Gotham City (wrongly) believed in Harvey Dent.
Likewise, there are people who (wrongly) believed in NCAA president Mark Emmert.
The heavy sanctions levied by Emmert against Penn State in the aftermath of the Freeh report was a result of public pressure, the justification to satisfy our culture’s bloodlust and demand for instant gratification. Someone needed to get clobbered at Penn State; it didn’t matter who.
The report, a multi-million dollar project spanning eight months investigating Penn State’s (in)action into the Jerry Sandusky allegations, was designed to unearth exactly when and where university officials went wrong, as well as act as a recommendation for new university policy to prevent further malfeasance.
Instead, it became the basis for Emmert’s unprecedented ultimatum to interim PSU president Rodney Erickson: accept a $60 million fine, four-year postseason ban, scholarship reduction and five-year probation — not to mention vacated 111 vacated wins — or get the Death penalty. The whole process bypassed traditional NCAA investigative protocol so fast, it had SEC speed.
In this case, that was too fast. And that’s not just, like, my opinion, man. A member of the Freeh Group told The Chronicle of Higher Education that Emmert misused the Freeh report as a substitute for normal NCAA investigative steps. Below are just some of the quotes to the Chronicle:
- “That document was not meant to be used as the sole piece, or the large piece, of the NCAA’s decision-making… It was meant to be a mechanism to help Penn State move forward. To be used otherwise creates an obstacle to the institution changing.”
- “The Freeh team reviewed how Penn State operated, not how they worked within the NCAA’s system… The NCAA’s job is to investigate whether Penn State broke its rules and whether it gained a competitive advantage in doing so.”
- “The NCAA took this report and ran with it without further exploration.”
Evidence of the NCAA’s rush to judgement is already tangible. While some coaches are claiming to take the high road of not actively recruiting Penn State players now free to transfer wherever they choose, others are much more open about it. Tennessee, USC, Illinois, Arizona and Kansas are among them.
That’s not a slight against any program pursuing a transfer — they’re doing exactly what they’re allowed to do — but in punishing Penn State officials’ criminal acts with athletic sanctions, the NCAA didn’t reprimanded the “football-first” culture in Happy Valley.
It pushed it elsewhere.
Would that have been avoided if the NCAA had gone through its traditional routine with a Notice of Inquiry, Notice of Allegations and Committee on Infractions hearing? Maybe not. The NCAA can only punish a program in so many ways because it lacks subpoena power. But at least there would have been another review, one the NCAA can directly point to as its own work rather than rely on another’s.
I’ve never been a fan of NCAA involvement with Penn State in this context, but I also realize it’s the governing body of over 300 Division 1 athletic departments. Something was inevitably going to be done.
Besides, the Sandusky story is one filled with missed opportunities and baffling dead ends to investigations that should have gone further. In an ironic twist, though, the NCAA dealt with a program that improperly shifted power to one individual by inflicting punishment in a similar fashion.
Now, anything’s possible with the NCAA outside its normal authority.