Director Louis Freeh into Penn State's handling of Jerry Sandusky's decade-long sexual abuse of children on Penn State's campus. The Freeh Report was commissioned by the university’s board of trustees.

Attorneys representing former Penn State officials Graham Spanier, Gary Schultz and Tim Curley—as well as the family of Joe Paterno—are challenging the findings of the report, which was scathing in its criticism of the university's leadership, and clear in its conclusion of a cover-up perpetrated by the aforementioned four individuals.

The NCAA, however, did not expect any challenges to today's sanctions.

“This case is unprecedented. It's not going to open up Pandora's box,” said Emmert when asked if the NCAA was acting with too much impunity.

“It's important to separate this case from a traditional enforcement case. That's not what this was. The university agreed with us that the findings of the Freeh Report were sufficient,” he said.

“We've had enough,” added Ray. “This has to stop.”

Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien had a meeting with his entire team shortly after the sanctions were announced.

“I knew when I accepted the position that there would be tough times ahead,” O’Brien said. “But I am committed for the long term to Penn State and our student athletes.”

Athletic director Dave Joyner added, “The path ahead will not be easy. But it is necessary, just and will being a better future.”

Child advocacy groups lauded the NCAA’s decision.

“No name, no brand and no team are worth protecting more than the safety of a child, said Lauren Book, founder and CEO of the Lauren’s Kids foundation and child sexual abuse survivor. “These penalties are not only appropriate, but they are only the beginning of what every institution in the country should see as a consequence for not protecting a child from abuse. So that these actions never go unreported again, every state should institute stringent and far-reaching mandatory reporting laws.”

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