Monday Morning Kickoff: Welcome to Penn State's Reckoning
By Tony Gerdeman
* At 9 o'clock this morning, the NCAA will hand down its judgment on Penn State. Or, more accurately, NCAA president Mark Emmert will hand down his judgment on Penn State.
Preliminary reports on the sanctions from just about every national outlet are including terms like "unprecedented", "crippling" and "unbelievable".
The sanctions will include a fine of $30-60 million according to CBSSports.com, and there's no doubt that scholarship reductions and a postseason ban will also be a part of Emmert's judgment.
While no NCAA penalty is harsh enough to match the crimes committed, we have to remember that the NCAA's power is only relative to the realm in which it lives.
When you see the actual sanctions tomorrow, and you don't believe that Penn State's earth isn't salted, just remember that a three or five-year postseason ban and 12-15 scholarship reductions per year for a few years is as close as the NCAA will come to capital punishment, and not even rapists get the death penalty.
Keep in mind that recruits want to go to bowl games, or in a few years, play in the playoffs. If they can't do that at Penn State, then they will look elsewhere. And if they have to play the regular season undermanned, then that will make Penn State an even less-enticing choice as well.
Right now, Penn State has a verbal commitment from the nation's top quarterback (according to ESPN's ranking service) Christian Hackenberg. Top-flight quarterbacks are one of a few keys to a winning program, but they are currently in danger of losing him, and then others with him.
All quarterbacks need protection, and Penn State's highest-ranked commitment per Rivals is offensive tackle Dorian Johnson. Johnson, thought to be a Pitt lean for a while, chose the Nittany Lions over the Panthers and the Buckeyes. He isn't commenting at the moment, but you know he will be talking soon.
If you factor in the players who will renege on their commitments, and those who likely would have committed in the last class (see: Ohio State's 2012 recruiting class), along with those who won't consider Penn State for years, as well as those current players who could possibly be allowed to transfer without penalty and be eligible this season, then that's a pretty stiff penalty.
Coaching and talent is the name of the game in college football, and Penn State will certainly be behind the curve in the talent category. We have no idea about head coach Bill O'Brien right now, and we may never know considering the hand he has chosen to be dealt to him.
Penn State's penalty in simple lack of recruiting ability following the sanctions will be significant. They will also have fewer scholarships to hand out. Their talent pool will be shallower, and the flops will leave bigger welts.
Remember, just because they still get to play the games doesn't mean the sanctions aren't having their desired effects on every single snap.
* No matter the punishment delivered, however, there will be media members bellowing that the NCAA didn't go far enough. In fact, I am sure that there are a few who have their sanctimonious screeds already written.
My opinion of some in the media is that rage is only a means to an end, and not an actual emotion. Everything is fodder, kindling to be set ablaze. They have pushbutton anger, waiting for an index finger to simply turn them on.
As reactionary media, they are not real people, they are simply doing a job. Like teaching a child to remember state capitals, and pretending that knowing that Bismarck is the capital of North Dakota is life-altering. Their job is to make it seem supremely important, but it's just one day's job. Tomorrow, Montana will have its turn as the most important state in the union.
For writers, this is when the written becomes rote. If you read a lot of sportswriters, you probably already have an idea of who will be writing what. That may please you, or it may anger you. Either way, as long as you read it, they have done their jobs.
However, if there isn't at least a three-year bowl ban and double-digit scholarship losses for at least three seasons, then I may have to join the braying.
* Personally, I am of the opinion that some type of death penalty is appropriate here, but I can understand if it doesn't happen.
For some reason, however—blind faith perhaps—I believe the punishment that is coming will be relative and acceptable in relation to Penn State's football-based infractions—which is the realm of violation that we need to keep in mind.
What goes far enough and what doesn't differs from person to person, but remember that in the sphere of college athletics, punishments that are handed down will be in the sphere of athletics, and there can only be so much penalizing when the NCAA's goal is to actually help college athletes.
* Tomorrow's sanctions will indeed be unprecedented in the amount of the fines, as well as the way in which the punishment will be handed down—personally, from Emmert, following a piggy-backed investigation that may not have been much more than a detailed read of the Freeh Report.
Of course, even a skim would have been plenty.
I heard a Penn State fan on the radio say that the NCAA needs to wait for the entire truth to come out, which he believes will happen when former administrators Tim Curley and Gary Schultz go on trial for perjury.
What the caller failed to realize is that this was Penn State's investigation, and it didn't paint a very rosy picture. Do you really want more investigators on the case at this point?
As most programs facing penalties can tell you, it's better to just get it over with. The sooner the sanctions start, the sooner they end. Had the sanctions come down in November, Penn State would have an entire offseason to fester.
Now, everything starts immediately. And if Penn State is okay with these penalties, then perhaps the caller should realize that if Penn State accepts it, then so should he, because the university knows a whole lot more about what went down than he does.
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