Sanctions harsh, justified.

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Last updated: 07/24/2012 2:36 AM
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Football
PSU's NCAA Sanctions Surprisingly and Justifiably Harsh
By Tony Gerdeman

If there is a present-day stone age in college football, Penn State is now its sole occupant.

After NCAA president Mark Emmert handed down the sanctions on Monday, the media in attendance had to crawl their way out of the crater that was left in his wake.

A $60 million fine; probation for five years; no postseason for four years; a ten-scholarship reduction for four years starting in 2013; vacation of all wins from 1998 through 2011; any player on the roster, including incoming freshmen, can transfer freely over the next four years and be immediately eligible; and, most devastatingly of all, starting in 2014 and lasting through 2017, Penn State will only have 65 scholarships to work with, far below the normal 85.

This unprecedented punishment is Joe Paterno's legacy. Yes, he did a lot of good for the University—including donating millions of dollars towards a number of academic projects, but is it any different than a husband who buys his wife a gift out of guilt after beating her?

When the sanctions were alluded to on Sunday, there were comments from sources saying that Penn State will have wished they were given the death penalty. I scoffed at the notion. Now, however, I rescind my scoff. They were right.

This is the NCAA's new death penalty, a decade-long football coma that sees Penn State getting fed through a tube and unable to respond to physical provocation.

Joe Paterno's "grand experiment" turned out to be alchemy at its worst, and now those who believed in his legacy are left to paw through the rubble looking for any semblance of what they used to know.

Penn State is over. They are done. They may come back, they may not. They won't quit, obviously, but that may just prolong the pain.

Their recruiting base will still be there when they finally get through these sanctions and get back to a full 85-scholarship allotment about a decade from now, but they may simply come back as a Rutgers or Maryland and nothing more.

Penn State entered the Big Ten thinking that they would have their way with it. In 1994, just their second year in the conference, they produced one of the greatest teams the Big Ten has ever seen. Now, however, that team stands as Joe Paterno's lone Big Ten championship.

Or at least it does until an email from 1993 shows up.

The scorched earth beneath Penn State's feet will be there for years. Starting in 2014, the Nittany Lions will essentially be an FCS team playing in a BCS conference for four years. It is not going to go well.

This is five years of probation, but it's a decade's worth of penalties. A third-grader will likely be in college before Penn State can hope to be back to where they used to think they once were.

Yes, innocent players will be punished, but that's the same in any case with significant sanctions. There isn't really any other way to operate in a business with such high turnover. The culprits are generally gone before their infractions are even discovered.

At least in this case, every single player is free to go. If they stay, they are accepting the punishment voluntarily and thereby waiving your need to feel sorry for them.

If you were wondering where Penn State's competitive advantage came from to deserve these sanctions, they came from avoiding this very punishment for over a decade.

They were running from the law and they finally got caught.

Penn State gained recruits on Joe Paterno's name and legacy, as well as the heightened position that Penn State found themselves in. Had any of that been removed, then they would have lost players, and they would have lost that competitive advantage.

This was continual and institutional avoidance of NCAA penalties. In effect, it was year after year of signing the same documents that buried Jim Tressel, stating that they had no knowledge of NCAA violations in their midst.

As the NCAA put it, the findings of the Freeh Report "presents an unprecedented failure of institutional integrity leading to a culture in which a football program was held in higher esteem than the values of the institution, the values of the NCAA, the values of higher education, and most disturbingly the values of human decency."

While I am completely convinced that these sanctions are incredibly harsh—and go further than I expected they would, I'm also of the belief that nothing could have been too harsh.

Penn State deserves what they have gotten, and they will be dealing with the aftermath for long after their probation is over. Fittingly, of course, because Jerry Sandusky's victims have had to deal with their own aftermaths long after the original crimes were committed against them.

Resolution doesn't happen quickly in cases like these. The healing process is slow, and Penn State will eventually heal from this. But they may never again walk without a limp.

Related Article - Worse than Death Penalty by Brandon Castel

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