NCAA president Mark Emmert continues active discussions with Penn State but awaiting an official response to the Freeh report before considering the application of specific penalties, but punishment is likely to be severe. In a harsh and pointed interview with Tavis Smiley of PBS, Emmert said he won't take anything, including the death penalty, off the table until he receives a detailed explanation from PSU officials. "I need to get a response back from them soon, right away," Emmert said in the PBS interview. Emmert did not rule out imposing the equivalent of the "death penalty," which effectively would cripple the football program for a number of years. It's possible Penn State will self-impose penalties include suspension of the program, reduction in scholarships and elimination of postseason. The NCAA is waiting for Penn State president Rodney Erickson to respond to the widespread, systemic failures detailed by former FBI director Louis Freeh last week that included the university's top administration and coach Joe Paterno. "I've never seen anything as egregious as this in terms of just overall conduct and behavior inside a university and hope never to see it again," Emmert said. "What the appropriate penalties are, if there are determinations of violations, we'll have to decide. We'll hold in abeyance all of those decisions until we've actually decided what we want to do with the actual charges should there be any. And I don't want to take anything off the table." Emmert chose his words carefully, but spoke authoritatively and decisively enough to imply major sanctions would be imposed. Oftentimes, the NCAA acknowledges open communication and full participation from university administrators but that appears unlikely in this particular instance. There is debate among NCAA legal experts whether the exact bylaws in place can be applied to the Penn State case. Emmert would only say the circumstances are "different" and without precedent. Recent "football scandals" that resulted in penalties for Southern Cal and Ohio State involved impermissible benefits and the most famous major college football "death penalty" application was at SMU in the 1980s. "This is completely different than an impermissible benefits scandal like happened at SMU, or anything else we've dealt with," Emmert said. "This is as systemic a cultural problem as it is a football problem. There have been people that said this wasn't a football scandal. Well it was more than a football scandal ... much more than a football scandal. It was that but much more. And we'll have to figure out exactly what the right penalties are. I don't know that past precedent makes particularly good sense in this case, because it's really an unprecedented problem."
- Penn State
- Tavis Smiley