INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Penn State football was all but dismantled Monday by an NCAA ruling that wiped away 14 years of coach Joe Paterno's victories and imposed a mountain of fines and penalties, crippling a program whose pedophile assistant coach spent years molesting children, sometimes on school property.
The sanctions by the governing body of college sports also imposed unprecedented fines of $60 million, ordered Penn State to sit out the postseason for four years, capped scholarships at 20 below the normal limit for four years and placed football on five years' probation.
Current or incoming football players are free to immediately transfer and compete at another school.
The NCAA's sanctions following the worst scandal in the history of college football stopped short of delivering the "death penalty" — shutting down the sport completely. It actually did everything but kill it.
"The sanctions needed to reflect our goals of providing cultural change," NCAA President Mark Emmert said as he announced the penalties at a news conference in Indianapolis.
The NCAA ruling holds the university accountable for the failure of those in power to protect children and insists that all areas of the university community are held to the same high standards of honesty and integrity.
"Against this backdrop, Penn State accepts the penalties and corrective actions announced today by the NCAA," Penn State President Rodney Erickson said in a statement. "With today's announcement and the action it requires of us, the University takes a significant step forward."
Paterno's family said in a statement that the NCAA sanctions defamed the coach's legacy, and were a panicked response to the sex abuse scandal.
The family also says that punishing "past, present and future" students because of Jerry Sandusky's crimes did not serve justice.
The Big Ten announced that Penn State would not be allowed to share in the conference's bowl revenue during the NCAA's postseason ban, an estimated loss of about $13 million. And the NCAA reserved the right to add additional penalties.
Sandusky, a former Penn State defensive coordinator, was found guilty in June of sexually abusing young boys, sometimes on campus. An investigation commissioned by the school and released July 12 found that Paterno, who died in January, and several other top officials at Penn State stayed quiet for years about accusations against Sandusky.
Emmert fast-tracked penalties rather than go through the usual circuitous series of investigations and hearings. The NCAA said the $60 million is equivalent to the annual gross revenue of the football program. The money must be paid into an endowment for external programs preventing child sexual abuse or assisting victims and may not be used to fund such programs at Penn State.
"Football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing and protecting young people," Emmert said.
By vacating 112 Penn State victories from 1998-2011, the sanctions cost Paterno 111 wins. Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden will now hold the top spot in the NCAA record book with 377 major-college wins. Paterno, who was fired days after Sandusky was charged, will be credited with 298 wins. Vacated wins are not the same as forfeits — they don't count as losses or wins for either school.
"I didn't want it to happen like this," Bowden told the AP. "Wish I could have earned it, but that's the way it is."
The scholarship reductions mean Penn State's roster will be capped at 65 scholarship players beginning in 2014. The normal scholarship limit for major college football programs is 85. Playing with 20 less is devastating to a program that tries to compete at the highest level of the sport.
In comparison, the harsh NCAA sanctions placed upon USC several years ago left the Trojans with only 75 scholarships per year over a three-year period.
The postseason ban is the longest handed out by the NCAA since it gave a four-year ban to Indiana football in 1960.
Bill O'Brien, who was hired to replace Paterno, now faces the daunting task of building future teams with severe limitations, and trying to keep current players from fleeing to other schools. Star players such as tailback Silas Redd and linebacker Gerald Hodges are now essentially free agents.
Penn State football slammed with NCAA sanctions
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