NCAA Penn State Ruling Re-writes History
- $12 million to be paid by the university every year for five years into a “special endowment created to fund programs for the detection, prevention and treatment of child abuse”
- A four-year ban on participation in all post-season and bowl games
- No share of the conference revenue from bowl games during the post-season ban, estimated to be about a $13 million loss
- Beginning in 2012 Penn State can only offer 15 football scholarships, 10 less than the current limit for Division 1 programs.
- A cap of 65 scholarship players total starting in 2014, 20 fewer than the current limit for Division 1 programs
- Current players and players who signed letters of intent with Penn State this year may be released from the program at request. (The NCAA is still working out the details of how players might transfer to schools that are already at their 85-scholarship cap, or are also at reduced scholarship levels due to their own sanctions.)
- Penn State’s football team is stripped of all its wins from the time when Head Coach Joe Paterno and other administrators became aware of child abuse and failed to stop it through this year — 112 wins from 1998 to 2012.
Sports blogs are making the much of the scholarship hits, which will likely cripple Penn State competitively until 2016 (or realistically a few “rebuilding years” after 2016). And having been to State College, PA and seen just how much of the downtown economy was based on the football program, I do have to wonder if that isn’t punishing innocents a little too harshly, at least indirectly, but I’ll leave that commentary to more qualified sports writers.
For my part, the most interesting point is the removal of Penn State’s wins.
Re-writing history by changing the official record is a terrifying idea, when you think about it. Obviously, for years, we’ll all know that Joe Paterno was the “winningest” coach ever in D-1 football. Saying that 111 of those wins (only one of the 112 games removed was not coached by JoPa) didn’t count won’t change the living memory that Penn State was there, and did in all facts of reality win those games.
Years from now that won’t be the case.
I’ve done a bit of writing on nineteenth-century sports and entertainment, and the record we have to use is a fairly spotty one. You end up relying on the few written scoresheets and books you have access to. Eventually, the surviving records for turn-of-the-millennium college football are all going to show Penn State and Joe Paterno at the new, NCAA-mandated totals. And that will be that.
In some ways I approve. Joe Paterno died shortly after the scandals broke, removing himself from most forms of earthly justice, and the NCAA’s decision to dismantle his legacy is probably the closest to making him face punishment you can get.
But on the other hand the rewriting of established fact — they were here; they won these games by the rules at the time — is a deeply unsettling idea, even when applied to something as prosaic as college sports.
I will be curious to see how long it takes the Joe Paterno legacy to fade entirely. I certainly don’t envy current Penn State administrators the fine line they have to walk: anything that seems to “honor” the JoPa memory is nationally toxic, but still deeply desired by local loyalists and more importantly by the incredibly wealthy Paterno family that remains with us, and whose donations the university would sorely miss. It will not be a fun few years for hastily-promoted President Rodney Erickson.
I suppose congratulations are due to Bobby Bowden, though?