Are the Sanctions Against Penn State a "Death Sentence"?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Yesterday's announcement of the Penn State football program's future was considered by some a "death sentence" for the former powerhouse. A decision with many harsh consequences, including $60 million in fines and dethroning Joe Paterno as the winningest football coach in NCAA history.

Some analysts and reporters are saying that the ruling was too harsh, and that any sort of recovery will be a slow and grueling process. The Paterno family released a public statement emphasizing the unfair ruling and the detrimental effects for the student body. 

Gary Belsky, former editor of ESPN The Magazine and, explains the complications of the ruling and the precedents set forth by the NCAA sanctions. He believes that the penalties represented a larger message that the NCAA wanted to send to football programs across the country. 

"I think they were, in the main, appropriate," Belsky says. "The message was that college football, college sports in general, at the Division I level, has gotten out of control. It's become a big business [that] has very little to do with the whole concept of student athletics." Teams rake in millions of dollars of revenue in what is a multi-billion-dollar enterprise

"I think what Emmert was trying to say was that there needs to be a recalibration throughout college sports in terms of the seriousness with which people take these games," Belsky says. "Having said that, the NCAA oversees a gigantic business, and it's going to be hard for people to unwind from the stakes that such a business requires people to invest." 

"Having spent 14 years covering sports and being involved in the sporting industry, it's hard to imagine a bigger cesspool than major college athletics," he says. "The level of hypocrisy and dissonance from what is going on versus what people pretend is going on is astounding."

In the coming months, graduating high school student athletes will have to wonder whether or not they will consider accepting an offer to play at Penn State. Belsky has some advice for them. "I would advise them to think of themselves as being a different grand experiment, which is trying to put back some of the cleanliness into major college football," Belsky says. 

"They can think of themselves as part of an enterprise that's trying to actually return college football to its probably theoretical roots — it's always been a little bit scummy — but I think there's at least a chance to take Penn State and use it as an example of, 'Hey, we're here just to play sports and learn the lessons from sports that we're supposed to learn.'"


Gary Belsky

Produced by:

Robert Balint and Ashley Wandishin

Comments [8]

Raf from Boston, MA

I think the sanctions were fair. For all those at Penn State and those supporters of Paterno, it is understandable why they are so upset. But their "anger" shows exactly what the problem was. That the culture of football overshadows and controls all normal and reasonable thought processes. I am sure Mr. Paterno had many great qualities. But no one is God, except God. No on is infallible. Maybe they can learn to admire peoples actions and achievements. And not the person as a whole. No one is perfect, and one should accept when one was wrong. And if we admire them, we should accept when they were wrong. so avoid being dissapointed, and simply admire what they did.

Jul. 24 2012 11:39 AM

Hockenberry calls this a "sex scandal", that implies two adults. Please refer to the crime as child rape a more appropriate term.l

Jul. 24 2012 10:15 AM

I had nothing against Penn State until listening to Alumni, fans, students and other supports react to the penalties imposed by the NCAA. Clearly they see themselves as the victims and it would have been more appropriate to express similar outrage on behalf of the true victims in all of this. That school still doesn't get it and never will. No sympathy here. I appreciate that it's hard to see past your own bias to your school. That's why others have to do it for you. Sanctions deserved...period!!!!!!!!!!

Jul. 24 2012 09:38 AM
BK from NJ

The intern has her head in the sand. The reason that the few men at the top of this scandal did what they did, is because of the culture of the school that placed the importance of the football program above te rest of the school and of course above the children being abused.
I am a graduate of a prestigious high school dealing with a sex abuse scandal. I am in the same shoes as the intern. But she and many other alumni are in denial to think that the emails are only euphemisms and not concrete evidence of a cover up. Penn State's actions, or inactions, are despicable an directly led to the abuse of more children.
The NCAA is hypocritical though, given the amount of money made off the labor of unpaid students.

Jul. 24 2012 09:37 AM
Laurie Mann from Pittsburgh, PA

The whining by the Penn State community on the just punishment by the NCAA is really annoying. Paterno's legacy should have been that he was a fine coach who required the Penn State football players to be student athletes when so many other colleges ignored the "student" part. Instead, because he didn't have the ability to understand that he was supporting child sexual abuse when he didn't pursue real punishment for Sandusky. He did more to tarnish his own legacy than the NCAA ever did, but the folks in Happy Valley refuse to acknowledge that fact.

Jul. 24 2012 09:34 AM
Ed from Larchmont

I agree with the intern's view. The institution, unless it had this as a policy, isn't the problem, it's the people who committed the crime, to whatever degree they did.

Jul. 24 2012 08:05 AM
Michael from New York City

I wish the penalties included 2 minutes of silence for the next 2 years,for the victims of sexual abuse, so,that the focus could remain on the crime and how the lives of these innocent children were affected. I am afraid the reason behind these sanctions will soon be forgotten.

Jul. 24 2012 07:34 AM
Ed from Larchmont

I wish the outrage people feel at child sex abuse could be felt for abortion, which is a worse attack on children.

Jul. 24 2012 05:54 AM

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