The figurative deconstruction of Penn State football continued Sunday morning, when workers unbolted the Joe Paterno statue from outside of Beaver Stadium and removed it from the premises. Good riddance.
The more substantive deconstruction of Penn State football will come Monday morning, via NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis. Good luck.
At 9 a.m. ET, NCAA president Mark Emmert will announce penalties levied against Penn State in relation to the Jerry Sandusky child molestation crimes and the school's unwillingness to do anything to stop it. This will be a defining moment for the future of Penn State football, and for the NCAA itself.
Emmert seems determined to go where no NCAA president has gone before. Not only is he willing and apparently anxious to involve his organization in a situation that does not fit neatly into NCAA enforcement bylaws, but he also seems willing to put on the Roger Goodell cowboy hat and sheriff's badge, making himself the chief arbiter of justice.
To the best of my knowledge, the normal NCAA enforcement process has not taken place with Penn State. No investigation by enforcement representatives, no notice of allegations, no formal charges against the school. Nor has there been a Committee on Infractions hearing, wherein the school is afforded the opportunity to rebut any violations it is accused of, or a meeting of the committee to assess penalties.
[Related: Penn State to learn NCAA sanctions on Monday]
The most by-the-book institution this side of the IRS appears to have thrown the book out the window. Instead, we have fast-forwarded through every customary phase of NCAA justice, alighting on something that seems to more closely approximate the NFL's current credo: In Commissioner We Trust.
Fact is, I don't trust Emmert or anyone else at the NCAA to deliver a punishment that fits the crimes of Jerry Sandusky and those who enabled him. As I've stated repeatedly, this is no place for the NCAA and its manual. This is for the criminal and civil courts to decide – and, if Penn State has the leadership and the courage, the school itself.
As I wrote last week, Penn State would best be served by playing football this fall as a non-profit entity. Every penny of profit over expense should be turned over to help victims of child sexual abuse in the State College, Pa., area, or to fund research into what makes (and could unmake) a pedophile. The loss of profit should not be taken out of the budgets of non-revenue sports, either – whatever belt-tightening would occur from losing tens of millions of dollars in revenue must come out of the football program itself. I'd like to see Penn State challenge its Big Ten and Division I cohorts to follow its lead and make major donations to the same cause or a similar one in their communities.
That would be a substantive and productive move by Penn State, and it would keep the NCAA and its capricious penalty structure out of a situation where it does not comfortably belong.
But that doesn't appear likely now.
To be sure, this is a situation that by itself has broken the college sports scandal mold. We've never had a story this sickening. We've never had an NCAA case involving a sexual predator and a school that simply shrugged at his horrifying behavior. We're in new, stomach-turning territory.
So you can understand the urge in Indianapolis to find a different method for dealing with Penn State. Grinding through the labyrinthine NCAA process and arriving at a punishment a year from now doesn't seem to fit the situation. Whatever was going to happen needed to happen quickly, and it has.
But if the NCAA can ignore procedure now, what does that say about its enforcement viability going forward? If the system is deemed too slow or too rigid for this case, doesn't it need to be blown up and reinvented? There have been ongoing discussions for more than a year between enforcement director Julie Roe Lach, Emmert and others in the NCAA about making changes to the rules and their enforcement, but this radical jump outside the established boundaries could signal that the association has lost faith in its own structure.
Maybe it has. And maybe that should be the case. Lord knows the process of penalizing athletic programs has its critics.
But it's hard to imagine an NCAA penalty appropriate for Penn State.
A one-year "death penalty" ban from playing serves whom, exactly? Nobody in an active capacity at Penn State has been found to have had anything to do with the Sandusky disaster. The current players were children themselves when the school was abdicating its duty to protect children.
Yet if the NCAA insists on sticking its nose into this based on the unprecedented severity of the situation, shutting down the program makes more sense than the other traditional measures at its disposal.
Reductions in scholarships seem completely arbitrary – how many are appropriate when trying to determine the proper penalty for child rape? There is no right answer. A postseason ban for multiple seasons would probably come along with scholarship cuts, but also seems more like guesswork than a logical penalty.
So maybe Emmert will deliver a non-traditional penalty Monday that makes more sense. His approach already has been non-traditional enough in taking on this case, and moving so abruptly to the penalty phase without involving the Committee on Infractions or a hearing.
The outcome of this case will alter the future of Penn State football. And it might alter the future of the NCAA itself.
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