Making A Victim Out Of Penn State

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Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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  1. Avatar Burt Likko
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    The NCAA is not a governmental entity. It is not legally required to give due process before it acts arbitrarily.* Whether the results of its actions are an approximation of the appropriate outcome are a diferent matter. And I think these results paint with too broad a brush — those who have actual culpability in the scandal should be punished, harsly, but those who do not have culpability ought not to be.

    * As with the OP, nothing herein should be implied as a vindication of Penn State or the people associated with the underlying scandal, all of whom have more than fairly earned contempt and obloquy; Penn State as an institution is well within the zone of culpability.Report

  2. Avatar Patrick Cahalan
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    says:

    This is why I will never make a presidential slot at a university.

    Because if I was in charge and this came down, I would go read the terms of my contract so that I knew exactly what I was getting into, then call my wife and tell her to go visit her parents, and then I would shut down the football program and fire everybody.Report

  3. Avatar Plinko
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    says:

    I read on ESPN just now that PSU had already signed a consent decree allowing the NCAA to determine the punishment in this case, so as much as I think the NCAA has no business in pretending to dole out justice in this case at all, I don’t think the University has much recourse if they don’t like the punishment. I suspect they kind of knew it would be along these lines and determined it was better to take this and try to move on rather than fight the NCAA’s jurisdiction and risk the consequences.

    Zirin is right, and it seems Pat Forde has written similar things.
    I strongly suspect while no one will be brave enough to come out and say so, but all the major conferences and programs have to be putting another big mark on the ledger in favor of ditching the NCAA entirely.

    I agree with you completely, on vacating wins, it’s just plain dumb. But, one major caveat, JoePa was not the winningest College Football coach, he wasn’t even the winningest Division I coach, his record was for ‘major Division I football’.Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    This is so wrong that I have no choice but to turn away and pretend it’s not happening.Report

  5. Avatar NewDealer
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    says:

    Note: My undergrad was a Division III school that was not allowed to give out athletic scholarships. We did not even have a football team (T-shirt motto: “Undefeated in football since 1865.”) My grad school had no athletic teams and my law school was connected to a Division II school. Short version: The pre-occupation with college sport in the United States is a bit perplexing to me and always has been. I’ve more or less only attended institutions of higher ed where sports were not a big deal. My high school was not great at sports either.

    That being said, most of the ire seems to be going towards the NCAA. The deadspin guys called them guttless shitbags. My more-sports oriented friends think the punishments are justified or do not go far enough. I’ve yet to see anyone beyond those who already have see Penn State has the victims. Though there was one article about how the punishments will severely hurt the economy of the town of State College.Report

  6. Avatar Kazzy
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    When did Sandusky formally step down fro football duties? I could understand vacating wins between PSU coming to know of the allegations and when he left, as whatever advantage they gained from his presence was ill-gotten. If he was on the sideline when he shouldn’t have been, how is that different from an inelligble player? Does anyone know the specific timeline?Report

  7. Avatar Trumwill Mobile
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    says:

    Kazzy, it went the opposite way, actually. They vacated the wins following Sandusky’s resignation. 1998 is the only season Sandusky coached where they lost their wins.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Trumwill Mobile
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      Okay, now that I am back I can elaborate. The justification they are using to vacate the wins is institutional malfeasance. That’s why they’re starting at 1998, because that’s when the administration demonstrably knew about it and started covering it up. So it’s not particularly related to field performance.

      I’m guessing they went this route, rather than vacating the wins with Sandusky on the sidelines because they don’t want to set a precedent for vacating wins because someone is later convicted of a crime that occurred during or before the game. Vacating wins during periods of institutional malfeasance is established policy (unfortunately), even if this is the first case I am aware of where it was all off-field. I’d have to look up if Baylor had to vacate any of its basketball wins.Report

      • Avatar Scott Fields in reply to Will Truman
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        they’re starting at 1998, because that’s when the administration demonstrably knew about it and started covering it up. So it’s not particularly related to field performance.

        This is why vacating the wins makes sense to me, because it goes to the heart of what Penn State did wrong versus what Sandusky did wrong. When Penn State officials learned of the abuse and covered it up, they did so for the sake of the football program, as much if not more than for the sake of Sandusky. If the scandal had come to light at the time, the ensuing criminal investigation would have had an impact on recruiting and incoming funds from boosters. Avoiding that investigation benefited the football program and that was, to my mind, the primary consideration in not turning in Sandusky.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Scott Fields
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          The logic here falls short for me. The degree to which PSU would have been hurt by outing Sandusky is comparatively marginal. It’s bad PR, and may have a recruit or two looking elsewhere, but I’m not sure about even that. And if a relatively minor PR problem were sufficient to vacate every win for all of those years, then surely the PR disaster that occurred now would carry more weight than any reduction in scholarships. We don’t really view it that way, though.Report

          • Avatar Scott Fields in reply to Will Truman
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            Your assessment makes Joe Paterno and the administrators he convinced to look the other way even more despicable, if that’s possible. If the choice was made to cover up the scandal and allow Sandusky’s pedophilia to continue unabated when weighed against potentially devastating damage to the PSU football program, then that would be one thing. To make that choice weighed against a relatively minor PR problem, is nothing short of evil.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Scott Fields
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              says:

              Scott, we must be disconnecting. I thought you were suggesting that the Sandusky treatment had a performance component. Since Sandusky resigned, the only component I can think of is PR.

