NCAA Hands Out Severe Punishment For Penn State

Steve Inskeep has the latest on the NCAA's penalties against Penn State University.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

By now you may have heard the news - the NCAA, which governs college sports, has penalized Penn State University's football program for overlooking or covering up the abuse of children, the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

We're going to talk about this now with our regular sports commentator, Frank Deford, who's on the line. Hi, Frank.

FRANK DEFORD, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: And let's just go over the details here. The football program, once led by Paterno, Joe Paterno, does not get the death penalty as some had speculated, but it did receive a $60 million fine. Paterno's wins for 14 seasons, 1998-2011, are vacated, we're told. It's as if those wins never happened. Scholarships are reduced going forward. A variety of other penalties. What do you think, Frank?

DEFORD: Well, I think once they made up their mind, Steve, that this was indeed an athletic issue and not just a criminal issue, once they made up their mind, then they really had to give the stiffest of penalties, which I think they seem to have done. It may not be the death penalty - death penalty meaning complete elimination of football for a period of time - but I think you could call this a life without parole penalty. They certainly have come down as hard as the NCAA ever has on any school ever, no question about it.

INSKEEP: Is there any parallel for the NCAA involving itself in a case where it was a criminal matter and not, strictly speaking, a football matter?

DEFORD: I can't think of any, but as I said, they obviously determined that this was a football matter, in the following way: Why was there a cover-up? Was it to protect Jerry Sandusky? Only incidentally. What they were really trying to protect was the football program. If the word got out that one of the assistant coaches was a pedophile, it obviously was going to affect recruiting and affect the whole program.

So when you draw a line to that, it becomes very much not just a criminal issue but an athletic issue as well, and that's obviously the way the NCAA decided.

INSKEEP: Well, I'm going to ask, Frank, if you think that they were right to wade in. But first, let's hear what the NCAA says about this. Ed Ray, who's the chair of the NCAA's executive committee, clearly anticipated doubts about whether the organization should be involved in this case, and this was his answer at a press conference a short time ago.

ED RAY: Not only does the NCAA have the authority to act in this case, we also have the responsibility to say that such egregious behavior is not only against our bylaws and constitution, but also against our value system and basic human decency.

INSKEEP: That's Ed Ray of the NCAA making the announcement today. Was this the right move, Frank Deford?

DEFORD: I think it was, yes. I think that once they made their mind up - and I believe that it was an athletic issue - then they had to be very, very strict indeed. And I think it does tell us, though, sort of on the side, that the NCAA itself is not a very good investigative body.

INSKEEP: What do you mean?

DEFORD: Well, the fact that it was able to operate so quickly and come to such a quick decision, because Louis Freeh and his investigation had done all the work for them, and the NCAA itself is not capable of this kind of investigation. If it were, I think that a lot more schools would be punished. Not for - not for violations of this nature but that they would find many more schools in violation of NCAA rules.

INSKEEP: Frank, thanks very much for your insights. I appreciate it very much.

DEFORD: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's our regular sports commentator, Frank Deford. And again, the news here: Penn State's football program has been hit with a $60 fine, and 14 seasons of Penn State wins, Joe Paterno's wins, have been vacated, from 1998-2011, which means that on the record books Joe Paterno is no longer the winningest coach in college football history. Your listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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