Time to scrap the NCAA Death Penalty

Time to scrap the NCAA Death Penalty

As an alumnus and donor to the University of Oklahoma and a fan and season ticket holder of the Sooners, I will be the first to point out that OU Football has had its fair share of embarrassing scandals over its history.  I vividly recall the mess that tainted OU as the quintessential outlaw program in the mid-to-late 1980s with athletic dorm shootings, rapes, and the team’s quarterback, Charles Thompson, handcuffed in a prison dayglo-orange jumpsuit on the cover of Sports Illustrated after being arrested for selling cocaine.  Oklahoma seemed always at odds with the NCAA for infractions ranging from recruiting violations to all the duly noted criminal activity and accusations, some with merit, of a lack of institutional control.  Action was taken, charges were brought, crimes were punished and the OU football program was slapped heavily by the NCAA with crippling sanctions causing a decade of decline during which the Sooners found anonymity and sank to mediocrity in their good seasons.  Even now all these years later, the Sooners have not outlived that justly earned reputation of what the rest of the nation viewed as what corruption in college athletics resembles.

In spite of all the criminal bad things that happened in association with Oklahoma Football, and I will not dismiss or minimized the criminal acts that did occur, however, I cannot recall any reports of physical harm happening to a person below the age of majority.  (If someone manages to find something on that order then mea culpa).  No, when the shootings and the dorm rapes were reported, those in the program responsible were GONE never to return.  No keeping around criminals in the name of winning.  Then sometimes it is better to be legally lucky than athletically good, just ask Florida State QB Jameis Winston.

When evil the likes of which was practiced by former Penn State assistant coach and defensive coordinator and now convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky raises its ugly head, corruption takes on a whole different complexion.

The NCAA Death Penalty has only been administered to a Division 1A football program once, to Southern Methodist University in 1987, and it was a just punishment for a program with repeat doping and recruiting violations .  Penn State came dangerously close to being slapped with the same Death Penalty by the NCAA over the Sandusky scandal but was spared it because of their seemingly squeaky clean record previous to it.  What?!?  Sandusky was tried on some 48 counts of child molestation and convicted on 45.  One of the sanctions Penn State agreed to in the aftermath of the Sandusky scandal was vacating 112 football wins from 1998 to 2011, or from the time of the first police call regarding Sandusky’s activities with children in Penn State facilities through his arrest in 2011.  This restores the late Coach Joe Paterno’s record as the winningest coach in college football, but that is merely a sideshow issue.  There is a taint about this.  Despite Penn State being a squeaky clean program prior to this mess, proportionality of the crime(s) involved matters.  It especially matters since someone was made aware of Sandusky’s doings as far back at 1998 and neither Paterno or the institution did anything about it.  What was that clause about repeat offenses?  Like a drunk says he only drank one beer because he was drinking out of the same mug all night, the NCAA says Penn State does not have a record of repeat offenses because they were all done by one member of the staff.  That and a reasonable argument can be made that ignoring Sandusky’s crimes was done in the name of winning.

As I said above about another college athlete, it is far better to be legally lucky than athletically good.  That sentiment fits Penn State.  In my opinion, if Penn State Football was not given the NCAA Death Penalty over the Sandusky case then it really should be scrapped.

Keith Olberman explains why Penn State does not deserve a break.


(Photo by weeklyworldnews.com)


  1. Route66Kid
    Jan 24, 2015

    Today I had an enlightening and informative discussion over lunch with a State College, PA native and former Penn State student who has several acquaintances among the principals of the Penn State/Jerry Sandusky scandal. As I state above, someone in the Penn State program was made aware of Sandusky’s doing as far back as 1998. It actually goes further back than that and far, far deeper than the office of the head football coach. There is a complex dynamic with the state board of regents and state politicians, many who gave Sandusky a pass early in the history of the scandal. Here is a timeline:

    Another thing that came from my discussion with the Penn Stater was a glowing first person account of the character of the late Joe Paterno. As an OU fan serving in the Navy, when the subject OU’s scandals was discussed among college football fans in my company they often pointed to Joe Paterno and Penn State as the quintessential clean program. No doubt, Paterno was about education first and football second. Like I said, restoring the vacated Penn State victories is but a sideshow issue. Those were one of the sanctions Penn State agreed to in order to get beyond the Sandusky-induced mess, but the decision went way beyond the football program. Also, the NCAA Death Penalty though on the table during the Sandusky aftermath, was used more as a means of extortion to negotiate the legal settlement figure of $60 million. If that is true then the NCAA really needs to scrap it. Here is a rebuttal to Keith Olbermann’s rant on ESPN:

    At the end of the day, college football remains a big money sport, often the financial engine pulling the athletic train at most colleges. The question remains in light of some things that have transpired since the sewing of salt at SMU is if there is going to be another instance of where the NCAA Death Penalty is appropriate.