              I think PR played a role, but it was more an issue of institutional and personal loyalty.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Will Truman
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                And not to disagree with you, Will. But it seems Paterno at least actively killed the Sandusky thing, which crosses the line from feet of clay and sins of omission to something enabling evil, like helping a serial murderer escape.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                I didn’t (or wasn’t intending to) make any statements about Paterno’s culpability. I was only speaking to the rationale involved. Your comment below actually supports my thoughts, which is that it was about personal and institutional loyalty.Report

              • Avatar Scott Fields in reply to Will Truman
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                You’d have an easier time convincing me that Paterno, Spanier, Curley and Schultz were just being loyal to Sandusky and the school, if they’d made any effort to close Sandusky’s camp and actually gotten him some professional help. This was about personal ass covering for the sake of legacy and institutional ass covering for the sake of all the money involved.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Scott Fields
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                People deal with uncomfortable things in counterproductive ways. Sometimes pretending not to know what you know is the easiest course of action. That is not to say that it is anything but completely unacceptable, morally speaking, but I am not surprised one little bit that they took what I believe to be the easy way out.

                TVD’s cite appears to indicate that it was mostly Paterno. The others seemed more willing to go forward, but Paterno talked him out of it. Of all of the people involved, I truly believe that Paterno is least motivated by money (he hasn’t time to spend it). So I think from the others you have loyalty to Paterno (the saint of the program), and Paterno’s loyalty to Sandusky (and, I would guess with Paterno, not someone comfortable dealing with issues that have to do with sex head-on).

                This is all speculative. I could have the calculations wrong, but I don’t think that field performance – ostensibly the rationale for vacating wins – as a primary motivation. Pride, loyalty, and yeah probably money come are the more important factors.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Will Truman
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                VG, WillT. Paterno’s feet of clay [we all have them] kept me off that high horse, but actively thwarting Sandusky’s date with justice is a moral crime [if not a literal one].

                If I follow you correctly, I agree w/yr point about the propriety of the punishment, an approximation of Penn St.’s football fate if Paterno, et al., not thwarted the course of justice.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                TVD, you will get no defense of Paterno’s actions from me. You do not put personal loyalty (perhaps the least despicable motivation I can assign, along with denial) above the welfare of children. Ever.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                says:

                You do not put personal loyalty (perhaps the least despicable motivation I can assign, along with denial) above the welfare of children. Ever.

                Nothing’s higher than the welfare of the kids, WillT. That’s a gimme. But I credited [blamed] feet of clay and rationalization–an even more banal form of cooperating with evil—more than “personal loyalty,” which is at heart a virtue, although as we see, can be easily perverted.

                Then I read the Freeh report charge that Paterno interfered with Sandusky being reported to the cops. He’d be facing criminal charges right now along with Curley and Schultz, I make it.

                [Or at least should, although we suspect that if Joe were still alive, he’d not be in legal peril, hence Curley and Schultz as well.]

                But Joe must be punished, even if posthumously. Vacating the wins and taking the all-time victories distinction away is the best way to do it, and an approximation of justice. Had the Sandusky stink have come out when it should have, it would have hurt the program, and mebbe Joe wouldn’t have got the most wins.

                IOW, if the program benefited from Joe Pa’s crime, stripping that benefit [the wins] is entirely just. Further, the philosopher-kings of the NCAA have sent notice that covering up for the sake of the program will one day be discovered and punished, it’s only a matter of time that the truth will out.

                So don’t bother.

                Since Philly has no real college FB team, Penn St. was always our default. I’ve pulled for ’em since I was kid.

                And I felt bad for Joe Pa that his feet of clay made the end of his life such a misery. But now it seems that that misery was justice, that Joe Pa was a moral and perhaps literal criminal.

                It was a mercy that he died before he saw the accomplishments of a lifetime annulled—win record stripped, his statue torn down. But it would not have been unjust if heaven had made him watch.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                says:

                Broadly speaking, vacating wins is merely a denial of reality. Truthfully, I would say the same if Jerry Sandusky himself were the head coach. I can’t say that I am shedding any tears that Paterno’s accomplishments are officially out of the recordbooks, but it still doesn’t strike me as appropriate. Regardless of his complicity. It’s pretending that which happened did not happen, in the service of taking back a glory we can never truly take back.

                A more appropriate punishment, if this falls within the NCAA’s jurisdiction, is to do what we can to make sure that it is a long, long time before they feel that glory again. Instead, the punishment attempted to take that which cannot truly be taken, and five years hence will give back the entirety of what it could and did take.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                WillT, I submit that Joe Pa’s coverup was tantamount to cheating, therefore vacating wins is not improper.

                make sure that it is a long, long time before they feel that glory again.

