The NCAA is a man without a country. With the reversal of Penn State’s sanctions, the NCAA has further confirmed that it has no moral center. By reneging policies it once stood so ardently behind, Mark Emmert’s group has set a dangerous precedent. Already on shaky ground, it has now compromised what little morality still remained, and left itself cowering on an eroding sand dune. The NCAA looks less like a powerful governing body than it does a person lost adrift at sea.
After the sordid details were released, and once it was evident the Sandusky cover-up was attached to both the athletic department and university leaders, the NCAA faced a monumental decision. It had to decide whether to punish Penn State football, and, if so, how heavily. Considering Sandusky’s crimes were only peripherally related to the football program, this was not a cut-and-dry ruling.
The NCAA ultimately decided that Penn State had lost institutional control and abetted a criminal. It was, therefore, culpable. The NCAA deemed a non-athletically related event punishable, and served as Penn State’s judiciary moral compass. With its ruling, the NCAA sent notice that improprieties of any kind, in any way relatable to college athletics, would not be tolerated.
Then came Tuesday’s ruling that the NCAA will repeal scholarship bans from Penn State because the university has, “demonstrated its commitment to restoring the integrity in its athletics program.” In one fell swoop George Mitchell, Mark Emmert, and the rest of the NCAA undid their last strand of morality. They shouted to the world that it’s easier to come out from under child endangerment charges than any other NCAA penalty.
Consider this: USC is just now bouncing back from sanctions and scholarship losses incurred because of Reggie Bush and pay-for-play charges. Ohio State never had its penalties alleviated after Jim Tressel was ousted. There has been no ruling on Miami’s connections with Nevin Shapiro. Oh yeah, and the NCAA spent seven (7!) hours interrogating Johnny Manziel about signing his name to glossy pictures.
The NCAA has no idea what it is anymore. It’s more fickle than teenagers at a Sadie Hawkins dance. There is no code, no hierarchy of importance. It seems like the folks in Indianapolis wake up, throw a dart at the wall and go after whatever it hits. Could be a freshman receiving free meals; could be a school involved in serious academic scandals. There is no means of logic.
Many student athletes who accept money from agents do it on a conditional basis. Once an athlete graduates to the pros, he will then pay back the agents who helped him. How is this any different than Penn State? It committed a violation, yet now it gets to go home for good behavior. Will the NCAA continue its good-behavior policy? One should hope, or else pile on another steaming heap of hypocrisy.
It sounds cynical, but one can’t help but wonder how much money played a role in this decision. Happy Valley’s economy is almost entirely dependent upon Penn State. Most of that comes from football games, as it is well-documented that State College becomes the third-most populous city in Pennsylvania on autumn Saturdays. The NCAA does not want to murder one of its most idyllic college towns, especially in the football-rich state of Pennsylvania. Reducing the scholarship ban allows the Nittany Lions to stay relevant, and keeps the economy churning.
Whether or not Penn State deserved its initial suspension is irrelevant. They were leveed a fine and should pay their penance. The $60M will donate to child abuse charities is commendable. Still, it’s been let off the hook by a deus ex machina. This latest move by the NCAA shows its mood changes with the weather. Its only consistency is being inconsistent.