Why the NCAA’s Sanctions on Penn State Are Just Dead Wrong


By Dave Zirin, The Nation

At 9 this morning, a crime took place masquerading as a farce. NCAA President
Mark Emmert, a man who in 2010 called Joe Paterno “the
definitive role model of what it means to be a college coach,
” levied a
series of unprecedented sanctions against the football program Paterno built,
the Penn State Nittany Lions. Emmert determined that the entire program had to
suffer because of the role the late Coach Paterno, along with other leading
school officials, played in covering the tracks of serial pedophile Jerry
Sandusky. That collective suffering will mean a $60 million fine, a four-year
post-season ban and the vacating of all wins from 1998–2011. He said piously,
“Programs and individuals must not overwhelm the values of higher education.”
It’s not “the death penalty,” also known as the end of the football program, but
it’s life without the possibility of parole.

The discussion we should be having is how to organize the outrage of the Penn
State campus and the people of Pennsylvania to expel the entire Board of
Trustees. Just as the statue of Coach Paterno came tumbling down in the name of
turning the page at Penn State, the board should follow. We should be talking
about how to push for a full investigation of Governor Tom Corbett and his own
extra-slow-motion investigation of Sandusky when he was the state’s attorney general. Former
Governor Ed Rendell, as a board trustee during Sandusky’s continued presence on
campus, should be subpoenaed as well. But instead, we get the maiming of Penn
State’s athletic budget for the grand purpose of turning Mark Emmert and the
NCAA into something they have no legal right to be. Private, unaccountable
actors have no business cutting the budgets of a public campus. Today’s move by
Emmert didn’t bring justice to any of Sandusky’s victims. It didn’t help clean
house at Penn State. Instead it was extra-legal, extrajudicial and stinks to
high heaven.

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