                When you say “they,” I don’t know who “they” is, if all the guilty are out and/or punished. The rest is “collective punishment,” an argument I find persuasive. As one player said, hell, in 2001, I was in the second grade!Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                says:

                “Further, the philosopher-kings of the NCAA have sent notice that covering up for the sake of the program will one day be discovered and punished, it’s only a matter of time that the truth will out.”

                But have they? Everyone who was involved in the coverup will feel very little from these punishments. It’s not their money. The wins belong to a dead guy. They have no more vested interest in the team. As is so often the case in college sports, the truly guilty people get out before the shit really hits the fan. In this particular case, most of them were ousted by law enforcement or the university itself, but still. How’s Pete Carroll doing nowadays? Think he learned a damned thing from the Reggie Bush affair?

                The cover ups will continue until we decide that sports doesn’t trump morality.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                TVD, I think that stretches the definition of cheating beyond where I am willing to go. The only argument for such is that JoePa shouldn’t have been allowed to coach. As egregious as his sins were, however, he did not (to my knowledge) meet any of the criteria that meant automatic ineligibility.

                The “they” here are Penn State’s admin, its boosters, its fans, and its players. They won when they won. Everyone knows it. Trying to pretend otherwise… doesn’t work for me.Report

              • Avatar ScarletKnight in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                says:

                @Will Truman July 23, 2012 6:23 PM

                It seems like you are unclear on the concept of “personal loyalty”.

                I put it above the welfare of children that I don’t know.

                I don’t know if I am brave enough to state that with my actual name attached to it.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                says:

                I put [personal loyalty] above the welfare of children that I don’t know.

                I don’t know if I am brave enough to state that with my actual name attached to it.

                Somehow that first part and last part seem all of a piece.Report

            • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Scott Fields
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              Agree, Mr. Fields.

              The key is here:

              According to the [Freeh] report, Spanier, Schultz and Curley drew up an “action plan” that called for reporting Sandusky to the state Department of Public Welfare. But Curley later said in an email that he changed his mind about the plan “after giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe.” Instead, Curley proposed to offer Sandusky “professional help.”

              In an email, Spanier agreed with that course of action but noted “the only downside for us is if the message isn’t (heard) and acted upon and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it.”

              Freeh suggested it was Paterno’s intervention that kept administrators from going to authorities. “Based on the evidence, the only known intervening factor … was Mr. Paterno’s Feb. 26 conversation with Mr. Curley,” Freeh said.

              Schultz and Curley are actually up on criminal charges, so will dispute the above.

              “The findings could have consequences for the criminal case against Penn State athletic director Tim Curley and retired senior vice president Gary Schultz, who are awaiting trial on charges of failing to report abuse and lying to a grand jury. In addition, the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office is still investigating the scandal, and others could be charged.

              Attorneys for Curley and Schultz said that the investigation was flawed and that their clients would prove their innocence in court. Curley lawyer Caroline Roberto called it a “lopsided document that leaves the majority of the story untold.”

              http://abclocal.go.com/wpvi/story?section=news/local&id=8732365Report

        • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Scott Fields
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          Other than taking a slap at Joe Paterno, I don’t see what they accomplish by vacating the wins. Other teams don’t pick up wins — the games PSU won are simply deemed to have not been played. No one’s going to go back and recalculate poll standings, or claw back compensation based on the team’s performance. No one cares that much that PSU’s historical games played and number of wins are decreased by 112. Paterno’s record is the only thing of any real substance that changes.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Will Truman
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        Will-

        Thanks for the clarification. With that in mind, there is no justification for vacating wins. I’ll write more from home… Might be able to put together a coherent post or might just ramble here.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Trumwill Mobile
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      Thanks for correcting. Vacating is ridiculous. See my post up now on MD.Report

  8. Avatar Stillwater
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    I’d be interested in hearing a libertarian critique of the NCAA decision – and decision-making process – re: Penn State. It seems to me the decisions they’ve made here can’t be justified on their own terms: the penalty imposed goes to a so-called “non-profit” institution; the loss of scholarships punishes the wrong people; vacating the wins can’t be accounted for according to any rule violation on the books; etc etc.

    It seems to me a clear case of the “we’ve got to do something to justify our own existence!” logic of top-down bureaucracy.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Stillwater
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      The loss of scholarships may not have negative repercussions for students. Since they’re spacing it out, it basically means that there will be more walk-ons. The walk-ons are making their own choice. Either they have an opportunity for a scholarship elsewhere and they’re making a choice or they don’t, in which case they actually gain by being able to play for Penn State when they otherwise almost assuredly wouldn’t.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Stillwater
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      Well, on the one hand, the NCAA is an organization that has set up contracts with its member organizations, so one libertarian critique is “Do the contracts say its OK? Then OK”

      On the other hand, the corruption of the NCAA as a whole is reflected in the fact that Penn State’s program earns 60 million dollars a year and pay (some of) their line workers on the order of $40,000 a year (at most). With 85 scholarships a team, that means at most 3.4 million, or less than 6%, is being spent on non-management worker salaries. (In contrast a McD’s franchise, which has a similar high turnover but even lower skilled entry level workforce is paying out about 1 million dollars in employee pay for every 2 million dollars its pulling in).

