Penn State's athletic program in general, and its football program specifically, must pay a large fine, is prohibited from appearing in post-season play for four years, must reduce its scholarships, vacate 13 years of victories and complete a host of other actions, the NCAA announced Monday morning.
The penalties are the latest punishment to be handed down in connection with former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky's sexual abuse of children over a number of years, many of them in Penn State facilities, as well as the cover-up that Penn State's own internal investigation said occurred.
The punishments are unprecedented in that the NCAA announced them based solely on the judgment of President Mark Emmert, without action of its infractions committee, and without conducting its own investigation. The NCAA used the independent Freeh report, commissioned by the university's Board of Trustees, in determining what had happened and what punishment should be handed down.
“As we evaluated the situation, the victims affected by Jerry Sandusky and the efforts by many to conceal his crimes informed our actions,” Emmert said in a statement released by the NCAA. “At our core, we are educators. Penn State leadership lost sight of that.”
Among the punishments levied are a $60 million fine, which will be paid over five years and directed to programs that help victims of child sexual abuse. The $60 million represents one full year of revenue for the football program. The university will also be banned from appearing in post-season bowl games for four years, effective immediately, and the Big Ten Conference announced that, accordingly, it would withhold the university's share of conference bowl revenues. The NCAA punishments require the university to maintain all existing programs and budgets, except football, while still complying with the financial punishments its handed down.
The two other strongest penalties, a reduction of 10 scholarships per year for four years and vacating of all victories from 1998 to 2011. With the scholarship reduction, the NCAA announced that current student-athletes and athletes who have committed to Penn State will be able to transfer and play immediately, or re-open their recruiting. The victories that the university loses moved former coach Joe Paterno from first among all division I coaches for the number of victories, to 12th, irrevocably changing his legacy.
“There has been much speculation on whether or not the NCAA has the authority to impose any type of penalty related to Penn State,” Ed Ray, NCAA Executive Committee chair and Oregon State president, said in a statement. “This egregious behavior not only goes against our rules and constitution, but also against our values.”
Other punishments announced by the NCAA include a five-year probationary period, a requirement that all recommendations from the Freeh report are implemented as well as a host of other regulatory and development agreements.
Penn State announced that it had accepted the penalties and would move to implement them immediately. Football coach Bill O'Brien acknowledged the severity of the penalty, which is widely expected to cripple the football program for years to come, but said in a statement he was committed to moving forward.
"I will do everything in my power to not only comply, but help guide the University forward to become a national leader in ethics, compliance and operational excellence. I knew when I accepted the position that there would be tough times ahead. But I am committed for the long term to Penn State and our student athletes," he said.
Notably, the NCAA did avoid issuing the so-called death penalty, which would have prohibited Penn State from playing football for one or more seasons. But the NCAA held out the possibility of issuing just such a penalty if Penn State violated the terms of the probationary agreement that it spells out in its sanctions.