Two Wrongs Don’t Make A Right

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Ryan Noonan

Ryan Noonan is an economist with a small federal agency. Fields in which he considers himself reasonably well-informed: literature, college athletics, video games, food and beverage, the Supreme Court. Fields in which he considers himself an expert: none. He can be found on the Twitter or reached by email.

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72 Responses

  1. Hear, hear. (Well, the parts aside from the second paragraph. I didn’t understand a word of that.)Report

  2. Avatar Stillwater says:

    I’m in complete agreement. I’ll leave it at that. {{insert standard disclaimer}}Report

  3. Is there any chance they can do a division shuffle? That would seem to me to be one of the advantages to ageographical divisionry.

    I’m not outraged by the particular result, partially because I assume that there is a vague bylaw somewhere they could tack on here. The procedure under which all of this occurred really does leave a lot to be desired. More punishment, less punishment, I can really go either way. It just seems like this was mostly an effort to get it all out of the way with rather than use it as an opportunity to decide how, if, and where the NCAA has any role in malfeasance that is not (especially) about an on-field advantage.Report

    • Seems unlikely. They’ve constructed these things to “preserve” “traditional” “rivalries” (yes, those are all in separate mockery-quotes), and they created a bunch of new stupid trophies to retcon the whole thing, so moving anything around would really blow things up.Report

  4. Avatar MikeSchilling says:

    This is the NCAA, the guys for whom:


    “Your mind wasn’t in it at practice today. Something bothering you?”

    “Yeah, coach, my Mom had a checkup, and the mammogram doesn’t look good.”

    “Hell. Look, let’s have some dinner and we’ll talk about it.”

    could be a violation, unless the kid can prove he paid for his own meal. That’s what they think of as lawlessness. When something truly important happens, of course they’re going to fish it up. It’s like if you taught a seven-year-old how to use 3-in-1 oil on a squeaky door hinge and then told him to replace a transmission.Report

  5. Avatar James B Franks says:

    They should have suspended the team for a year then booted them back to DivIII for probation.Report

  6. Avatar Pinky says:

    Thanks for explaining the attempt to alter the time/space continuum. I honestly couldn’t figure out why the NCAA was invalidating the old Penn State wins.Report

  7. Avatar Friday Next says:

    I too think the vacation of those wins was a little extra, petty twist of the knife. On the other hand, even my most rabid PSU fan friends admit that JoePa wasn’t really coaching most of the games those last few years anyway. He was up there in the booth for “symbolic” value, morale, and to keep the PennState/Paterno mystique alive. Call me old fashion, but a coach should be down there actually coaching to get credit for a win. So the fact that he doesn’t get the record does not bother me much. As for the NCAA, I have been cheering for their demise for years now. This is just one more outrage to add to the pile.Report

    • Avatar James B Franks in reply to Friday Next says:

      My big problem with vacating the wins is it penalizes the players too.Report

      • Avatar Friday Next in reply to James B Franks says:

        I admittedly don’t follow college football much past last weekend’s games. But (and this is a serious, honest question) how are the lives of those players substantially penalized by having games in the past turned from W to L?

        Seriously. This is an honest question.Report

      • Dear Player,

        I’m sorry to say but some time before you played your first game at Penn State something horrible and unforgivable happened. As a result, we are deleting all wins for a long stretch of time from the record books. We understand that you have a plaque on the wall of your office in commemoration your time as a Free Saftey for the Penn State defense, and noting the team’s win loss record in that time.

        We need you to:
        a) Send us that plaque so it can be destroyed.
        b) Send the plaque to one of the destruction facilities in the attached document (see page 3)
        or
        c) Destroy the plaque yourself and upload the video of it’s destruction to YouTube

        Please understand that if you make any remarks during c that it will be invalid, and we will be forced to ask you to purchase another plaque to send to us to destroy.

        We’re sure you understand how this was unavoidable in the given circumstances. A clear message must be made and therefore your punishment is only fair.

        Thank you.

        NCAAReport

  8. Avatar Rod says:

    These are people who came to Penn State to be molded and trained by a man Mark Emmert himself called “a terrific example of everything the NCAA stands for“. That man lied to them, covered up a series of horrific crimes, and then left them to foot the bill. Mark Emmert owns the restaurant, and he’s going to make damn sure someone pays that bill.

