National Columnist

It's liberty or death for Penn State football if the NCAA gets involved


Should the NCAA punish Penn State for Jerry Sandusky's crimes? (AP)  
Should the NCAA punish Penn State for Jerry Sandusky's crimes? (AP)  

The NCAA has to kill off the Penn State football program -- for Jerry Sandusky. For years. Maybe longer.

That's the next step, the only step, assuming the NCAA gets involved at all. That's not an assumption I'm willing to make in the real world -- I'm on record, back when this story broke in November and then again last week, that the NCAA has no jurisdiction in this criminal matter -- but for the sake of argument, it's an assumption that must be considered by all of us.

Starting with the NCAA.

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So listen up, NCAA, and understand just what you'd be digging into, if you decide to dig into Penn State. You'd be digging into a death-penalty case. No other punishment would suffice. Not for this scandal, the worst scandal in the history of college sports.

Ten little boys were molested or worse, raped outright, by the former defensive coordinator at Penn State. That's what we know. How many victims never came forward? Another two or three? Another 10 or 20? Sandusky used his Second Mile foundation to groom victims, and he started Second Mile in 1977. Although Penn State officials received eyewitness accounts about Sandusky's criminal behavior in the late 1990s, they never stopped him. Not until police stepped in last year was Sandusky kept away from children.

That's 34 years after Sandusky created Second Mile. And 42 years after Penn State hired Sandusky on its football staff.

How many bowl bans would pay for a serial pedophile running amok for 30 or 40 years?

How many lost scholarships? How many years without televised games?

How much probation?

You see the point, I'm sure. The crimes committed by Jerry Sandusky -- the crimes that weren't stopped by Penn State years ago -- go well beyond normal NCAA sanctions. In 2010 the Southern California football team received the most severe punishment in decades when the NCAA gave USC a two-year postseason ban, took away 30 scholarships over three years and placed it on probation for four years.

Imagine the NCAA announcing similar sanctions for Penn State, as if failing to stop a pedophile from raping kids in the football facility's shower is tantamount to failing to stop Reggie Bush's parents from living in a nice house.

The NCAA has hit a school harder, of course. It gave SMU football the death penalty in 1987. Young men were paid at SMU. Young boys were raped at Penn State. One seems a lot worse than the other, you know?

So as far as the NCAA is concerned, it's death penalty or nothing for Penn State. That's all it can be, one or the other, and here is where I'd like to remind you that I think it should be nothing. I think the NCAA has no jurisdiction over this particular case, because in this particular case NCAA rules were not broken. The only applicable NCAA rule, honestly, is the all-encompassing "lack of institutional control," and this where you'd like to remind me that if a former defensive coordinator raping boys isn't a lack of institutional control, what is?

It's a powerful argument, but it's logically empty. No offense, I swear. Logic is hard to muster when it comes to this story. People wanting the NCAA to crush Penn State are taking a position fueled by emotion and compassion and vengeance -- and I feel all three myself.

But pry yourself away from Penn State for a second and look at, say, Florida football under Urban Meyer. Or Tennessee under Phil Fulmer. Or Georgia, now, under Mark Richt. Player arrests mounted -- almost 30 in five years under Meyer at Florida -- and isn't that a lack of institutional control? Sure it is. These schools have had players on scholarship, on campus, who have been arrested in waves.

The institution cannot control them.

And yet it's not an NCAA issue. Nor should it be. If players are getting arrested at Florida or Tennessee or Georgia or anywhere else in America, it's up to the coach, the athletics director, the school to mete out punishment until the arrests stop. But it's not an NCAA issue. The NCAA, quite literally, has no jurisdiction even though its institutions are lacking control.

Same thing with Penn State. No institutional control? Clearly. Terrible crimes? Yes. But the Jerry Sandusky scandal is not an NCAA issue.

Unless the NCAA says it is.

Frankly, it doesn't matter what I say. It might matter what you say, because NCAA president Mark Emmert strikes me as a politically correct weathervane, blown by the wind into whatever position he thinks America wants him to take. And if he thinks America wants him to take on Penn State, he will.

So I finish this story by addressing it directly to Mark Emmert:

Are you prepared to give Penn State the death penalty, President Emmert? Are you? Because there are only two options for the Nittany Lions, as it relates to the NCAA.

You can give them liberty.

Or give them death.

Gregg Doyel is a columnist for He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.

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