Commentary

No winners as NCAA restores football victories to Penn State

NCAA restores 112 wins to Penn State after overreach by NCAA president, but there are no winners here

A lot of big words and numbers got tossed around on Friday.

It was said in some quarters that Penn State scored a "great" and "complete" victory after the NCAA, an organizing body in full retreat, announced it was restoring 112 victories to the football program under former coach Joe Paterno.

The NCAA had, in 2012, forced the school to vacate those wins as part of sanctions handed down in the Jerry Sandusky child-abuse case.

Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant coach, was convicted in 2012 of 45 counts of sexual abuse and is serving a 30-to-60-year prison sentence.

NCAA President Mark Emmert, in a power overreach so extreme it should have resulted in shoulder surgery, bypassed due process and unilaterally condemned Penn State to a series of draconian sanctions.

Emmert forced the school, faced with the worst scandal in sports history, to capitulate on all fronts as it faced national shame, scorn and horror.

That power play continued its recoil on Friday as the NCAA returned the victories that allowed Paterno to become major college football's most winningest coach again, with 409.

The NCAA caved in advance of a trial, on the legality of the sanctions, that was set to begin in weeks.

It marked the latest in a series of NCAA give backs in a continuing show of its weakened state, as the governing body faces mounting lawsuits and coroding credibility.

Emmert so botched the Penn State case by acting, not as a president, but as a czar, he ultimately undermined his own intentions.

Emmert's penalties included a four-year bowl ban, a $60-million fine, the loss of 80 scholarships and the vacating of victories since 1998.

The action was so over-the-top it prompted lawsuits from the Joe Paterno family and the state of Pennsylvania.

This put the NCAA in the position of having its process examined under oath, which maybe wasn't going to be pretty. It might have revealed how the NCAA coerced a Penn State confession, or exposed factual errors in the investigation conducted by former FBI Director Louis Freeh.

The severity of sanctions also inspired the family of Joe Paterno to fight like Nittany Lions for the legendary coach's reputation.

The NCAA, already in disarray as it faces a series of lawsuits that threaten its existence, has been retreating on the Sandusky scandal for months.

In the fall, it lifted the bowl ban on Penn State and restored scholarship losses. That was nice for the players who had nothing to do with this mess.

Friday, the NCAA handed the state and Paterno the redemptive "victories" they had long sought.

Jake Corman, the Pennsylvania state Senate Majority Leader who had challenged the NCAA, said at a Friday news conference: "The NCAA has surrendered. The agreement we reached represents a complete victory for the issue at hand."

Part of Friday's agreement stipulates that Penn State must acknowledge the NCAA, at least, acted in good faith.

The Paternos can celebrate the restoration of victories to Joe Paterno's legacy.

The family, in a statement, called the news "a great victory for everyone who has fought for the truth in the Sandusky tragedy."

Legal issues aside, though, there will never be any winners in the Sandusky case. There will only be bigger losers than others.

Paterno earned back his wins but questions will linger about how much he should have known about a longtime assistant coach who abused children in the locker room showers.

The NCAA's mishandling of justice should not equate to any large share of vindication.

The Sandusky story is as sordid and disgusting now as it was the day it came to light.

Penn State continues to "win" because the NCAA continues to lose. In part that's because the NCAA, as an organization, is lost.

In terms of the damage done and the innocents violated, however, no comfort in legal victory should ever be found.

Follow Chris Dufresne on Twitter @DufresneLATimes

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