      That huge discrepancy is only possible due to the anti-competitive cartel and rots the entire system. Much like the ‘amateur’ Olympics used to be.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Kolohe
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        The huge discrepancy is based mostly on the fact that the universities confer more value on the players than vice-versa. Far more often than not, the universities subsidize the students as they themselves lose money. In the meantime, they not only get room and board, but access to facilities, training, coaching, and all sorts of things that they’d otherwise have to pay for.

        I’d love for there to be a minor league program so that those who don’t want to be in school don’t need to be, but the fact that it would be a money-loser tells us quite a bit.Report

        • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Will Truman
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          “The huge discrepancy is based mostly on the fact that the universities confer more value on the players than vice-versa”

          there’s at least 40 people playing college football each year for every spot open in the NFL. (the internet is really fuzzy on this) And there’s the 3 out of ten players that don’t graduate.

          Minor league teams would probably be a money loser because they’re competing against this huge established state-protected cartel. It’s like starting a turnpike next to a freeway. (which I guess is sort of being done with HOT lanes, so maybe bad example) Anyway, the AFL (both of them) and the USFL show how hard it is to start a new football league.

          Ack the point about the Uni’s losing money; which raises the

          question “Where the fish is all the money going, then?” And furthers my contention that the NCAA is rotten to the core.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Kolohe
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            there’s at least 40 people playing college football each year for every spot open in the NFL. (the internet is really fuzzy on this) And there’s the 3 out of ten players that don’t graduate.

            This is true, but for the players who will never make the NFL… why are they deserving of pay? They get to keep playing. A lot of kids do that for zero scholarship.

            Playing in the NFL, or getting a college degree for that matter, are not the only reasons to participate in college athletics. On the other hand, if you do want to do either of those things, college athletics can be of great help.

            Minor league teams would probably be a money loser because they’re competing against this huge established state-protected cartel.

            College baseball isn’t a very big deal, but minor league baseball is a money-loser. Your point about the AFL/AFL/USFL is indicative of how nobody can compete with the NFL. That the NCAA can compete with the NFL (in a way) despite vastly inferior talent suggests that it’s not player talent that pays the bills. Rather, it’s the institutions themselves.

            Ack the point about the Uni’s losing money; which raises the question “Where the fish is all the money going, then?”

            Facilities and coaching. There are lots of things not to like about the current state of affairs (I remember when two Canadian schools were looking at the NCAA, I was all like “Don’t do it!” – one did, one didn’t, the one that did is happy in Div-II). It doesn’t indicate to me what it indicates to you, however.Report

            • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Will Truman
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              “This is true, but for the players who will never make the NFL… why are they deserving of pay? They get to keep playing. A lot of kids do that for zero scholarship.”

              Hey, I’m the libertarian remember? You don’t have to convince me to get rid of a minimum wage 🙂

              It’s the stars, actually those right below the star level, that are getting shafted. Doing all the work and taking all the risk to their health while having to adhere to a strict set of rules about money – when other people in the system are making out like bandits.

              Sure, they’re like interns – and better off because they are compensated a bit more than the usual intern. But you know, nobody pays GE to be able to watch their interns work.

              “It doesn’t indicate to me what it indicates to you, however.”

              I don’t really care all that much (says the guy whose been typing about this all evening). But I’m unclear as to what it indicates to you. Care to explain?Report

  9. Avatar Michael Cain
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    If this was a quick way to avoid the Death Penalty that permanently crippled SMU’s program, then I suppose “so be it.”

    My own suspicions are that the NCAA was desperately looking for a way to avoid imposing the death penalty. If Penn State were not allowed to field a football team in the 2012 season, it opens whole cans of worms for the entire Big 10 conference. Things that come immediately to mind: (1) scheduling other Division I teams on this kind of notice is essentially impossible; (2) TV contracts are up in the air, since the conference can’t deliver the agreed-upon product; and (3) the conference no longer has enough teams to be eligible to hold a conference championship game. College football has become financially more complicated than it was when SMU got the death penalty in 1987. It’s not inconceivable that the Big 10 would have sued the NCAA over the damages that a Penn State death penalty would impose on the other teams.Report

    • Avatar Plinko in reply to Michael Cain
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      Meanwhile, the B1G is reportedly considering reducing PSU’s football TV payouts for some future period as additional punishment.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Michael Cain
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      This sounds right to me. The Southwest Conference was harmed by what happened to SMU, but in that case there were actually mitigating circumstance. First, like 7 of the 9 teams in the conference we on probation for some reason or another, so what could they say? Second, TV contracts were not then what they are now.

      Texas A&M got a TV blackout for its transgresssions. That’s another punishment I don’t think we’re likely to see. There’s too much money at stake.

