Wednesday, January 02, 2013

The Penn State never-ending scandal

The biggest sports industry story of the last two years the Penn State child sex abuse scandal is alive and well in 2013, after Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett announced he was suing the NCAA on behalf of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania alleging the sanctions the governing body for college athletics slapped on Penn State relating to the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal were excessive.
Soon after Sandusky was sentenced to at least 30 years in prison on child sex abuse charges, the NCAA announced a series of sanctions against the school and the football program. Sandusky began hurting children while he was a full time assistant football coach at Penn State University under the late Joe Paterno.
The sanctions that Penn State agreed to in August included:

• $60 million fine
• Vacating of wins from 1998-2011 (112 wins)*
• Four-year postseason ban
• Four-year scholarship reduction (10 initial; 20 total)
• Players may transfer and play immediately at other schools
• Athletic department on probation for five years

"I have heard from many across Pennsylvania about sanctions and people are upset," Corbett said to about 50 news media representatives. "People around the commonwealth have been harmed. Why punish citizens of Pennsylvania who had nothing to do with this?

“This university is an economic engine, creating jobs not only for the university but for jobs in the hotel, restaurant and tourism industry. Jobs that generate hundreds of millions of jobs for businesses of all sizes.”

The university released a statement affirming it was not party to the lawsuit, adding:

"The University is committed to full compliance with the Consent Decree, the Athletics Integrity Agreement and, as appropriate, the implementation of the Freeh report recommendations. We look forward to continuing to work with Sen. George Mitchell as the athletic integrity monitor for complete fulfillment of the Athletics Integrity Agreement."

The Harrisburg Patriot News reported Corbett believes the NCAA will negotiate a settlement with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, reducing the penalties levied against Penn State. The News who won a Pulitzer Prize for their outstanding coverage of the Sandusky scandal are reporting “the goal is to reduce the postseason ban from the remaining three years down to one and to eliminate or greatly reduce all scholarship limitations. The $60 million payout would remain but an effort would be made to keep the money in-state to benefit child-abuse victims in Pennsylvania. And the NCAA's expunging of PSU football wins back through 1998 would remain and not be a bargaining point at all.”

Penn State acted immediately after Sandusky was indicted on November 4, 2011, firing Paterno and Graham Spanier Penn State’s President on November 9.

Paterno will never again be recognized as college football’s winningest coach, after the NCAA
stripped Paterno and Penn State of 112 wins. The opportunity for players to transfer has come and gone, the bowl ban and the number of scholarships are the two issues Corbett is challenging the NCAA.

On its website Wednesday, the NCAA released a statement criticizing the suit, attributed to Donald M. Remy, NCAA Executive Vice President and General Counsel:

"We are disappointed by the Governor's action today. Not only does this forthcoming lawsuit appear to be without merit, it is an affront to all of the victims in this tragedy -- lives that were destroyed by the criminal actions of Jerry Sandusky. While the innocence that was stolen can never be restored, Penn State has accepted the consequences for its role and the role of its employees and is moving forward. Today's announcement by the Governor is a setback to the University's efforts."

The Penn State/Sandusky sex scandal will forever taint the sports industry. It’s easy to suggest whatever the sanctions NCAA leveled against Penn State weren’t enough, that might be right, but it is also very wrong. Penn State cleaned house, firing Paterno, Spanier and everyone and anyone linked to the Sandusky sex abuse scandal. The 2012 Penn State football program went 8-4 in the Big Ten, won enough bowl games but wasn’t eligible to participate in a bowl game. Is it right to punish Coach O’Brien and the members of the football team for the shame Joe Paterno brought too Penn State? Paterno has been punished, knowing that when his leadership was most needed failed both the school and his football players. He lost his job and his coaching record as a direct result – Paterno has been punished.

On Wednesday morning after the suit was announced, the Paterno family released a statement:

"As we have not yet had an opportunity to review the lawsuit filed by Governor Corbett today, we cannot comment on the specifics of the litigation. What we do know, however, is that this matter is far from closed. The fact that Governor Corbett now realizes, as do many others, that there was an inexcusable rush to judgment is encouraging.

"Joe Paterno's only guidance to us was to seek the truth. Consequently, last July when the Freeh report was released and the subsequent unprecedented and unjustified actions were taken by the Penn State University Board and the NCAA, we stated that we would engage a team of experts to conduct a careful and thoughtful review of the Freeh inquiry and the actions of the Board and the Administration. That process is nearing completion. We expect to release the analysis of the experts in the near future. At that time we will address all of the issues of the past year in a comprehensive manner."

The Paterno family can believe whatever they would like to, if media reports are to be believed Joe Paterno isn’t going to get back the 112 wins the NCAA took away from Penn State.

Does the lawsuit make sense, or is Governor Corbett wasting taxpayer money?

“The state will allege that that the university was coerced into this draconian punishment that affects Penn State’s ability to compete in football as well as for students and research grants,” Matthew Mitten, Director of the National Sports Law Institute at Marquette University told Forbes. While the courts have historically given the NCAA nearly carte blanche in doling out disciplinary penalties, “the question here will be whether it was really necessary to impose these harsh penalties in order to preserve the NCAA’s ability to carry out its mission of preserving competitive balance and the amateur nature of college sports.”

There are more than a few legal pundits who have suggested the NCAA didn’t offer Penn State due process in determining Penn State’s fate, and that a dangerous precedent has been established.
“The NCAA would have to provide clear notice going forward as to what specific rules were violated.” Mitten offered.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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