Almost since the day news broke of Jerry Sandusky's horrific abuse of children, many people--including some on this site--have called for Penn State's football team to pay the ultimate price in the form of a "death penalty." Well, it turns out that the death penalty was indeed on the table. Penn State president Rodney Erickson said that had he not signed the consent decree implementing some of the harshest sanctions in collegiate history--including a $60 million fine and a four-year bowl ban--Penn State was staring down the barrel of a death penalty.
“This is the decision you make: Accept the consent decree or the (NCAA) board will go in another direction,” Erickson said. “So we accepted that, and I signed it on behalf of the university (Sunday) night.”Erickson went further in an interview with ESPN's John Barr, saying that Penn State could have faced as long as a four-year ban from play had it not accepted the sanctions. NCAA president Mark Emmert subsequently told Pat Forde that Penn State saved itself by commissioning the Freeh report and accepting the sanctions that were imposed yesterday almost as they were originally proposed.
“I think, generally speaking, that the community felt that playing was better than not playing,” Peetz said.
Erickson said Penn State could have faced a multiyear shutdown of football and still would have endured additional penalties had he not taken the NCAA’s terms.
“I accepted this consent decree on behalf of the university, knowing that if we did not accept the sanctions we most surely would have faced the death penalty for football over multiple years and the prospects of additional sanctions,” he said. “I felt, after conferring with board leadership and others, that it was in the best interest of the university to accept the sanctions that were offered rather than have the death penalty imposed on Penn State.”
I have to admit, I'm surprised. My impression was that Penn State had saved itself from a death penalty by not hiring one of Joe Paterno's assistants as his successor. After all, it was obvious from the time the sanctions broke that Paterno's assistants all knew about their former comrade-in-arms' actions and yet did nothing. It makes me wonder--what was so egregious that made the NCAA hang this sword of Damocles over Happy Valley? Did players know about Sandusky's debauchery and not report it? Or was it something else?
The NCAA made it clear it was out for bear--or in this case, lion--by vacating all of Joe Paterno's wins from 1998 to 2011. As I mentioned yesterday, it seems that the NCAA felt that had Penn State exercised any sort of control over the football program, Paterno would have been fired for his assistants' knowing that Sandusky was taking little boys into the shower and not reporting it. But the mere fact that the death penalty was still on the table, and that Penn State staved it off by essentially adopting the posture of supplicants begging for mercy, makes you wonder just what else the NCAA found out was happening in Happy Valley.