    Ah. This is where it starts to make sense to me. Emmert’s embarrassed because of his past praise of and/or association with Paterno. So now he has to go all ballistic overboard to assuage his personal feelings of guilt and/or disassociate himself from the mess.Report

  9. Avatar Brett says:

    I was going to post my thoughts on the NCAA announcement today, but then I found that Ryan Noonan had posted them for me. Thanks, you’re a real time-saver!Report

  10. Avatar Punishment Serves Multiple Purposes says:

    Punishment serves multiple purposes – the first being to essentially harm those who have caused harm – Sandusky will end up in jail, Paterno’s reputation is shot and he might be subject to criminal penalties were he still alive, etc. Another, though, is to show others that breaking the rules is going to cost them.

    The team will still exist, and it can grow again. The school will milk the athletic supporters for the $60 million that will do some good for others. The students currently on scholarship will have the option of transferring to another school without the 1-year penalty, continuing to play for Penn State, or keeping their scholarship and staying at Penn without still playing football.

    And other schools now have a warning – enable your folks do something as despicable as raping little boys, and you will pay dearly.

    The penalty was harsh, but not excessive.Report

  11. Avatar James Hanley says:

    I’m not only not outraged, I can’t understand being outraged. The PSU program did have a lack of institutional control. Joe Pa controlled it, not the president of Penn State. With real institutional control, Sandusky would have gone down earlier. The punishment is about letting the football program become so big that it became a law unto itself. Outrage just seems wildly misplaced.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to James Hanley says:

      I saw it as the NCAA saying, “If the football program has become too big to fail, to the point that the physical and mental health of children will be sacrificed to its continued existence, then we’ll just make it significantly smaller so that this won’t be a problem in the future.”

      I think the wins thing is the only aspect of this punishment that is stupid. Everything else, well, I only wish they’d been able to do it earlier so that the players could easily find new schools for this season (most big schools won’t have spots for them).Report

  12. Avatar Sean Kirkpatrick says:

    I’ve heard this “no competitive advantage” argument several times today. I respectfully disagree. Each year that Sandusky’s acts were concealed was another year that Joe Paterno and Penn State could recruit without a seeming blemish, which means that more high quality recruits continued to be attracted to Penn State, play for Penn State, and reap the rewards of Penn State’s athletic successes. The rather narrow “competitive advantage” definition, which has been equated with various forms of cheating on the field, for example, just doesn’t capture the deep structural and institutional competitive advantage that the cover up enabled. As an institution, Penn State deserves every bit of its consequences, and more. Individual athletes and their meaningless victories on the field are collateral damage. The punishment is rightly directed at an institution that failed utterly in its moral and ethical response to a terrible series of crimes over more than a decade.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Sean Kirkpatrick says:

      Good point.Report

    • If that were the case, then surely the scandal now surrounding Penn State’s program would be necessary and sufficient punishment enough. I mean, it’s like a thousand times worse than the initial scandal would have been.

      The fact that we feel the need to go above and beyond the PR hit of a magnitude that dwarfs what would have been suggests that the PR hit isn’t really all that important. They’re Penn State. They would have gotten through. Syracuse basketball will be just fine.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Will Truman says:

        If that were the case, then surely the scandal now surrounding Penn State’s program would be necessary and sufficient punishment enough. I mean, it’s like a thousand times worse than the initial scandal would have been.

        Good counter point.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

          The logic of “punishing” is such that any level of natural consequences from the Sandusky cover-up is insufficient. Some other action is required, and that “other” action is what actually constitutes the punishment. The other stuff doesn’t matter.

          Seems crazy to me.Report

    • Only the victories were not meaningless for the students involved. The students I imagine would have been emotionally investedin the game and the resulting victory. It is easy for those of us who were not athletic to brush away other people’s concerns as meaningless, but it is still remarkably callous.Report

      • Avatar Ryan Noonan in reply to Murali says:

        It was the word “meaningless” that originally convinced me not to respond to this comment. It’s the kind of thing you say to make yourself feel better about crushing the dreams of other people in your quest for moral righteousness.Report

        • Avatar Sean Kirkpatrick in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

          In the grand scope of what this scandal is about (over a decade of covering up the crimes of a serial pedophile to avoid negative press?), stuff on the field seems less important. By “meaningless,” I am not saying it didn’t mean anything to those who played in games during those years. One of the big points of the findings was that Penn State’s leadership tragically mixed up their priorities. “Too big to fail” football destroyed real lives. At the same time, it isn’t the athletes’ fault. They have little if any power in the institution in question.

