So the Jerry Sandusky horror story has run its course, ending with the serial pedophile being found guilty on 45 of the 48 counts that made it as far as the jury. While sentencing is still a little way off, it’s expected that Sandusky will face more than 400 years in prison. The reality is that unless he is either the Biblical Abraham, or — given prisoners’ general disdain for child predators – invincible, he will die in prison.
You would think this would end the saga. You would be wrong.
In the four days since the verdicts came down and in all honesty while the investigation was ongoing, you see calls for the NCAA to step in. I’ve heard the call for NCAA action from people I respect a great deal like ESPN Radio’s John Kincade, as well as the general collection of braying jackasses that scream before thinking – either as a matter of timing or inability to do the latter. The question is, step in and do what exactly? What would you ask an organization that is designed to police eligibility and amateurism issues – and does it poorly, I might add – to do to handle a criminal matter?
The answer seems to be – at least in some circles – the “Death Penalty” for Penn State, which is ironic in that it asks for an organization that has no jurisdiction in this matter to enforce a penalty that is, at least euphemistically, more severe than the actual criminal received.
The Death Penalty refers to the NCAA’s authority to ban a team from competition, and here in Kentucky we know the term all too well. In 1952-53 University of Kentucky basketball received such a ban and the legion of basketball fans who hate the program scream “Death Penalty” whenever somebody associated with the University sneezes in the wrong direction.
Calling for the “Death Penalty” in the Penn State case shows a shocking ignorance of two key factors – how the penalty is incurred currently and who will be punished should the NCAA fold to pressure and figure out a way to weasel its way into this one to score cheap PR points.
The current criteria for the Death Penalty involves repeat offenses, period. If you are put on probation and have a second violation within five years, you are a candidate. The only major team to get the Death Penalty since the criteria took effect was Southern Methodist football in 1987, which was the subject of one of the great ESPN 30 for 30 shows in the past year. Go watch it. SMU has never recovered and since then the hammer has only been dropped on teams nobody cares about.
“BUT LACK OF INSTITUTIONAL CONTROL!!!!!” the people who want Penn State punished scream. Well, so? Even if you assume a lack of institutional control in the NCAA sense (which means a failure to monitor NCAA relevant functions, NOT ensure that nobody on your staff is committing monstrous crimes), Penn State wouldn’t be eligible for the Death Penalty, so can we all PLEASE calm down.
Beyond the inappropriateness of an NCAA investigation and Penn State’s ineligibility for the Death Penalty, can we at least stop to think who gets punished if the NCAA does somehow hammer Penn State? It’s not the coaches – they are all dead, in jail (and likely soon to be dispatched) or unemployed/unemployable. And it’s not the administrators who covered things up – they are also unemployable and likely to join Sandusky in prison (assuming they hurry there). It’s everybody left over — players, coaches and administrators who did NOTHING wrong, who weren’t there when any of this took place. How much sense does it make to punish them simply because it satisfies your bloodlust, especially when you are asking for the rules to be changed without warning or input from the NCAA membership (which can’t happen, by the way, but never mind that)? None. At all.
Sure, the University as a whole would suffer from the loss of revenue, so I guess in a sense that’s justice in some way, but not in any way that serves any of Sandusky’s victims or their families. It only serves your sense of….whatever.
Regardless, there is no rational way in which NCAA involvement makes any sense and it needs to be avoided.