As a Pennsylvania State (Penn State) University alumnus, I was stunned and pained by July 2012 news of the stiffest sanctions ever imposed by the NCAA against a school. As a private-practice psychologist with 40 years of therapy experience, I squarely realize and am very disturbed by the severity of Jerry Sandusky’s chronic sexual abuse and the cover-up collusion perpetrated by a number of Penn State officials
A summary of the NCAA-mandated penalties imposed on Penn State is as follows:
- Pay $60,000,000 over a five year period to establish an endowment to support sex abuse victims and prevent future victimization.
- Vacate all wins from 1998 to 2011 (nearly 20% of coach Paterno’s career wins).
- Reduce 10 initial scholarships and 20 total scholarships over a four-year period.
- Be ineligible for postseason bowl appearances for the next four years.
- Remain on probation for a five-year period to assure compliance with various integrity measures.
Clearly, the NCAA’s intention in levying these strong sanctions was twofold: 1)to harshly punish Penn State for its ongoing deceit and inaction 2)foremost, to serve notice to colleges and universities across the nation that such egregious behavior and acts of omission are regarded as absolutely intolerable. Regarding the latter, the NCAA is especially intent on disseminating the message that student safety/protection, ethics and academic achievement must remain every school’s primary focus. Conversely, the objective of winning at all costs is to be fiercely deterred and obsessive hero worship discouraged. In essence, the NCAA expects the athletic culture of the schools it regulates to become well integrated into the overall functioning of the colleges/universities.
Like virtually everyone, I agree that Penn State deserved to receive strong consequences. However, I feel that the sanctions were excessive, especially those that highly jeopardize, or perhaps even cripple, the success of the football program going forward. After all, the current and future football players were totally uninvolved in the Sandusky matter.
Furthermore, with my admitted bias, I am troubled by witnessing an otherwise excellent institution of learning and an otherwise highly-principled coach getting publicly crucified, vilified, or even demonized. In lieu of “carrying on” about the holier-than-thou posture that I sense from many, I’ll simply cite one of my favorite sayings of Jesus Christ: “May s/he who has never sinned throw the first stone.”