          Anyway, my main point was that objections to the penalties based on the acts in question not creating any competitive advantage are overly simplistic. Unfortunately, people suffer when institutions are held to account. What that means for individuals is a separate issue altogether.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Sean Kirkpatrick says:

            Let’s suppose that Bobby Petrino’s fling on a motorcycle never made headlines and was instead effectively quashed with the help of friendlies in the police department and a few university administrators. He keeps his job, goes on to win 111 games over the next thirteen years, plays for the national championship, some other bowl games, all the while maintaining his dangerous liason with the mistress because his higher ups help conceal the truth from coming out.

            Fourteen years from now, suppose that the details of the ongoing “cover up” are exposed. Would the NCAA be justified in vacating those wins as a punishment against the “institutional silence” that directly led to an on-field advantage the Arkansas football program received?Report

  13. Avatar James Hanley says:

    I can understand why people disagree with the NCAA’s actions. What I can’t grok is why it stirs actual outrage. I mean, I’m interested enough in college athletics that I actually watched the press conference, and any given saturdabin the fall finds my ass of the couch flipping between games, and it still kills me that Oregon was a tall blade of grass away from being national champions. But of all the issues I might have enough energy to get outraged about…the NCAA could have required Pedophile State U. to play all future games in tutus and fishnet stockings while all the players had to sand on their heads while on the sidelines and I couldn’t have worked up a sense of outrage.Report

    • Penn State University doesn’t play the games; actual people do. Those people are being punished severely for something they didn’t do. That’s a pretty baseline case of injustice.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

        Ryan, you didn’t address my question. I get why you can think the NCAA’s actions were wrong. But no individual is wrongly imprisoned, nobody’s being tortured or denied future opportunities for success, on or off the field. The punishment to those individuals, such as it is, is insufficient to raise a sense of outrage in me. Given whatvelsebhappens in our country on a more or less daily basis, this seems like very smal potatoes to me.Report

        • It is small potatoes compared to any number of things. Do you want me to record for posterity my outrage about the drug war, drone strikes, Guantanamo Bay, etc? I can certainly do so, but I have enough outrage to go around.

          That this is a minor(ish) injustice perpetrated by a half-penny tyrant against a group of people who are already extorted for their labor by that same tyrant doesn’t make it not an outrage, though.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

            Extorted? That’s it. The conversation is going places where I have no desire to go.Report

            • When I used the phrase “indentured servant” in the OP, were you somehow under the wrong impression about how I think about college athletics? Or when I wrote two posts near the beginning of my tenure here at the League about the basic issues of labor injustice that are central to the NCAA?

              Look, we don’t have to go back there. These sanctions are stupid and unjust enough without any recourse to the background injustices that animate the entire industry, but it does provide some context about why I get worked up in precisely the way I do.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                I didn’t read it that closely. I don’t want to debate the issue, because it could only become acrimonious, and I don’t have any desire to have a nasty argument with you. Suffice it to say I find either phrasing wholly withou merit, and if you’ve ever discussed the issue with someone who disagrees with you, you already know my reasons why. And if you thinknthere’s any chance of persuading me, please know I’ve had the discussion previously, with neither me nor my debate opponent being persuaded. Some thing are so deeply rooted in different ways of seeing the world that there’s no hope of agreement.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:

      For one, because it’s punishing the wrong people. It is, in fact, punishing people who had nothing to do with the whole affair. The cover up was orchestrated and perpetuated by a tiny cabal of individuals whose names we already know. Those people committed crimes. And those people deserve punishment, which they will receive via the traditional channels. The NCAA decision essentially – and admittedly! – skirts the issue of individual guilt/punishment and adopts a euphemistic and inaccurate concept of “institutional behavior” to justify punishing everyone who wasn’t guilty of covering up sex crimes while not punishing those who were. Not only was the specific behavior sited not endemic to the institution (knowledge of the coverup was not institution-wide), the type of institutional behavior they’re citing to justify their decision – that a tiny cabal can act against broader institutional goals to further narrow ones – is true of all institutions, and strikes me as something way beyond the power and purpose of the NCAA.

      This was a case where felonies were committed – not NCAA rules infractions – and the cover up was beyond the scope of the NCAA’s purpose and authority. It’s a criminal issue, not a college athletics issue.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Stillwater says:

        Stillwater, you keep saying this is beyond the NCAA’s authority. Cn you provide evidence of that? Say, show something in the NCAA’s charter or rules that is limiting in that way?Report

        • The burden of proof is on the NCAA. They have to cite explicitly which rules were violated. They have not done that.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:

          Pretty much what Ryan said. They haven’t cited any rules infractions to justify their decisions, only a desire to change “institutional culture”. At one point, Emmert (I think during the Q&A) said that imposing these sanctions would refocus Penn States priorities on academics instead of athletics. That might have been a slip of the tongue – since it’s absurd on two levels – but it implies to me that the NCAA has no basis for their decision other than they have the power to do so. My contention is that it’s not a legitimate use of that power, since they haven’t cited a single infraction to justify any of their decisions.

