Penn State's Wins Since 1998 Vacated, Hit With $60M Fine

The NCAA today handed down a series of penalties against Penn State University that include a ban from post-season football bowl games for four years, a $60 million fine, the loss of Joe Paterno's victories from 1998-2011, and the loss of football scholarships, over its handling of a sex abuse scandal involving Jerry Sandusky, former assistant football coach. For more on this development, Steve Inskeep talks to NPR's Joel Rose.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.

Penn State says it accepts the sanctions announced this morning by the NCAA. College sports' governing body announced punitive sanctions against Penn State University after the child sex abuse scandal that has tainted the reputation of the football program and the former coach, the late Joe Paterno. Penn State will be fined $60 million and lose 14 years of victories, from 1998 to 2011, among other penalties. Here's the NCAA president, Mark Emmert.

MARK EMMERT: No price the NCAA can levy will repair the grievous damage inflicted by Jerry Sandusky on his victims. However, we can make clear that the culture, actions and inactions that allowed them to be victimized will not be tolerated in collegiate athletics.

INSKEEP: Let's talk more about this with NPR's Joel Rose, who's covering the story. He's in State College, Pennsylvania. Joel, good morning.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: We mentioned $60 million. We mentioned these victories being vacated. But that's not all the penalties.

ROSE: No. These - the NCAA describes these sanctions as unprecedented, and they are pretty extraordinary. You know, we got the $60 million fine, which NCAA officials say is equal to one year's revenue for the football program. That program will also face a four-year ban on post-season bowl game appearances, and will lose 10 athletic scholarships a year. Current players are allowed to transfer without losing eligibility. You know, taken together, that is - that's going to be very painful from a competition standpoint for this team.

INSKEEP: Oh, you think that through, yeah. It's like they can't get - they can't feel the strong a team as their opponents. Players are not going to be very motivated to go there, knowing they can't play in a bowl game, and they might even lose some of their current players.

ROSE: That's right. I mean, it's not the death penalty, which had been on the table. But it's pretty bad for the football program, from a competition standpoint.

INSKEEP: Although Penn State officials seem to have accepted this, according to a statement they put out.

ROSE: They did. You know, Penn State president Rodney Erickson was ready with a statement this morning saying that the university accepts the penalties and the corrective actions that were handed down by the NCAA, and Erickson emphasized that the school needs to create a culture in which people are not afraid to speak up. And he also emphasized that the $60 million fine that we mentioned, Penn State is going to be using that to pay into a fund to help support programs for the detection, prevention and treatment of child abuse.

INSKEEP: Remarkable, this mention of trying to change the culture, because Penn State - as everyone knows by knows by now - was the school where it seemed the culture was absolutely right, and the NCAA seems to be saying here that the culture was absolutely wrong.

ROSE: The NCAA officials said that in no uncertain terms, you know, that the egregious nature of what happened here is what prompted these unprecedented sanctions and penalties for Penn State football. You know, the NCAA usually gets involved when there's an issue on the field, when there's a question of competitive advantage, and when one team is getting an unfair advantage through recruiting violations, or something like this. That's usually when you see the NCAA step in. But in this case, you know, this is obviously something totally different. And the NCAA did step in and said that not only did they have the authority to act because of the cover up of criminal - of criminal behavior, but that they had the responsibility to do it, because of what happened here.

INSKEEP: I want to make sure I understand one of the smaller sanctions, but one of the more striking ones: the penalty that says that Penn State loses 14 years of football victories, going back to 1998, under Joe Paterno. Does this mean that Paterno is no longer the winning-est coach in college football history, which he had become late in his career?

ROSE: As I understand it, that's exactly what it means. You know, it was a huge point of pride with Penn Staters, that Joe Paterno was the winning-est coach in Division IA football history, with 409 wins, and he's now lost 111 of them, I believe. And that, you know, knocks him back well out of the top spot. And, you know, if you're a victim of one of these crimes, I mean, I'm not sure how much that will do for you. But, I mean, as a symbolic gesture, it's big, and it's very big. It's a real blow to the Penn State pride, here.

INSKEEP: Well, it knocks him out of the college football conversation. There would have to be these awkward mentions of Joe Paterno, whenever there was a coach with a lot of wins, for years and years and years to come. And now he can just be erased. Essentially, that's what happens, there.

ROSE: I think the NCAA would like it that way, yeah. I think that's a remarkable punishment for one man.

INSKEEP: And one of many punishments issued to Penn State today. Joel, thanks very much.

ROSE: Sure. Thanks for doing it.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Joel Rose in State College, Pennsylvania, where he's gathering in reaction to news that Penn State has been fined $60 million, among other punishments, for covering up or overlooking child sex abuse.

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