NCAA marks new era of discipline

By Dan Norton

If a child steals a cookie before dinner, parents punish him or her. It all works out because the parents are bigger than the child.

But what happens when the parents start acting out? You get someone bigger.

The report released by Former FBI Director Louis Freeh recently concluded the parents of Penn State athletics — late former head coach Joe Paterno, former President Graham Spanier, former Interim Senior Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz and former Athletic Director Tim Curley — actively concealed former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky’s sexual crimes. Paterno and Spanier were fired in November, while Schultz and Curley were indicted on charges of perjury and failure to report suspected child abuse.

As a result of Freeh’s report, the NCAA decided to intervene and impose harsh sanctions upon the Penn State football program. NCAA President Mark Emmert announced Monday that Penn State would be fined $60 million in addition to four years of postseason ineligibility and drastic scholarship reductions. The NCAA also vacated all of Penn State’s wins since 1998.

Dr. Nick Pappas, author of “The Dark Side of Sports: Exploring the Sexual Culture of Collegiate and Sexual Athletes,” agreed with the sanctions.

“I would say that the NCAA is trying to show that it is serious about standing behind some of its earlier intentions to clean up sports,” he said. “The sanctions imposed on Penn State, which some believe are as harsh or harsher than the death penalty, were much needed and warranted and a first step in that process.”

The penalties mark the beginning of a new era of discipline for the NCAA, which has repeatedly said it had never before dealt with a case so “egregious.” The association deviated from its normally drawn out disciplinary process, which would have likely salvaged Penn State a postseason appearance this year.

The findings of Freeh’s report are what led to the sanctions’ swift nature. Freeh’s report, Pappas says, is part of what makes the Penn State case so unique.

“The Freeh report gave the NCAA all the information it needed,” Pappas said. “While some are refuting this and want the NCAA to hold its own investigation, this is a very credible report with very credible people behind it. The NCAA decided this was all it needed to hand down what they believed was proper.”

It seems as though Penn State may have accidentally shot itself in the foot with regard to Freeh’s report. The university paid over $6 million for the Freeh Group’s scrupulous investigation, and it ended up costing them another $60 million in fines from the NCAA, plus countless more dollars in lost revenue.

But knowing the Freeh Group is a separate entity from the NCAA, Pappas questions to what extent the NCAA’s sanctions will serve as deterrent.

“Does the NCAA have the capability and the resources and the wherewithal to do this when they come across another scandal?” Pappas said. “That’s to be seen. The NCAA has a lot of money, but to my knowledge, they don’t have the resources the Freeh Report had. All I know is they have a hell of a lot of institutions they have to keep their eyes on and there’s all kinds of things always coming up.”

Pappas has informally tracked about 42 cases of sexual abuse involving athletes and coaches since the Penn State scandal broke. Pappas said 65 percent of those cases involve administrators or coaches targeting underage females or males. He described the statistic as “freaking huge.”

The only way to mitigate that number is to confront them, Pappas said.

“Consequences are the only way this kind of behavior is going to stop,” he said. “If there isn’t consequences, it’s a green light to continue. We saw that in the Sandusky case. Nobody attempted to stop him, and what happened? It continued behind closed doors for the next 14 years. If you just give a slap on the wrist, these actions are allowed to thrive and flourish.”

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