Just after the Baltimore Ravens and the NFL increased Ray Rice’s punishment based on additional evidence in his domestic violence case, the NCAA decreased Penn State’s punishment for its involvement in the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal. The decision to immediately remove the university’s bowl ban has set a precedent that further weakens the NCAA’s authority.
From the beginning of the Sandusky investigation, there have been accusations that the NCAA punishes what it classifies as improper benefits more aggressively than that of sexual abuse and violence. The NCAA levied punishments based on Penn State’s cover up and facilitation of Sandusky’s crimes in July 2012. Now that the school has complied with 115 of the 119 recommendations made by Former FBI director Louis Freeh, the remaining penalties have been lifted. If the NCAA cannot stand its ground regarding years of sexual abuse and a widespread cover up, there is NOTHING they can enforce.
In case you have forgotten how far-reaching the crimes and cover-up were, you can read the Freeh Report. and documents relating to the trial as well. Keep in mind that education professionals are required by law to report any suspicion abuse, so to say that there is not one single educator or administrator on the Penn State campus that should have reported at the very least rumors of abuse, is naïve, especially since many people have since said that Sandusky’s abuse was common knowledge./
There are so many levels to the cover-up including blocked investigations and the mysterious disappearance of a prosecutor on the case. A well documented abuse of power lead to death threats to Vicky Triponey, a well-respected compliance educator. Tripony sent the below correspondence after community members including Joe Paterno’s wife Sue, came to her office to influence her to look the other way in the discipline of football players. The following is an excerpt from The Woman Who Stood Up to Joe Paterno on CNN.com.
“I must insist that the efforts to put pressure on us and try to influence our decisions related to specific cases … simply MUST STOP,” she wrote. “The calls and pleas from coaches, board members and others when we are considering a case are indeed putting us in a position that does treat football players differently and with greater privilege … and it appears on our end to be a deliberate effort to use the power of the football program to sway our decisions in a way that is beneficial to the football program.”
Tripony lost her job and was only vindicated after the release of the Freeh report. Her name does not appear in the report other than as a footnote. Her statements confirmed the environment that had become Penn State. “The culture is deep,” she said. “The culture is making decisions based on how others will react, not based on what’s right and wrong. There was no accountability. Board meetings were scripted to avoid controversy. It was a point of pride that nobody ever argued. The leadership was “grounded in the spin, the image, the ‘too big to fail.’ It became a business dependent on the money and contributions,” she said.
Penn State has almost cleaned up the program two years after the ruling. Great. Two years of no bowl games. Two years of reduced scholarships. This is enough punishment for the years of allowing the sexual abuse of children? So what if the current players cannot go to bowl games? The players have the choice not to go to Penn State. Every other school that is punished also has ramifications that fall on innocent parties. There is no way around it. Why are the athletes at Penn State any different from those at other schools who did not have the benefit of transferring or knowing the situation before they enrolled?
Two years is not enough time to change an entire culture. Steps are being taken, but that does not erase wrong doing of the entire system, and many in the community for that matter. A community still very much tied the Paterno family who continues to deny that there was any wrong doing. Scott Paterno spoke on behalf of the Paterno family today stating that the lawsuits will continue against the NCAA to declare the Consent Decree between the NCAA and Penn State invalid. The suit alleges breach of contract, intentional interference with contractual relations, injurious falsehood and commercial disparagement, defamation, and civil conspiracy, and it seeks monetary damages.
Pardoning Penn State for doing almost everything they should have done all along does not follow what the NCAA clearly states it stands on its website.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association is a membership-driven organization dedicated to safeguarding the well-being of student-athletes and equipping them with the skills to succeed on the playing field, in the classroom and throughout life.
We support learning through sports by integrating athletics and higher education to enrich the college experience of student-athletes. NCAA members – mostly colleges and universities, but also conferences and affiliated groups – work together to create the framework of rules for fair and safe competition.
NCAA Strategic Plan
Our purpose is to govern competition in a fair, safe, equitable and sportsmanlike manner, and to integrate intercollegiate athletics into higher education so that the educational experience of the student-athlete is paramount.
The Association – through its member institutions, conferences and national office staff – shares a belief in and commitment to:
The collegiate model of athletics in which students participate as an avocation, balancing their academic, social and athletics experiences.
The highest levels of integrity and sportsmanship.
The pursuit of excellence in both academics and athletics.
The supporting role that intercollegiate athletics plays in the higher education mission and in enhancing the sense of community and strengthening the identity of member institutions.
An inclusive culture that fosters equitable participation for student-athletes and career opportunities for coaches and administrators from diverse backgrounds.
Respect for institutional autonomy and philosophical differences.
Presidential leadership of intercollegiate athletics at the campus, conference and national levels.
How does revoking the punishment of an institution that, through its actions, placed its football program and coaches above the law uphold any of these values? Why are the lives of the true innocent victims of less concern than that of players who choose this school? One could argue that going to Penn State is not a selfless act of an athlete dedicating himself to his team, but that of one who sees the opportunity for more playing time because higher level recruits are going elsewhere. This may not be the case, but if you argue that the reduction of scholarships reduces the ability to compete, it stands to reason that a player of lesser talent can get more playing time.
What the “organization dedicated to safeguarding the well-being of student-athletes and equipping them with the skills to succeed on the playing field, in the classroom and throughout life” actually teaches athletes is that if you have enough money, good lawyers, and play by the rules for just a bit, you can get caught covering up just about anything without long-term consequences.
On a day that has so many speaking out on the atrocity of violence against women, some of those same people are applauding the NCAA decision to nullify Penn States remaining sentence. A sentence they received for allowing innocent children to be repeatedly abused. If the NCAA refuses to enforce sanctions for the most gruesome of acts against the those needing the most protection, cover ups will continue.
Many are calling for a lifetime ban for Rice, yet the many sins by many people upholding “the Penn State way” are all forgiven. The Sandusky case is unlike anything we have seen, but what we do see are rape and domestic violence cases disappear because of what the school stands to lose. Patting Penn State on the back for abiding by rules they should have followed all along minimizes the victims in the name of football, in the name of the institution. That is exactly “the Penn State way” that allowed Jerry Sandusky, Joe Paterno, and Penn State University to act above the law for so long.
Follow Leslie on Twitter @LK_Comm.
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