      To me, if you want a way around all this, you simply force teams to play all road games. They have to live up to their contract, but the conference isn’t hurt (helped, really, though I would argue that the extra money they receive for the extra home game ought to be forfeit – their fans would still benefit). I don’t think you can actually take the games off TV, unless you work it out with the conferences so that there is a provision in their TV contract (and you take the reduction out of the offending team’s pocket). That might work.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Michael Cain
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      Personally, I think the Big 10 ought to sue the NCAA in any event. I don’t see how punishments relating to the decision-making of university officials which had no bearing on on-field play ought to be born by the football program.Report

      • Avatar Mo in reply to Stillwater
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        I don’t see why they’d do that. B1G is adding on even more penalties.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Mo
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          I think the suit is warranted because Penn St. violated no rules under which the NCAA penalties and sanctions can be justified.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Stillwater
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            Big 10 is dancing happily at the NCAA sanctions. They want PSU to get slapped down really hard, and the more work the NCAA does, the less the Big 10 has to do. There are even rumors of expelling PSU, which I think obviously won’t happen. But there’s no way the Big 10 leadership is unhappy with this outcome.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley
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              But there’s no way the Big 10 leadership is unhappy with this outcome.

              Er what? Of course they’re unhappy with the outcome. It destroys the Big 10.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Stillwater
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                How the hell does this destroy the Big 10? There are 11 other teams, in a conference that was a major conference long long before PSU came on board, and that is one of the three conferences that dictate the shape of college athletics.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to James Hanley
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                Yeah this doesn’t destroy the big 10 at all. They have plenty of other marquee schools and they will get to divvy up PSU’s tv money. Sure some tv rating will suffer for PSU games over time, but that means more tv time for Michigan etc. Having one big member forced into the basement for years isn’t good for them but they will survive fine. I’m sure they are hoping PSU will be able to bounce back quickly. Putting together a conference is a long term deal not a short term one.Report

            • Avatar Plinko in reply to James Hanley
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              From what I hear, there is zero talk of expelling PSU from the B1G from the conference itself, only a little rumor-mongering. Remember, the B1G is not just a football conference.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Plinko
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                Even so, I’ll bet the Big East has called just to let them know they have friends.

                (Interestingly enough, Paterno was the among the first to advocate for a conference that became the original Big East.)

                Conference USA and the Mountain West Conference may have also called to send their regards.Report

              • Avatar Plinko in reply to Will Truman
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                Given the B1G hands out about $20 million per school TV revenues from the B1G Network alone, they’ll need a lot more than friendship on offer, even a blip in that stream will be hard to say ‘no’ to.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Plinko
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                The overture would be in the hopes that maybe the zero chance that PSU gets kicked out is not zero, and that they win the friggin’ lottery.

                (Not unlike when the Mountain West Conference reached out to Colorado a while back. Why not? Hopehopehopehopehope rats, okay Boise you’re in.)Report

      • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to Stillwater
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        As Burt points out, “You were too hard on the child rapists” isn’t exactly a PR winner.Report

  10. Avatar Michael Cain
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    Any Wisconsin football fans here? I can think of good and bad things about being tied to a Penn State game on Thanksgiving weekend for the next several years.Report

  11. Avatar M.A.
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    I don’t buy the argument that this constituted a “lack of due process” by the NCAA. The Freeh Report, commissioned by PSU themselves, amounts to an admission of guilt by Penn State. Holding yet another investigation would be redundant under the circumstances.Report

  12. Avatar James Hanley
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    I’ll play the bad guy here. I have zero problem with the NCAA’s action. The fundamental issue at PSU was letting the football program become so insular, because of its success, that this kind of appalling criminal conspiracy can occur. The only way to create strong enough incentives against this type of runaway program is to hit it hard. Take away what they really care about, which is their history, their glory, their pride, their victories. You think vacating victories is silly, but I say take a before and after tour of PSU’s sports hall of fame, and you’re going to see a lot of trophies disappear. Check out the programs at a football game every year until forever, and there’s going to be evidence of years of shame; years without victories. Put yourself in the position of a university president who’s got a coach who’s bigger than he is, and what they will know they need to do to protect both their universities and their football programs.

    The only thing wrong with these sanctions? They should be even harsher. PSU a victim? Give me a break.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to James Hanley
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      I don’t think you’re being a bad guy at all. I just doubt that this will truly effect the change you say it will. Time will tell.

      PSU is no victim. That’s for damn sure. (See more of my thoughts over in my post on MD.)Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        Oh,I don’t honk it will make everything ideal. Shit will still happen. The question is, would more shit happen, or less shit, if the NCAA goes more lightly? People like to think college sports are unprecedentedly corrupt today, bit in fact it was worse in the past. The NCAA’s willingness to impose severe penalties (whatever else it’s faults) is what keeps the shitbdown to the level it is, rather than it returning to the level it used to be when it was less regulated.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to James Hanley
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          says:

          Sooooooo, regulation is GOOD?

          Seriously speaking, I generally agree. I’m not saying they should have gone lighter. Or that they should have gone deeper. My primary point is that the more we talk about wins and losses, the longer we wait for substantive change.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kazzy
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            says:

            Of course regulation is good. It’s just about what type of regulation and who is the right authority to impose the regulation. Imagine a sports league that didn’t regulate itself. My team meets your team and I pull a Tanya Harding on you. Eh, no regulations, no problem.

