Just over a week ago, we pondered what the NCAA’s role in the Penn State scandal might be. NCAA president Mark Emmert said that the Association would monitor the events as they unfolded and “defer in the immediate term to law enforcement officials since this situation involved alleged crimes. As the facts are established through the justice system, we will determine whether Association bylaws have been violated and act accordingly.”
As we know it to be right now, Penn State hasn’t violated any bylaws in the traditional sense because the NCAA rule book isn’t designed to handle a case like this — although one of you brought up an interesting point that Jerry Sandusky had emeritus status at the time of the alleged 2002 incident. Still, the NCAA announced today that it will begin looking into the Penn State situation.
“I am writing to notify you that the NCAA will examine Penn State’s exercise of institutional control over its intercollegiate athletics programs, as well as the actions, and inactions, of relevant responsible personnel,” Emmert wrote. in a statement “We recognize that there are ongoing federal and state investigations and the NCAA does not intend to interfere with those probes.”
In an interview with Kai Ryssdal of marketplace.org, Emmert hinted that the NCAA could get involved with Penn State because of ethical behavior — or, lack thereof. Here’s the Q&A:
Ryssdal: I want to start with Penn State, obviously. The NCAA’s position so far, your statements, have been that you’ll let the law play out and then the NCAA will investigate as appropriate. I wonder, though, whether this isn’t another example of big-time sports, big-money sports, driving institutions of higher education.
Emmert: Well clearly if those allegations are true, they’re obviously despicable and they point to a culture that is fundamentally awry in which that kind of behavior could occur without being responded to in all the appropriate ways.
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.
It’s important to state that this is a criminal investigation and the NCAA has no jurisdiction over the law. Could the NCAA have a case for a violation of ethical conduct or lack of institutional control with appropriate facts? Yes, but based on bylaws being broken. Clearly, though, the Association feels it has enough information to investigate.
What repercussions, if any, from this investigation will be brought will be interesting to see.