By Ralph D. Russo and Tom Coyne/The Associated Press
INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA slammed Penn State for the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal Monday with an unprecedented series of penalties, including a $60 million fine and the loss of all the school’s victories from 1998-2011, knocking Joe Paterno from his spot as major college football’s winningest coach.
Other sanctions include a four-year ban on postseason games that will prevent Penn State from playing for the Big Ten title, the loss of 20 scholarships per year over four years and five years’ probation. The NCAA also said that any current or incoming football players are free to immediately transfer and compete at another school.
NCAA President Mark Emmert announced the staggering sanctions at a news conference in Indianapolis. Though the NCAA stopped short of imposing the “death penalty” — shutting down the Nittany Lions’ program completely. But the punishment is so severe, it’s more like a slow-death penalty.
Sandusky, a former Penn State defensive coordinator, was found guilty in June of sexually abusing young boys, sometimes on campus. An investigation commissioned by the school and released July 12 found that Paterno, who died in January, and several other top officials at Penn State stayed quiet for years about accusations against Sandusky.
Emmert fast-tracked penalties rather than go through the usual circuitous series of investigations and hearings. The NCAA said the $60 million is equivalent to the annual gross revenue of the football program. The money must be paid into an endowment for external programs preventing child sexual abuse or assisting victims and may not be used to fund such programs at Penn State.
“Football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing and protecting young people,” Emmert said.
By vacating 112 Penn State victories over a 14-year period, the sanctions cost Paterno 111 wins. Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden will now hold the top spot in the NCAA record book with 377. Paterno, who was fired days after Sandusky was charged, will be credited with 298 wins.
The scholarship reductions mean that Penn State’s roster will be capped at 65 scholarship players within a couple of seasons. The normal scholarship limit for major college football programs is 85. Playing with 20 less is crippling to a program that tries to compete at the highest level of the sport.
Emmert had earlier said he had “never seen anything as egregious” as the horrific crimes of Sandusky and the cover-up by Paterno and others at the university, including former Penn State President Graham Spanier and athletic director Tim Curley.
The investigation headed by former FBI Director Louis Freeh said that Penn State officials kept what they knew from police and other authorities for years, enabling the abuse to go on.
There had been calls across the nation for Penn State to receive the “death penalty,” and Emmert had not ruled out that possibility as late as last week — though Penn State did not fit the criteria for it. That punishment is for teams that commit a major violation while already being sanctioned.
Penn State has already agreed to not fight the sanctions.
Emmert said the university and the NCAA have signed a consent decree, essentially a pact signing off on the penalties.
“This case is obviously incredibly unprecedented in every aspect of it, as are these actions that we’re taking today.”
Statement by PSU president Rodney Erickson
The Associated Press
The tragedy of child sexual abuse that occurred at our University altered the lives of innocent children. Today, as every day, our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the victims of Mr. Sandusky and all other victims of child abuse.
Against this backdrop, Penn State accepts the penalties and corrective actions announced today by the NCAA. With today’s announcement and the action it requires of us, the University takes a significant step forward.
The NCAA ruling holds the University accountable for the failure of those in power to protect children and insists that all areas of the University community are held to the same high standards of honesty and integrity.
The NCAA also mandates that Penn State become a national leader to help victims of child sexual assault and to promote awareness across our nation. Specifically, the University will pay $12 million a year for the next five years into a special endowment created to fund programs for the detection, prevention and treatment of child abuse. This total of $60 million can never reduce the pain suffered by victims, but will help provide them hope and healing.
The NCAA penalty will also affect the football program. There is a four-year ban on all post-season games, including bowl games and the Big Ten Championship game, and a future reduction in the number of football scholarships that can be granted. We are grateful that the current student athletes are not prevented from participation because of the failures of leadership that occurred. Additionally the NCAA has vacated all wins of Penn State football from 1998-2011.
We also welcome the Athletics Integrity Agreement and the third-party monitor, who will be drilling into compliance and culture issues in intercollegiate athletics, in conjunction with the recommendations of the Freeh Report. Lastly a probationary period of five years will be imposed.
It is important to know we are entering a new chapter at Penn State and making necessary changes. We must create a culture in which people are not afraid to speak up, management is not compartmentalized, all are expected to demonstrate the highest ethical standards, and the operating philosophy is open, collegial, and collaborative.
Since receiving Judge Freeh’s preliminary recommendations in January, the University has instituted several reforms. Today we accept the terms of the consent decree imposed by the NCAA. As Penn State embarks upon change and progress, this announcement helps to further define our course. It is with this compass that we will strive for a better tomorrow.
Penn State will move forward with a renewed sense of commitment to excellence and integrity in all aspects of our University. We continue to recognize the important role that intercollegiate athletics provides for our student athletes and the wider University community as we strive to appropriately balance academic and athletic accomplishments. Penn State will continue to be a world-class educational institution of which our students, faculty, staff and alumni can be justifiably proud.