            It’s like the HOA discussion. Of course libertarians don’t object in principle to people joining HOAs and creating regulations.

            But my take here is that waiting to stop talking about wins and losses is wishful thinking. The people who let this stuff happen care only about wins. You want to hurt them, that’s where you have to hit them. “No wins for you!” (in soup nazi voice). Then, when they realize there are no wins, that they’re not going to get what they want, that’s when you can talk about other things. Or so it seems to me.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to James Hanley
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      says:

      Okay, there are two separate complaints here. The first, which inspired the V-word, was in reference to the lack of process. Since PSU evidently threw themselves on the mercy of the court, we are all in agreement that they are not victims. That doesn’t give me much appreciation for how this unfolded, however. There ought to be a process by which these things are decided. the process was thrown out the window. I don’t see why it should have been. I want to know what the difference is between this and Brittany Benefield, if any any exists. And Chris Collins, if any exists. Where exactly is the line between criminality and rules-infraction? I want to know what specific rules and where rules didn’t exist. Where there weren’t rules, maybe they should be written. Instead, we’ve established a new arbitrary method where the commissioner can just decide.

      Regarding the vacated wins, I think you’re misunderstanding me. My problem is not that it’s cruel, but problem is that it’s dumb. Seriously, we’re all just going to collectively pretend that they didn’t win games they clearly won? We’re going to take down some trophies? Dumb, dumb, dumb. No matter how despicable the actions, it’s just dumb! The despicability of the action are, if anything, trivialized by this being a “major” component of the sanctions.

      You want to make Penn State suffer? Don’t take away the last 15 years worth of victories. Make victories the next 15 years harder. As far as seriousness of sanctions goes, losing 10 scholarships a year for the next four years is kind of a joke, if you’re trying to make a serious statement. Make it 20, and make it last ten years. Limit the number of home games they can play to 5 per season. Maybe a season or two without home games. These are all far more substantive things than taking away some trophies and playing “let’s pretend they didn’t win!”Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Will Truman
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        says:

        I don’t think it’s dumb at all. The trophies aren’t just taken down, they’re gone. The school returns them, so nobody can console themselves that they still hsvevthem in a secret room somewhere.

        And that’s part of making future wins harder to get. Last year PSU could woe recruits with 6 bowl trophies and 2 Big 10 championship trophies over the past decade, and awesome talk about the winningest coach ever. This year, they can’t show them any of that, and recruits ho look up their record will see a team with no wins over the past decade plus. If you were the coach, which recruiting situation would you prefer to have?Report

        • Avatar Will Truman in reply to James Hanley
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          says:

          If I’m Bill O’Brien, and I’m choosing my punishments, I want vacated wins. It’s a pretty minor loss that only vaguely sounds big. The big damage as far as all of that goes, that Joe Paterno’s name is a dirty word, has already been done. You know what I can’t work around, though? I can’t work around 10 scholarships a year instead of 25 for the first ten years. Do that, and I quit.

          If I’m a recruit, the trophy is nice and all, but I’m more interested in the program’s actual performance. Not what we pretend the performance was. That some trophy was taken down doesn’t matter to me nearly as much as the fact that we can’t play in the post season. So if you want to dissuade me from going to Penn State, other than making a scholarship unavailable to me, prevent me the glory of a post-season.

          If it’s my alma mater, the absence of a trophy is not going to prevent me from knowing exactly how well we did and when. I flat-out ignore the vacated wins. My program doesn’t actually have any to my knowledge, but when discussing programs on message boards and the like, nobody really takes it into account. Even when it’s a more substantive violation that actually involves performance.

          You want to hit me where it hurts? Make it genuinely harder for my team to win in the future. Make me fear opponents I shouldn’t fear because we only have 40 scholarship players out there to their 85. Make my team sit out the post-season. Make my team play on the road. Do this for more than four years. Those things matter. Those things are not dumb. Those things hurt. Those things I can’t ignore.Report

          • Avatar Rod in reply to Will Truman
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            says:

            If I’m a recruit, the trophy is nice and all, but I’m more interested in the program’s actual performance. Not what we pretend the performance was.

            You know, regardless of what the “Official” record shows the Wikipedia page(s) on this sort of thing will forever have a section noting that Penn State in reality played and won these games.

            The 1984 memory hole is forever broken.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Rod
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              says:

              One of the conference-mates of my school once had to forfeit the first two games of the following season. They won both and won handily. For the remainder of the year, their record went like 4-0*, 6-1*, 9-2*…. with the asterisk mentioning that two of those wins were actually forfeit.

