NCAA did best it could with sanctions against Penn State

Unprecedented crimes called for an unprecedented series of penalties.

The NCAA has received a slew of criticisms following its issuing of sanctions against Penn State for the wrong-doings of the university’s higher-ups, including former head coach Joe Paterno.

The opposition points to the effects the penalties will have on Penn State’s current football roster — which had zero involvement in Jerry Sandusky’s actions, yet appears to be receiving the brunt of punishment. The guilty parties are either dead or in prison, critics say. Punishing the nonperpetrators is excessive and unfair. Mark Emmert and the NCAA got it wrong.

“No sanction, no politician is ever going to take away what we’ve got here,” Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti said outside the school’s football facility Wednesday. “We’re going to fight for Penn State, fight for each other. Because this is what Penn State’s about — fighting through adversity.”

Mauti’s sentiments are noble, but they are also misplaced. The sanctions against Penn State are not the result of a witch hunt by the NCAA. Nor is it the NCAA’s fault that Penn State is in trouble.

Mauti, who appears to be speaking for many in Happy Valley, is pointing his arrows at the NCAA for taking away the bowl games and the scholarships and the money. But the NCAA didn’t do this. Penn State officials did.

Mauti and head coach Bill O’Brien are treating the situation like it’s any other source of adversity. This is not something to use as a chip on your shoulder. This isn’t just football. It’s more, and it’s worse.

I’m not going to pretend there’s a mutual exclusivity between showing solidarity for the victims and wanting the best for the players. Restricting the football team from bowl games doesn’t enhance the victims’ healing process. But where was the outcry when USC was punished following the Reggie Bush era, Ohio State and its tattoos, or any of the other acts deemed worthy of penalization by the NCAA? Matt Barkley shouldn’t have to answer for something Bush did.

Yet that will always be the case. Punishment by the NCAA is always flawed to an extent because players who accept illicit benefits are often out of college by the time they surface. That’s life. The Penn State players can still keep their scholarships even if they elect to stop playing football. And if they want to transfer, they can do that too. “Oh no, I have to go to Ohio State now?” In the shady underworld of college recruiting, all a player can do is hope their school stays clean.

This is not a perfect solution. Actions by the NCAA either extend to students who weren’t involved, or it is going easy on an institution that can’t possibly suffer enough for its crimes. I’m OK with suffering at the expense of football games.

As Yahoo columnist Dan Wetzel wrote: “Penn State and its fans always said the program was about more than winning. The next decade will offer them a chance to prove it.”

Sometimes, the fight against adversity is one worth conceding.

_Jeff is a senior in Media._