Penn State, SMU and the Death Penalty

First thing I got to say about Penn State Football: KILL IT; even if it kills off other athletics.

The simple fact is that Penn State knew about Sullivan and accepted him, proclivities and all. Which wouldn’t have been bad had he only had a thing for cute college co-eds, but his thing was for boys who had nowhere else to go but with him and his group.

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A death penalty wouldn’t even be a precedent-setting event. After all, we already have an example of a program that had something wrong going on within it and aided it: Southern Methodist University.

They had spent much time trying to make themselves a football power in the Southwest Conference back when it was a Division 1 conference, and they finally did it in the early eighties. However, the success came because of a lot of people figuring ways to get money to the football players.

As it turned out, not only was there rampant corruption, but the college leadership knew about it and aided and abetted it. They were going to do everything to get big, even if it put them at risk. They even continued paying some of their players after they promised not to, with the idea that they made promises to those players and needed to keep to their side of the bargain.

Needless to say, the NCAA went ahead and cancelled their season for 1987. 1988 was killed off as well, as there wasn’t enough of a team to play even the halfway-proper season that the NCAA allowed (seven away games).

This would eventually lead to the death of the Southwest Conference, the ascent of the Big Twelve and the major instability that is now a part of the College Football scene. It also set up a standard for the NCAA to implement the Death Penalty:

  1. The wrongdoing was so egregious (whether by length of the wrongdoing or through severity) that it couldn’t be corrected through mere apology, and
  2. The leadership of the university knew about the wrongdoing and supported it.

Needless to say, the death penalty has only been applied to side sports in smaller colleges (the death of the Southwest Conference, though probably inevitable by the time it happened, didn’t help out matters either – by making the NCAA gun-shy about applying it). Not only that, but schools have become very cooperative in the NCAA investigations, even to the point of doing pre-emptive punishments on themselves (in an attempt to avoid further punishment from the NCAA).

It also explains why nowadays when a school is accused of wrongdoing it’s always “Lack of Institutional Control” that the schools get hit for. The schools and the “alumni groups” have separated themselves well enough that the Coaches and Trustees usually have little idea what’s going on with the “support.” The school and athletic teams have their cover, and the alumni groups support their football players to the best of their ability.

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Now what happened at Penn State?

Well, in 1998 the police were already dealing with odd things with Jerry Sandusky showering with boys. In 2002 Mike McQueary saw a boy getting rutted into in the shower, when he went to Joe Paterno Joe Pa said “I wish you didn’t have to see that.” Not “what did you see,” not “You’re Kidding!,” but “I wish you didn’t have to see that.”

In the spring of 2008 Sandusky would assault a boy at a high school – and it would be spotted, and the school would BAR Sandusky from the school grounds. They would also notify the Police – something Penn State never did in its MANY years with Sandusky.

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The major thing is this: Joe Paterno, and by extension Penn State knew of wrongdoing on its campus and aided and abetted the wrongdoing. Not through supporting the guy (although with rumors of him pimping out boys throughout the state I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the trustees and/or teachers at the University had helped themselves to his offerings), but strictly by letting stuff happen to the boys on their watch.

It’s this support of wrongdoing that pushes this beyond “Lack of Institutional Control” and into the area of “Institutionally Supported Wrongdoing.” Which makes this ripe for the Death Penalty. Like SMU, another school that went so far as to directly support wrongdoing in the eighties.

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The question is: Why WON’T the NCAA pull the plug on the program?

They’re afraid of what will happen.

After all, we’re talking about a school being unable to put forth a football team for one, maybe two years – and having trouble putting a good team together after that. And while that’s just one team in a conference of twelve that spans two time zones and Seven states at its widest, Penn State reaches into some important areas, even reaching towards the Atlantic Ocean and the major markets of Philadelphia and New York.

For the NCAA, long weakened by its inability to control its biggest brands (certain college teams) until after the fact, to suddenly cut a major conference (Say what you will about how far down the Big Ten is verses the Pac Twelve, never mind the SEC, but it does hold great power) off from MAJOR markets would involve much larger balls than the governing body has. Indeed, I’ve heard that there were to form four major conferences of 16 that were to set up their own championship (complete with a built-in playoff of eight teams, one from each division of each conference), the NCAA would be dead within a couple years.

So no, Penn State will be allowed to muddle through their issues, a full member of a major conference. Even though the death penalty makes sense here.

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