          A former Committee on Infractions chairman and current Division I Appeals Committee member told ESPN.com’s Andy Katz on Sunday the NCAA’s penalizing of an institution and program for immoral and criminal behavior also breaks new ground.

          The former chair, who has been involved with the NCAA for nearly three decades, said he couldn’t use his name on the record because the case could come before him and the committee he still serves on in an appeals process.

          “This is unique and this kind of power has never been tested or tried,” the former chair said. “It’s unprecedented to have this extensive power. This has nothing to do with the purpose of the infractions process. Nevertheless, somehow (the NCAA president and executive board) have taken it on themselves to be a commissioner and to penalize a school for improper conduct.”

          A former Committee on Infractions chairman and current Division I Appeals Committee member told ESPN.com’s Andy Katz on Sunday the NCAA’s penalizing of an institution and program for immoral and criminal behavior also breaks new ground.

          The former chair, who has been involved with the NCAA for nearly three decades, said he couldn’t use his name on the record because the case could come before him and the committee he still serves on in an appeals process.

          “This is unique and this kind of power has never been tested or tried,” the former chair said. “It’s unprecedented to have this extensive power. This has nothing to do with the purpose of the infractions process. Nevertheless, somehow (the NCAA president and executive board) have taken it on themselves to be a commissioner and to penalize a school for improper conduct.”

          The chair said that the NCAA was dealing with a case that is outside the traditional rules or violations. He said this case does not fall within the basic fundamental purpose of NCAA regulations.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

          The NCAA imposed sanctions in the Baylor murder scandal, no? I’m unclear on how One player murdering a teammate creates a competitive advantage. All joking aside, the “unprecedented” claim seems inaccurate.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

      OK, so are you both going on record as saying that USC’s bowl ban is unjust?Report

      • Bowl bans in particular strike me as almost always unjust. I see where you’re going with this, and I suspect we have a fair amount of agreement, but a bowl ban is explicitly about punishing players. That’s all it does. It doesn’t hurt anyone else as much as it hurts players.

        Fining the institution, putting them on probation, subjecting them to draconian searches and documentation procedures, issuing show cause orders to coaches. These are all ways to punish people who do things that are wrong, and some of them will inevitably catch innocent people in the crossfire. But bowl bans almost always catch only innocent people without touching the guilty in any way.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

          Boosters! For god’s sake, how many times do I have to mention boosters before you all stop ignoring them as though they’re not part of the problem?

          I think we’re just doomed to disagreement here.Report

          • How does a bowl ban hurt boosters? They don’t play in bowl games. I should think heavy fines for the university and draconian searches and documentation requirements are a much better way to root out illegal booster activity than preventing kids from having a nice vacation for working hard all season.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

              Are you a college sports fan? I don’t know many fans who would ask this question. Imagine the NY Yankees were banned from post-season play for 5 years, and during that time they played well enough that they would have qualified several times? You don’t think the fans would feel that?

              The issue is that the lust for wins, championships, bowl victories, drive boosters to give players illegal benefits and to pressure college presidents not to watchdog the athletic department too closely. Only by shoeing them that they’re actions are counter-productive; that doing so will result in losses, no championships, no bowl games, and even vacated victories, championships and bowl games, can we give them an incentive to not place the coach above the president. Your approach misses a big key to the puzzle.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:

        OK, so are you both going on record as saying that USC’s bowl ban is unjust?

        Let’s go to the justification of a bowl ban. It seems to me that if some conditions are met, then a bowl ban is warranted. For example, if it’s within the power of the NCAA to impose bowl bans (it is) and if the rules infractions perpetrated by boosters, coaches, administrators and trustees (or some subset of them) are egregious enough and systemic enough that no alternative other than institutional – rather than individual – punishment would likely correct that behavior, then a bowl ban is justified.

        I mean, I went to SMU during the Erik Dickerson years. I can tell you first hand that the death penalty was warranted.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Stillwater says:

          Then the “harming innocents” objection is flexible? And the only issue is whether it’s warranted in this case. I’m fine with that. I think it’s warranted in this case. That’s my firm line, and I’ve seen nothing to persuade me differently. And even if it’s not warranted in this case, ypu’ve undermined it as basis for actual outrage, since you agree it’s sometimes acceptable. And it seems to me in this case hat he actual harms to non-perps is insufficiently severe to justify outrage; mild indignation perhaps. Anything more seems mockably disproportionate to me.Report

          • Your arguments here are weirdly personal. It’s not enough for you to disagree with us; you also have to mock our feelings.