              I don’t think the press would play along with that today, but I think we collectively do. Talking about “USC’s vacated 2004 championship” isn’t quite as cool for USC as saying USC’s 2004 championship, but it’s better than most other punishments I can think of. Most people still think of USC as the 2004 champs. Hating USC as I do, I actually tried to say that their vaunted 3-Pete team never actually won an outright championship, but I can’t quite bring myself to do it. I saw them demolish Oklahoma.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Rod
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              says:

              Hell, this happened before Wikipedia. Before the Internet, even, just about. Everyone knows that Pete Rose has the all-time hits record even though he’s been banned for life longer than most current baseball fans have been alive.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Will Truman
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            says:

            I still don’t agree vacating wins does nothing. Erasing evidence of achievement hasa rel effect. That doesn’t mean I think it’s all that’s needed, and I’m not arguing so. I do like your idea of no home games for some number of years.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Will Truman
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            says:

            This argument has convinced me.Report

    • Avatar Rod in reply to James Hanley
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      says:

      I can’t disagree with your analysis based on incentives for good and bad behavior.

      I’m just surprised to see you go down the path of collective-guilt-and-punishment for the actions of individuals. It just seems like a remarkably… well, collectivist outlook for a libertarian.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Rod
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        says:

        Rod, it is, indeed. But these are cases where you have deep rooted institutional problems, so that going after particular individuals isn’t sufficient because you can’t get the ultimate problem causes, the over-zealous boosters who make it too damn difficult for a college president to take a firm stand. Crushing the program they love is the only way the NCAA can get st them.

        But that collective guilt aspect, and the need to minimize harm to those who are innocent, is why I strongly support the NCAA’s allowing the current football players to transfer and play right away, and even to stay at PSU under scholarship to complete their education even if they choose to give up football. It’s perhaps the best we can do in balancing the interests.Report

        • Avatar Rod in reply to James Hanley
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          says:

          I suppose you’re right. My original thoughts and comments on this were more akin to Will’s position, but I’m starting to come around. Perhaps I’m having a hard time grokking the dynamics here since personally I’ve never given a shit for sports, college or otherwise.

          Honestly if you had asked me a year ago who Joe Paterno was, I would have replied that the name seemed vaguely familiar but that’s all. The fact that I’ve commented at all here should not be taken as evidence that I really care at all what happens to Penn State’s or any other school’s football program. It’s all pretty abstract to me (other than the child rape, of course).Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley
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      says:

      I have to +1 James here. I have zero problem with it. I won’t say i think it should have been harsher, because reaslitically I think the “harsher” outcome would have been “the death penalty” for a couple of years, and frankly, I think this is tougher. It should have been tough, and this is tough. As James says, it hit them where it hurts. That’s good. And the NCAA did need to break out of its bureaucratic sclerosis. There simply is no due process here; they can shape the space of competition that happens under their aegis as they see fit. Indeed, that’s nominally the reason that these schools associate themselves with the organization in the first place.

      As to vacating the wins. I agree that it’s somewhat silly in the abstract. You can’t change what happened on the field. But you can deny this man the official record that he attained only because he irresponsibly fought to stay on in his position past the point where he could competently perform the tasks that were demanded of him. He had no claim to rightly stay on in a position that has different demands in 2012 than it did in 1962 if he can’t live up to those demands. And he showed exactly that – that he couldn’t carry out the responsibilities that are demanded of a person in his position as time decayed his faculties. And I do believe that is at the heart of Joe Paterno’s failure – the declining competence of age, as well, darkly, as the pursuit of a unique mark of personal achievement. (I.e. I believe that a JoePa in his prime who had no visions of immortality but only of winning football games and helping young people would have had no part of protecting a predator like Jerry Sandusky. I could be wrong to believe that, however.)

      And namely, the mark of achievement he sought was the same one that he was ultimately denied by having his wins vacated. It is right that he should be denied that – yes, it was a personal matter as it were between the NCAA and Paterno that he shouldn’t carry that record into semi-eternity. But I don’t see any reason why it is not entirely within their purview to determine that the price he was willing to pay in others’ suffering to attain it was simply too high to allow it to happen. It’s their record – the record of which NCAA football coach won the most Division I games. This is one of the rightest decisions they have ever made as an organization.

      Yes, there is a cost to their action as well. The players on those teams now have lost the record of their victories as well. Guess what: they’ll survive, and they’re not the victims in this whole thing either. Moreover, the idea that when punishment is appropriate, only the guilty suffer is a mirage in any case. All who love them suffer as well. And a more important lesson in the responsibility of leadership applies here: leadership entails responsibility preceisely because your actions as a leader can bring harm to those whom you lead, through no misdeed of theirs. That is what is happening here, and this harm is mild in light of the harm that is being addressed by the action.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        Well said. Remarkably well said for a Badger. 😉Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        I think the nature of our disagreement is that in my view it does not, in fact, hurt. Not much, anyway. It’s hurtness is far outstripped by its dumbness.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Will Truman
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          says:

          I’m not sure what you’d prefer, but the other main option people are considering to my way of think suffers even more acutely from dumbness, and what’s more is even less targeted toward those around the campus who retain some culpability. I think there’s some real punitive value in making PSU figure out how and own the decision of whether to a) run a football program under this level of public opprobrium, b) while completely reforming it under intense scrutiny and c) repairing the damage that’s been done to the larger university community and the community itself. I certainly think a self-applied one year hiatus of competitive football would be appropriate, and more meaningful than if it were applied by the NCAA. I think, “You can play football, but you can’t be, and for the last 14 years now officially and publicly were not, what you previously understood to be ‘Penn State.’ That doesn’t exist anymore.” I find that somewhat compelling to be honest.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Michael Drew
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            says:

            As mentioned previously, I think the entire concept of vacating games is dumb. The games happened. I saw them. Less dumb is vacating titles and championship honors, but even that doesn’t seem to work.

