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Sandusky, Stupidity and the NCAA

June 25, 2012
Jerry Sandusky

Jerry Sandusky is led away from court
after his conviction.

(Nabil K. Mark, Centre Daily Times/AP Photo)

So the Jerry Sandusky horror story has run its course, ending with the serial pedophile being found guilty on 45 of the 48 counts that made it as far as the jury. While sentencing is still a little way off, it’s expected that Sandusky will face more than 400 years in prison. The reality is that unless he is either the Biblical Abraham, or — given prisoners’ general disdain for child predators – invincible, he will die in prison.

You would think this would end the saga. You would be wrong.

In the four days since the verdicts came down and in all honesty while the investigation was ongoing, you see calls for the NCAA to step in. I’ve heard the call for NCAA action from people I respect a great deal like ESPN Radio’s John Kincade, as well as the general collection of braying jackasses that scream before thinking – either as a matter of timing or inability to do the latter. The question is, step in and do what exactly? What would you ask an organization that is designed to police eligibility and amateurism issues – and does it poorly, I might add – to do to handle a criminal matter?

The answer seems to be – at least in some circles – the “Death Penalty” for Penn State, which is ironic in that it asks for an organization that has no jurisdiction in this matter to enforce a penalty that is, at least euphemistically, more severe than the actual criminal received.

The Death Penalty refers to the NCAA’s authority to ban a team from competition, and here in Kentucky we know the term all too well. In 1952-53 University of Kentucky basketball received such a ban and the legion of basketball fans who hate the program scream “Death Penalty” whenever somebody associated with the University sneezes in the wrong direction.

Calling for the “Death Penalty” in the Penn State case shows a shocking ignorance of two key factors – how the penalty is incurred currently and who will be punished should the NCAA fold to pressure and figure out a way to weasel its way into this one to score cheap PR points.

SMU Pony Express

Craig James and Eric Dickerson were the stars of the only team you’ve heard of that has received the Death Penalty, and for something the NCAA actually controls — as best it can.

The current criteria for the Death Penalty involves repeat offenses, period. If you are put on probation and have a second violation within five years, you are a candidate. The only major team to get the Death Penalty since the criteria took effect was Southern Methodist football in 1987, which was the subject of one of the great ESPN 30 for 30 shows in the past year. Go watch it. SMU has never recovered and since then the hammer has only been dropped on teams nobody cares about.

“BUT LACK OF INSTITUTIONAL CONTROL!!!!!” the people who want Penn State punished scream. Well, so? Even if you assume a lack of institutional control in the NCAA sense (which means a failure to monitor NCAA relevant functions, NOT ensure that nobody on your staff is committing monstrous crimes), Penn State wouldn’t be eligible for the Death Penalty, so can we all PLEASE calm down.

Beyond the inappropriateness of an NCAA investigation and Penn State’s ineligibility for the Death Penalty, can we at least stop to think who gets punished if the NCAA does somehow hammer Penn State? It’s not the coaches – they are all dead, in jail (and likely soon to be dispatched) or unemployed/unemployable. And it’s not the administrators who covered things up – they are also unemployable and likely to join Sandusky in prison (assuming they hurry there). It’s everybody left over — players, coaches and administrators who did NOTHING wrong, who weren’t there when any of this took place. How much sense does it make to punish them simply because it satisfies your bloodlust, especially when you are asking for the rules to be changed without warning or input from the NCAA membership (which can’t happen, by the way, but never mind that)? None. At all.

Sure, the University as a whole would suffer from the loss of revenue, so I guess in a sense that’s justice in some way, but not in any way that serves any of Sandusky’s victims or their families. It only serves your sense of….whatever.

Regardless, there is no rational way in which NCAA involvement makes any sense and it needs to be avoided.

Gay in London

Tyson Gay and Mark Buerger

One of us was the fastest man in the world.

And no not that kind of gay (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but Lexington sprinter Tyson Gay overcame a year’s worth of injuries to qualify for the US Olympic Track and Field team that will compete in London in July with a second-place finish in the 100-meter dash at the US Olympic Trials. And I honestly can’t remember the last time I was so happy for an Olympics qualifier.

Maybe it’s because Gay is the only Olympic athlete I think I’ve ever actually met in person. He keynoted a sales kickoff that WAVE 3 in Louisville put on around their Olympic ad sales that included a component benefiting Special Olympics.

He could not have been nicer. Quiet and humble (a rarity for top sprinters it seems), Gay gave a great presentation about following his dreams, and after the luncheon stayed around for photos with the athletes (and me) and spent a long time talking sprinting with one of the Special Olympics runners.

Even if he wasn’t from Lexington, I would want Gay to bring Gold back to the United States just because he seems like a good guy. Wish him all the best.

  1. Breona permalink

    Good not agree more about NCAA. They should probably work on what they are already supposed to be regulating…better yet, start over!

    Re:Gay- Great guy and equally great athlete. He was humble even in high school when we was beating every guy on the track by at least 10 meters…hard to do for any 16-17 yrs old guy

  2. You and I see eye to eye. Sanctions were uneccessary as this horrible story would have kept players away from Penn State for years on its own. The stigma would have been enough without penalties. This was never a sports story. It was a slow month, so I understand why the sports media kept picking at this story, but its not a sports story. Its a sexual abuse story and the abuser happened to be a football coach. But the media treated it like being a football coach was Sandusky’s defining quality, as if had he been a mechanic, things would have turned out different and as if this has something to do with football coaches in general. “The NCAA is going to send a message that enough is enough and football can’t be larger than life” I remember reading. As if child abuse and slipping a kid a $50 bill under the table are comparable and connected. Nope. Sandusky had everyone fooled for years and it seems like that whole community should take more responsibility for it- parents and police and neighbors. Everyone-everyone- cleared and hero-worshipped the guy. So he was a master at masking his true self or else everyone is equally culpable in ignoring warning signs however subtle. Seems like they are scapegoating Joe Paterno. They made him a saint and now they make him a devil just as fast. Neither is true, I’m sure. But at the university there were a handful of guys who knew and they will be punished. But not by NCAA. And it was only a handful of guys.

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