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NCAA Throws Match Into Forest Fire with Penn State Sanctions [OPINION]

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

When I heard that the NCAA had empowered president Mark Emmert to blow Penn State out of the water, I reiterated my thoughts that any penalty coming from the governing body of college sports would be like throwing a match into a raging forest fire.

After hearing Emmert unload both verbal barrels, I’ve changed my mind about one thing. Good on the NCAA for vacating Joe Paterno’s wins. It’s the kind of symbolic blow the NCAA can deliver that has just enough bite to sting.

But everything else — the $60 million fine, the four years probation, the bowl ban, allowing other schools to recruit PSU’s entire roster — is useless, if not dangerous.

The NCAA’s Executive Committee just went over its own head to gut a dead horse, and now its stable is nervous.

Emmert can say these were special circumstances and that he doesn’t believe he’s opened Pandora’s Box. Indeed, there was little mention of lack of institutional control or by-law this or sub-section that. It was all about integrity and honor and how a college football program should never be allowed to dictate the culture around it.

You’ll pardon Tuscaloosa, Norman, Ann Arbor and the entire state of Louisiana for attempting to stifle laughter, but you and State College, PA, get the point.

Then you hear that Penn State was forced to sign a consent decree admitting its guilt or risk losing its football program to the NCAA’s Death Penalty and you wonder who’s running the show in Indianapolis, Mark Emmert or Vito Corleone?

So now the NCAA is now making schools offers they can’t refuse?

Speaking of dead horses.

STAYING GROUNDED HARD WITH HEAD IN CLOUDS

Listening to Emmert drone on about creating a new culture at Penn State makes me wonder if he remembers how much he paid for the first suit he bought when he started taking himself too seriously.

That has to be one of the things you stop remembering when your office is above the 50th floor of the ivory tower.

Paterno probably never bought more than one nice suit at any stage of his life, but don’t kid yourself — when it comes to NCAA moralizing, I bet he and Emmert weren’t that far apart. If you doubt that, you might be forgetting one of the most serious candidates for the position Emmert now holds.

That would be ex-Penn State President Graham Spanier. The same man who signed off on protecting the Sandusky secret as the most prudent course of action for his university.

I will not say Emmert would have had the same response to Sandusky as Paterno and Spanier, I’m just saying the seeds are there with anyone capable of considering “the greater good”.

DUE PROCESS, ANYONE?

Watching the NCAA tribble grow teeth and hamstring Penn State football was hard to stomach, and one of the biggest reasons is the NCAA now appears more arbitrary than ever about how it metes out “justice”.

So now there’s a nuclear option that wouldn’t require all the normal steps the NCAA takes? They can just…do that?

The Freeh Report was plenty thorough and Emmert was right to call it a better investigation than anything the NCAA could ever do. But there was no NCAA Letter of Inquiry, no waiting to see if maybe Penn State would do something on its own, for Sandusky’s victims and others for who have suffered this crime.

Can the NCAA put someone in prison? No? Then it needs to recognize the insignificance of its role in this in relation to the subject matter and keep its big yap shut.

Instead we get garish grandstanding and petty punishment, the eye-popping “unprecedented” numbers making the NCAA look all the more like it’s compensating for its lack of real meaning.

How about this, NCAA: don’t insert yourself into a conversation that involves real law and order and victims of real crime and we’ll stop making judgements about how inadequate you are.

EVERY SILVER LINING HAS A DARK CLOUD

Yes, the fine money will go for an excellent cause. Maybe a little time would’ve allowed Penn State to come to this conclusion first, but the good that can come from the fine is inarguable.

Yes, I agree with stripping the program — read: Joe Paterno — of all those wins. That’s a real NCAA penalty and it points a spotlight to the murky core of what could be one of the real reasons Paterno stuck around all those years.

JoePa passed Eddie Robinson’s all-time record of 408 victories last season. If the Freeh Report is to be believed, Paterno was probably hanging around to play king of the hill and to show us all he did it with class while still having kept Penn State’s nose clean, when all along he was really covering another body part.

But making Penn State football wish for death?

I’m certain Emmert and others at the top believe they’re doing something important. But if they really wanted positions of authority in this case, if they truly desired to strike a blow for Sandusky’s victims, they should have run for the Centre County District Attorney’s job.

Anything else doesn’t matter, regardless of how many matches they strike.

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