            But here are some reasons it doesn’t fit this case in particular:

            1) They didn’t cheat. Attempts to argue that Paterno being on the sideline constitutes cheating just ring false to me. That’s in a different class than paid athletes or drug use.

            2) The years in question were not really a dynasty needing to be dismantled. They include four of the five losing records Paterno ever head. Two conference co-championships, two BCS appearances, one BCS bowl win, no Rose Bowl victories.

            3) There were comparatively few offenders. The culture of corruption involved was primarily the administration (compared to SMU, Miami, or even Florida State) and didn’t really involve the players or the team aside from its coach.

            My preferred method of punishment, if we’re going to hit them hard, would be going forward. Limit the number of home games to five (down from seven or eight), cut the scholarships further and longer, consider lengthening the ban on post season play. Have at least a token penalty (say -5 annual scholarships) for 14 years. Along those lines. Not pretending the absence of wins, but making them much more difficult to achieve.

            (This is tailored a bit towards Penn State. If we were talking about Kent State, I might make the reduction less severe because they have less far to fall.)

            Pretending the last fourteen seasons didn’t exist is mostly just opposing doublethink on everyone. Penn State die-hards have little incentive not to ignore it. A couple missing trophies. Not an 0-59 run.Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Will Truman
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              says:

              I think the nature of our disagreement is really just that I’m pretty open to various things the penalty could have been. I’d have been inclined to defend whatever the NCAA did so long as it carried a great degree of opprobrium and sanction the context of the realm of activity over which it has authority. I’m pretty sure that had the penalty been something you’d have been okay with, I’d have been okay with it too, even if I didn’t see it as optimal (just as I don’t see what was done as optimal, because I really don’t know what optimal would be in this situation). My Venn circle of acceptability here just includes probably everything you’d have found acceptable plus more, that’s all really.Report

    • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to James Hanley
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      says:

      I agree here and go a step further.

      It puts basically ALL football programs on notice. Insularity can cost you, and the NCAA’s willing to punish you for things that blacken its eye even if they’re not technically rules infractions.

      While I hate the unaccountable and honestly commercial nature of the NCAA, they did a decent thing here for once in coming down hard on PSU. My guess is that in reality their motivations are profit motive (“brand image” essentially) but the end result is the same.Report

    • Avatar Plinko in reply to James Hanley
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      says:

      But you’re begging the question of whether or not the NCAA is really the entity that ought to be doling out these punishments. No small part of why everyone feels the need to append the {{insert standard disclaimer}} is the full recognition that really bad things have happened and punishments are warranted. These awful crimes and their coverup are directly related to any inter-mural sporting event in no way, shape or form.

      This is another grab for power and relevance by the NCAA, they swooped in quickly so they could cover themselves in righteousness.

      This is a matter for criminal justice and civil litigation to punish the wrongdoing and the Pennsylvania state legislature to figure out how to keep it from happening again. The Big Ten probably has a stronger claim to jurisdiction to sanction PSU than the NCAA (as a “we’re all voluntarily members of this business arrangement together”), and even that one is not all that strong, IMHO.

      My biggest worry that the NCAA’s punishment might sap legitimacy from more valid claims on handling this issue that don’t have “SPORTS!!1!” as their sole reason for existence. Does anyone think that the Alabama trustees are re-thinking their control over Nick Saban because of what the NCAA has done to PSU?Report

    • Avatar NewDealer in reply to James Hanley
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      says:

      I don’t have any punishments for PSU as they exist in themselves.

      However lots of people including people who have been very hard on PSU think that the NCAA is largely just trying to save their own collective asses instead of realizing that the NCAA was the enabler of the corruption that created Penn State.

      http://deadspin.com/5928204/the-ncaa-is-using-penn-state-to-justify-its-own-horrid-existence/

      http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2012/07/23/the_ncaa_s_sanctimonious_sanctions_against_penn_state_football.html

      Again, I have no problems against the punishments leveled against Penn State. I would have also supported the so-called death penalty. There is a lot of stuff about college sports that needs to be reformed especially the NCAA. Division I sports (and how much money it rakes in) is madness and I thought about this long before the Sandusky scandal came into the public view. Sandusky is the toxic end to what happens when people have too much power.Report

  13. Avatar damon
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    says:

    I really don’t see why the NCAA’s move here is logical. The actions taken penalize the players and the organization. The problem was in the leadership. The NCAA should have punished those individuals directly, if they could have. If not, they should have butted out.

    My own personal experience with the NCAA was laughable. They are clueless, ineffectual louts.Report

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