In reading about the State of Pennsylvania’s recent decision to take the NCAA to court to force that group to rescind the sanctions brought against Penn State University for the Sandusky scandal I was going back and forth on the issue, which engendered the following dialogue:
PRO: I think the State has every right to take this action. As they have said, it was a criminal action that Sandusky was duly tried for and the University (and the state which contributes $200,000 a year to the university) should net be penalized for that man’s actions — especially since he has been punished.
CON: True, but the football program at the University is culpable since they were clearly aware of what Sandusky was doing and chose to look the other way. In addition, not only the head coach knew what was going on, but apparently the Administration knew and also chose to look the other way. Furthermore, the board of governors needs to take responsibility for what is going on in the university and should never have allowed Joe Paterno to have as much power as he obviously had.
PRO: Yes, but the NCAA has entirely too much power. They ran the AIAW out of business back in the early days of Title IX and were slow in recognizing the importance of women’s sports, and they effectively have rendered the NAIA irrelevant. They are really the only game in town, which raises the specter of anti-trust. In this case they acted without full knowledge of the events and handed out a very harsh punishment that affects the entire student body and players who were not involved in any sort of cover-up and should not be punished.
CON: True, the NCAA is a very powerful body but it fills a need. Can you imagine what intercollegiate sports would be like without a watchdog like the NCAA keeping an eye on things? The corruption we see now would be ten times worse without a group like the NCAA playing the role of watchdog. In this case they may have acted peremptorily, but they knew (as we all did) that blame went all the way the chain of command at the university and how else were they supposed to act if they didn’t punish the football program and the university as a whole? If they have the power to hand down sanctions, as they do, then they have the power — and the right — to punish the football program and even the university itself with fines and the reduction of scholarships.
And so it goes. Back and forth. I do know one thing: the NCAA’s attempts to throw up a red herring by saying that “[this action] is an affront to all of the victims in this tragedy – lives that were destroyed by the criminal actions of Jerry Sandusky” is hogwash. It suggests that the NCAA lawyers know they are on thin ice and are attempting to divert attention away from the central issue, which is whether or not the NCAA acted in accordance with its own rules. If the state of Pennsylvania wins its case it will severely hamper the ability of the NCAA in the future to hand down sanctions for breach of its many rules. If it loses, the power of the NCAA which is already tremendous, will grow exponentially. And this for a group that already takes in $845 million a year in non-taxable revenue and seems determined to increase that amount in any way it can.
What do you think?