When news of the Penn State scandal involving former coach Jerry Sandusky broke, conversations raged over the possibility of the Nittany Lions football program potentially receiving the “death penalty” due to the severity of the allegations.
A Pennsylvania state court ordered the NCAA to turn over 477 emails which may or may not have influenced the findings of the Freeh Report that was conducted on Penn State University after the allegations initially arose. The findings of the Freeh Report eventually lead the NCAA to impose multi-year sanctions and vacated wins for the football program as well as a massive fine placed on the school.
NCAA decision-makers almost took it a step further by eliminating the football program for an undetermined amount of time.
Among those emails submitted by the NCAA, the Associated Press‘ Mark Scolforo reported “on July 17, 2012 — less than a week before the Penn State sanctions were announced — a majority on the NCAA executive committee favored the ‘death penalty’ that would shut down the football program for several years.”
The only college football program to famously receive the “death penalty” was the SMU Mustangs in 1987. Mustangs football returned two years later, but the repercussions of the action were felt for 20 years after originally receiving the penalty from the NCAA.
Unlike SMU, Penn State wasn’t considered a repeat offender. It was within that framework arguments were made that Penn State should continue the program.
“In a subsequent call we informed you that it was Penn State’s cooperation and transparency that encouraged members of the executive committee to forgo the pursuit of a stop in play,” NCAA attorney Donald Remy wrote in the email.