November 18, 2011
Could Mark Emmert be changing his tune on bringing NCAA sanctions to Penn State?
For the past couple weeks, the NCAA president has been noncommittal about interjecting his organization into the ongoing child sex scandal that has descended on Penn State. But today Emmert sent a letter to acting university president Rodney Erickson alerting him that the NCAA plans to look into "Penn State's exercise of institutional control over its intercollegiate athletics programs" in the wake of grand jury findings that multiple university officials — including now-former head coach Joe Paterno — allowed longtime defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky to remain connected to the program and have unsupervised access to football facilities for years after they were informed of allegations that Sandusky had sexually abused children in those facilities.
In an interview with National Public Radio's Kai Ryssdal, Emmert suggested that charges of lack of institutional control could be levied against the university:
Ryssdal: As the body that is charged, in theory, with guaranteeing the safety of student athletes in American colleges and universities, how are you going to do that? What is your role in something like Penn State?
Emmert: Well we have rules and bylaws that -- while they were never written to address anything quite like this of course -- they speak directly to the control that institutions have to maintain over their athletic departments and their programs. And they speak very directly to ethical behavior of people in those programs and we'll apply those bylaws, and if the allegations hold up, then we'll act accordingly.
Ryssdal: Let me make sure I understand you: There is room here for NCAA sanctions against Penn State?
Emmert: We have a very strong interest in making sure that our programs are reflective of the best values of athletics and of universities.
Since Penn State became embroiled in a littany of sexual abuse charges against Sandusky two weeks ago, Emmert has maintained that the NCAA would monitor the situation and wait for the legal process to sort itself out. Emmert has been very vocal about his personal feelings regarding the Penn State scandal, which might be driving an attempt to get the NCAA involved.
"My reactions are similar to almost everyone who's looking at this right now and it's pretty much one of stunned, disbelief, anger and frustration — all of those emotions come pouring out," Emmert said in an interview with ESPN on Nov. 10. "You can't read the 23-page testimony without having your stomach turn and asking yourself, 'How in the world does this happen?' "
Of course, any potential NCAA violations are taking a major backseat to the legal ramifications that are still looming. There are several rules in the NCAA rulebook that deal with honesty and sportsmanship, ethical conduct and exemplary conduct, which all could be applied to this case and put the Penn State football program in some pretty hot water for a very long time. It's clear — and Emmert has even said it himself — that this is the worst scandal to ever rock the NCAA and perhaps one of the worst in sports history period.