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NCAA missing mark on discipline


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Beautiful minds, stupid decisions.

I would admit that I’ve never been a big fan of the NCAA’s punishment decisions. Lord knows, this committee has a very tough job.

But somewhere along the line, common sense went out the window.

For reference, I give you this season’s Big Ten football race.

Penn State should be playing for a Big Ten championship.

Now, before you spit up into your Wheaties, let me explain. I know why the NCAA came down on the program. I understand that a sick, twisted individual was allowed to prey upon children while university administrators looked the other way. I get it.

But the NCAA doesn’t get it. What happened was a crime against humanity, and that’s why we have a legal system.

That’s why we have arrests, trials and convictions. That’s why we have prisons. That’s why we have a system for lawsuits.

That’s not why we have an NCAA. Or at least it shouldn’t be.

I’m sure the knee-jerk reaction to the entire Jerry Sandusky tragedy and its coverup was to beat Penn State over the head in whatever ways we could. The NCAA certainly didn’t want to look complacent. It wanted to send a message.

But at what expense?

If any of these NCAA penalties would prevent one child from being abused in the future, I would say it’s all worth it. As it is, the wrong people are being punished. Our legal system is getting it right. The NCAA, not so much.

When the penalties were announced, NCAA President Mark Emmert talked about coming up just short of a total shutdown of Penn State’s football program.

“The suspension of the football program would bring with it significant unintended harm to many who had nothing to do with this case,” Emmert said in a release. “The sanctions we have crafted are more focused and impactful than that blanket penalty.”

If the NCAA really cared about those who had nothing to do with this case, it could have started by making a simple adjustment to this penalty. Penn State would have been bowl ineligible beginning four seasons from now. That way, any athlete in the program could graduate and anyone new to the program would know exactly what they would be facing. They could have started yanking scholarships a couple of years down the road to allow those currently in the system to finish out their college careers without being at a competitive disadvantage. The penalty would have been, essentially, exactly the same without punishing any of the current athletes.

The comeback, of course, would be that anyone in the football program was allowed to transfer this year to get away from this entire mess.

I would submit that if you believe all those NCAA commercials that the athletes are students first, then we have lost sight that many of those current football players have waited their whole lives to be Penn State students, and not just Penn State football players. I think what we have seen is that many of them looked at the overall picture and were reluctant to transfer. They stayed at Penn State because they love the university. To punish this group is wrong.

The NCAA grows more powerful each year, and that is scary to me. If it were just a private club, I wouldn’t give a hoot as people could join or not join at their own risk. But many of the NCAA members are public institutions that receive our tax dollars.

We have a voice in our legal system and how it works. We never will have a voice in how the NCAA works and how its decisions affect institutions that we fund along with students from our communities.

Emmert says that the NCAA’s mission is “to be an integral part of higher education and to focus on the development of our student-athletes.”

So how about sticking to that mission?

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