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No death penalty for Penn State

NCAA penalties rarely punish the guilty parties. Jack Bechta

Print This July 18, 2012, 04:00 PM EST

No doubt, the Penn State football program marched to the beat of its drum, defiant to most rules and regulations set forth by the NCAA, the board of trustees and even local law enforcement. So whose fault was it that a head football coach intimidated everyone around him to give the program special treatment? Well, everyone who never stood up to him, did not follow compliance protocol and all those who looked the other way, or looked to follow his lead. As of today, those people are gone and/or will be gone very soon.

For the few readers who do follow me, you know I am not a big fan of the NCAA. It’s an institution that answers to nobody. It dictates to student athletes the terms of their scholarships and rules, it’s draconian in its thinking, and most of all it’s notoriously reactive and not pro-active in how it enforces rules. However, the people and institutions they do let influence them are college sports' most powerful coaches, AD’s and money making basketball and football programs. That’s the hypocrisy of this showdown. Are you telling me that it took such sinful acts, for these issues to finally get noticed by the NCAA?

ICONIn the NCAA, the actions of a few can affect a program for years.

An NFL GM I know well uses the term “Caesar making” when referring to the college football and basketball structure”. It’s his is way of saying that the biggest money producing programs empower those respective coaches to rule amateur athletics. Although the Roman Empire was supposed to be run by the senate (NCAA), the generals (coaches) controlled the army (football and basketball programs) and were benefactors (high salaries, endorsements, popularity) of many of the spoils of war (bowl/final four championships). Thus, on paper, they were supposed to be subordinate to the senate. In reality, they did what they wanted and the senate was scared to death of them.

I personally think the Penn State situation, that is still painfully unraveling, is beyond their (the NCAA) scope now and that any severe penalties would be hypocritical, pointless and possibly a way of even distancing themselves from the heinous tragedies. After all, aren’t they the governing body that was supposed to prevent and police football coaches like Joe Paterno and oversee the PSU athletic department? Anyone and everyone that has ever been around college football, the PSU program and Joe Paterno knows that he was the Caesar of Happy Valley. Coach Paterno was the unwritten law of the land and as one former PSU player put it to me recently, “nobody made a move on that campus or in that town without either consulting Joe first or giving thought about how he would react”.

When the NCAA punishes schools by taking away scholarships and banning them from postseason play, and potentially the death penalty which is being bantered about for this case, the actions usually punish those who are innocent by-standers. It penalizes players, parents, fans, alumni, coaches, administrators, trainers, students, the community and all those who lawfully support the program. Let’s take USC for example; they lacked oversight to prevent Reggie Bush from cheating. Who should have been punished? Reggie Bush of course, Pete Carroll perhaps, and probably the AD and any compliance officers who were in charge of the making sure all were in compliance. So while these guys ran off into the sunset with big pro lucrative contracts after the damage was already done, a university was crippled by the NCAA’s punishment. Student athletes and coaches who were innocent and abided by all the rules were left with a less talented program, no bowl opportunities and many of the reasons they chose USC over several other options were gone. It took the NCAA four years to finish their investigation and come up with a ruling on the USC situation. So those at the university four years after the violations were committed had to endure the penalties handed down for the actions of those who were already gone. That makes very little sense to me.

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