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NCAA brings heavy penalties against Penn State

College SportsCollege FootballThe Pennsylvania State UniversityNCAAAbusive BehaviorFinancial AidFootball

INDIANAPOLIS — NCAA president Mark Emmert Monday declared that no punishment will repair the damage caused by Penn State's child sex-abuse scandal.

The hope, Emmert said, is that the NCAA's penalties levied against the school's football program will help rebuild a culture that enabled the "perverse and unconscionable" actions to occur.

The NCAA didn't shut down the program as some had predicted, but it did impose severe sanctions in the wake of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky's conviction of 45 counts of criminal child sex abuse and a report that indicated university officials helped cover up the abuse.

Penn State will pay a $60 million fine, is banned from postseason play including bowl games for four years and will vacate its 112 wins from 1998-2011. The team also will lose 10 initial scholarships — given to first-year NCAA athletes — for four years beginning in 2013-14 and will drop its total number of scholarships from 85 to 65 for four years beginning in 2014-15. The university was put on five years' probation.

"No matter what we do here today, there is no action we can take that will remove (the victims') pain and anguish," Emmert said. "What we can do is impose sanctions that both reflect the magnitude of these terrible acts and that also ensure Penn State will rebuild an athletic culture that went horribly awry.

"Our goal is not to be just punitive, but to make sure the university establishes an athletic culture and daily mindset in which football will never again be placed ahead of education, nurturing and protecting young people."

Joe Paterno, formerly the winningest coach in NCAA history with 409 career victories in 46 seasons at Penn State, had 111 of his wins removed from the record books. (Paterno was fired on Nov. 9, five days after Sandusky's indictment, and Penn State won one game under his interim replacement, Tom Bradley.)

Paterno's total dropped to 298 victories, and that leaves him well behind new leader Eddie Robinson of Grambling (408 wins). Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden now heads the list of Football Bowl Subdivision victories with 377.

"It's like people have a vendetta against Joe, and all he did was what he was supposed to do, as a head coach. He reported (Sandusky) to the school president, and to the athletic director. And now they are acting like Joe was the cause of it all," said former Penn State and Baltimore Colts running back Lenny Moore. "It's Sandusky who brought this thing it where it is, yet they are making an example of Joe. They're taking away his records, his statue.

"It seems like ever since Joe passed, everyone has been leaping at him, for whatever reason — and he's not here to defend himself. I'm very, very disappointed."

The $60 million fine, equivalent to one year of gross revenue from the school's football program, according to the NCAA, can be paid over a five-year period and will be put into an endowment to assist victims and for external programs to prevent child sexual abuse. The NCAA didn't specify the source of the funding, but Emmert said it is insisting that it doesn't come at a cost to other athletic programs and scholarships.

Along with the football scholarship losses, Penn State football players may transfer without loss of eligibility or may retain their scholarships if they decide to remain at Penn State but stop playing football.

Penn State announced Monday that it has accepted the NCAA sanctions.

"Today, Penn State takes another step forward in changing the culture at the institution as we accept the penalties of the NCAA for the failure of leadership that occurred on our campus," Penn State acting athletic director David Joyner said in the release. "We are deeply disappointed that some of our leaders could have turned a blind eye to such abuse, and agree that the culture at Penn State must change."

Chris Jeffery, a Penn State graduate and CEO of the Canton-based start-up LocalUp LLC, called the sanctions "harsh" — not just for people associated with the football program, but for local business owners in State College, Pa., too.

Jeffery's company got its start and still does business in State College with LionMenus.com, a website that offers online restaurant ordering. In Baltimore, the company runs EatBmore.com, a similar site.

The sanctions, including the ban on the post-season, could shrink crowds on game weekends, Jeffery said.

"There are probably going to be less visitors on those big weekends, and those big weekends are a big driver of revenue for businesses," he said.

He expects his own company to do worse in its State College market in coming years, as fewer people in town make online orders, he said.

"As a business owner you have to plan for a dip in revenue," he said. "Ultimately the NCAA sanctions are hurting people like us, who had no idea what was going on."

The Big Ten Conference announced its own sanctions, including a four-year ban on conference championship games. Penn State will forfeit its share of Big Ten revenue from bowl games during its ban, approximately $13 million, to be donated to charitable organizations for the protection of children.

Emmert said the NCAA reserves the right to conduct investigations into individual involvement in the case and impose potential disciplinary action after criminal proceedings.

The process by which Penn State is being punished steps outside the usual realm of NCAA enforcement. The NCAA typically investigates a potential major violation and sends a notice of allegations to the institution, which has 90 days to respond. The case usually moves toward a hearing in front of the Committee of Infractions, which releases a report on its findings 8-12 weeks after it reaches a conclusion.

The NCAA heavily relied on the report conducted by former FBI director Louis Freeh and the criminal findings in the Sandusky trial to make its decision.

"Not only does the NCAA have the authority to act in this case," Ed Ray, chairman of the NCAA executive committee, said, "We also have the responsibility to say that such egregious behavior is not only against our by-laws and constitution but also against our value system and basic human decency."

Some media members had argued for the NCAA's "death penalty," last imposed on a major college football program against Southern Methodist in 1987. But Emmert said the sanctions were created to help rebuild the Penn State culture.

"An argument can be made that the egregiousness of the behavior in this case is greater than any other seen in NCAA history and that therefore a multi-year suspension is appropriate," Emmert said. "After much debate, however, we concluded the sanctions are needed to reflect our goals of driving cultural change as much as applying punitive actions.

"Suspension of the football program would bring with it significant unintended harm to many who have nothing to do with this case. The sanctions we have crafted are more focused and impactful than that blanket penalty."

Still, Jeffery said, Penn State will rebound.

"We'll take it and we'll come back stronger than ever," he said. "I think that you'll see that Penn State current students and alumni and donors give back to the school, even more so now, because that's the kind of people we are."

ckane@tribune.com

Baltimore Sun staff reporters Mike Klingaman and Steve Kilar contributed to this story.

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