By NEMS Daily Journal
Unprecedented sanctions imposed Monday by the National Collegiate Athletic Association on Penn State University fit the traumatic and disgusting crimes that official silence empowered.
The report compiled by former FBI chief Louis Freeh detailed Penn State’s official silence even after some of its top leaders, including the late football coach Joe Paterno, were informed of allegations about former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky’s abuse of boys on university property. Freeh’s report propelled the NCAA’s executive committee to lower the boom on the football program, imposing what some have described as a lingering death penalty.
The wider message, of course, is intended for every NCAA-governed athletic program and all university officials related to what the NCAA calls “institutional control.”
Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum was among those who specifically responded: “The severity of the penalties and the strong comments by NCAA President Mark Emmert clearly serve notice on NCAA member institutions that such a situation can never be allowed to happen again. … During my tenure, we have … established an ethics line that provides a secure and anonymous way to enhance reporting options. This telephone and internet-based reporting system is a powerful tool to assist the university in addressing questions of fraud, abuse, unethical behavior, misconduct and other activity in violation of university policy or state or federal law.”
The sanctions include a $60 million fine, loss of 40 scholarships over four years, bowl bans and loss of all victories in the football program since 1998, the year it is believed Penn State first knew of the Sandusky issues.
Neither the University of Mississippi nor Mississippi State University are strangers to past NCAA football sanctions, though obviously none reflecting anywhere near the horrible scope of the Penn State situation. Monday’s announcement should powerfully reinforce to all universities the absolute necessity of placing the protection and well-being of people, and especially children, above the image of an athletic program or university. Clearly, the former Penn State officials had their priorities tragically out of order.
The $60 million fine, it is noteworthy, represents the approximate single-season receipts from football.
The tangible good that will come of the situation is that the fine and Big 10 shared bowl revenues – which also will be denied Penn State for the duration of its five-year probation along with the Big 10 title – all will be donated to programs devoted to preventing child sexual abuse.
Every university has in its core values full respect for all people. Following fully that commitment prevents scandals and serves the good of all.