            What’s going on with you, man? Rough day?Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

            Sorry, I really don’t mean to be personal. That’s why indon’t want to have that other argument with you, to avoided that. But, yeah, being “outraged” by this just seems overkill. I honestly cannot understand it, any more than I can understand the outrage at Obama’s “you didn’t make that” line. Some thing just seem too small for outrage to be a reasonable response, and I think this is one of them. Like I said, I can see why you think the NCAA done wrong. I just can’t see where anyone is harmed enough for it to merit more than a mild task tasking.

            Don’t you ever mock someone for over-reacting? If you haven’t, you’re a better person than I am. (which may not be hard.)Report

            • Sure, I do that sometimes. But I really like you, so I try to leave you off my to-mock list. That’s why I’m not pointing out how un-libertarian most of your positions in this debate are. 😛 (That’s a joke. Please let it go.)Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                Ryan,

                I like you, too, so I am sorry I’ve offended you.

                Frankly, I recognize I’m not taking an obviously libertarian position here. It wouldn’t be a problem to say so.

                Again, I get why you think the NCAA is wrong. I’ll leave it at that.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:

              I just can’t see where anyone is harmed enough for it to merit more than a mild task tasking.

              Sorta like the soda ban, then, eh?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Stillwater says:

                Can’t say I was outraged by that, so much as grimly amused. But I do see the path of that as more concerning than the NCAA’s path here. Limiting people’s choices about what to put in their body vs. taking a perhaps overly hard line against criminal conspiracies?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:

                So, you’ve been able to square up all your principles then, without having to revise any?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Stillwater says:

                Oh, that old “libertarians have to be perfectly consistent and inflexible while we liberals get to be pragmatic and go on a case by case basis” argument? I thought we we were long past that, you and I?Report

              • I, for one, maintain hope that we can all be pragmatic and case-by-case. It saves me a lot of trouble for those times when the president points out that you didn’t single-handedly build the roads and then I somehow have to defend the notion that every penny you have belongs to the state.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:

                I thought we we were long past that, you and I?

                Oh I am. It’s just that your main attack over the last few comments was to trap Ryan and I in a principled inconsistency. So it seemed to me you were playing the “where are the liberals principles?” card even as you were bulldozing your own into unrecognizability.

                I apologize if the initial comment sounded overly aggressive.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:

                And after re-reading what I just posted, I apologize if that comment comes of as overly aggressive. I mean, you hold generally pretty robust libertarian principles, and on this issue your adopting (it seems to me) what you usually criticize as the worst type of liberal justifications. And I’m adopting a pretty straightforward libertarian position.

                Strange. And perfectly cool.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                Stillwater, well, you were making what looked like an absolutist argument, so I was curious bout whether it really was, or was being used conveniently.

                As for my libertarianism, I draw a distinction between states and private organizations. I don’t quite get why anyone would find it odd that I treat different categories differently. As I tell my students, if you want free speech rights on campus, transfer to a public school. It’s not that I think my private college ought to deny students’ speech rights, but that I think it legitimately can,whether or not it ought to. So far as I know, that’s a pretty standard libertarian position. We’re not against all rules, regulations or social control in general. We’re against it in involuntary organizations.

                I mean, nobody here really thinks I run a libertarian household, do they? ;). And my classrooms are downright authoritarian.

                Ryan, I’m very pragmatic, but I don’t think pragmatism works without having at lease some general guiding principles, no matter how vague they are. But for what it’s worth, my experience as a libertarian has been very much like the liberal experience here in that silly “Obama sez all yur pennies iz ourz” argument, and I was wholly on the liberal side in that one. It sucks having to rebut such ridiculous claims, and by god those were some ridiculous claims, weren’t they?Report

      • My only thing with a bowl ban is that it ought to be accompanied by Free Transfer, automatically, for all players (still eligible to play).Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Will Truman says:

          Agreed. In this case it is, which is the right thing for the NCAA to do, and which diminishes the harming innocents argument.Report

        • It is, in this case. Although it’s late enough in the recruiting cycle that that may end up being small comfort.

          It also neglects the ways in which identity is forged in these programs, to the extent that it’s difficult to walk away (both because of how your old friends will think of your loyalty and how your new ones will). That may be too fuzzy for the NCAA to really are about, though.Report

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