BY WAYNE PHILLIPS
The NCAA got it right.
The penalties assessed against Penn State University over the Jerry Sandusky scandal, which were announced Monday, did not include the so-called death penalty. A death penalty, shutting down the entire program for a year, might have been easier to swallow.
The Nittany Lions will not recover from the penalties for at least a decade. No bowl games for four years is bad enough, but the loss of scholarships is the sanction that will really take the toll on the football program.
That, plus the fact that several current players and those they are recruiting will likely bolt to other venues, will leave Penn State probably checking out the physical education classes to try to come up with players to suit up. The NCAA said current players may transfer anywhere they want, and play immediately, and that includes to other Big 10 schools.
Will some players leave? Of course. You know how mean-spirited home fans can be. Imagine going on the road to Ohio State or Michigan and have to listen to the cat-calls and name-calling that are inevitably going to be coming from the student section.
Never mind the fact that the $60 million fine that was levied by the NCAA is just a drop in the bucket compared to the money that's going to have to be passed around to the families of victims of Jerry Sandusky when the lawsuits start coming in.
Ronnie Colyer, with whom I've shared a friendship since our school days, called to chat about Penn State on Monday after the sanctions were announced. He makes no bones about not liking Penn State. He never has, long before this thing with Sandusky reared its ugly head. But Ronnie's comment, although a bit extreme, caught my attention:
"Penn State will have to tear down Beaver Stadium, take all the metal and sell it to the recycling centers, and try to recover some money to pay off the millions they are going to have to spend over the next few years when all the lawsuits start coming out."
I'm glad Penn State never got the death penalty. That would make other teams in the Big 10, as well as those non-conference games that the Lions have scheduled over the next several years, have to suffer. That's unfair.
They certainly deserved to have their program axed. Only once has the NCAA killed a program, SMU back in the 1980s, and they still haven't recovered. The sins of the Mustangs look mild compared to Penn State's cover-up of Sandusky's sexual exploitation of young boys, which occurred over a long period of time.
I have met Joe Paterno. I actually shared a taxi with him once when Tennessee was playing Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix back in 1992. He was friendly and talkative. Never in a million years would I have thought that he could be anything but squeaky clean. Maybe it was those plain, generic uniforms that Penn State always wore, or maybe it was because Paterno always looked the same along the sidelines, in his white shirt and tie and the white socks shining above his sneakers.
Heck, while most major college programs throughout the country have at least done a little something to get the NCAA spying and nosing around, the governing group had never investigated the Lions for anything. Ever.
They really didn't investigate them over the Sandusky scandal. They didn't need to. They just took the scathing report that was issued by the university investigators and threw the book at them.
The NCAA also took away all the wins Paterno had collected from 1998 until 2011. That's 111 victories. He got the coaching wins record that he desired, but now, after his death earlier this year, he must give them back.
He was over 80 years old, for Pete's sake. He should have retired years ago with his legacy intact. But he didn't, and now we know that he wanted that record so badly that he was willing to go to lengths that would eventually destroy his legacy, and tarnish his school's image, in order to get that mark.
Taking away the scholarships might not sound like much, but when you're running a major college powerhouse, that's very big. Remember when Alabama had to give up some scholarships when they were on probation over the Memphis booster affair in 2002?
An assistant coach in Memphis claimed that an Alabama booster had paid him $50,000 to encourage one of his players to sign with the Tide. Alabama was placed on probation and lost 21 scholarships over three years.
It took them a while to recover. And they gave up much fewer scholarships than Penn State will relinquish. I don't know if Alabama would have fully recovered yet if the Tide hadn't coaxed Nick Saban to come to Tuscaloosa and right the ship.
While Alabama lost 21 scholarships over three years, Penn State, through the 2016 season, can only sign 15 recruits a year. Most teams can sign 25. Starting with the 2014 season, the Lions can only have 65 players on scholarship through the 2017 season. The usual scholarship limit for Division 1 schools is 85.
Jerry Sandusky will probably spend the rest of his life in jail. That's where he belongs.
Penn State will spend the greater part of the next decade, and beyond, trying to regain at least a portion of the reputation that has been ruined.
The NCAA made a point. No person can ever be bigger than the school or the athletic program.
Not even Joe Paterno.
This time, the NCAA got it right.