Should the NCAA Punish Penn State?

by Greg Pollowitz

I asked that last night on Twitter. Most responded said yes; but Gregg Doyel of CBS Sports responded with:

None. What NCAA rule was broken? RT @GPollowitz: what penalty should NCAA give?

Well, specifically, I have no idea. But I would suspect something like, oh, I don’t know, maybe the ole “lack of institutional control” might do the trick. But take a look at the NCAA rules to see if you can find any. Did you know, for example, that coaches aren’t allowed to use tobacco products? Bylaw 11.1.5, page 51:

The use of tobacco products is prohibited by all game personnel (e.g.,coaches, trainers, managers and game officials) in all sports during practice and competition. Uniform penalties(as determined by the applicable rules-making committees and sports committees with rules-making responsibilities)shall be established for such use. (Adopted: 1/11/94 effective 8/1/94, Revised: 1/10/95, 1/14/97 effective 8/1/97)

I guess if Coach Sandusky were accused of rape of a young boy with a cigar in his mouth, then the NCAA could act. (Dear Bill Clinton: Sorry pal, but you can’t coach in the NCAA.)

One rule that I didn’t think about until browsing through the rules is the requirement that the NCAA certify who at Penn State gets to recruit high school athletes. Page 82-83 covers this certification: Off-Campus Contacts or Evaluations. Only those coaches who are identified by the institution,in accordance with Bylaws, and 11.7.4 may contact or evaluate prospective student-athletesoff campus. Violations of this bylaw shall be considered institutional violations per Constitution 2.8.1; how8313Recruitingever, such violations shall not affect the prospective student-athlete’s eligibility. (Revised: 1/10/91 effective 8/1/92,8/5/04, 5/26/06) Written Certification. A member institution shall certify in writing and have on file a list ofthose coaches who are permitted to contact or evaluate prospective student-athletes off campus. (Revised:5/26/06) Department-Wide Responsibilities. An athletics department staff member who has department-wide responsibilities (e.g., recruiting coordinator) may not contact or evaluate prospective student-athletes off campus unless the staff member is counted as a countable coach in the applicable sport (seeBylaw for restrictions related to recruiting coordination functions). (Revised: 5/26/06)

To recap: McQueary, who saw the alleged rape in the shower, was a) promoted from graduate-assistant to coach and b) made the team’s recruiting coordinator. Nobody at Penn State thought that the guy who failed to act to stop a sex crime might not be the best person to go out and be talking to minor boys about what a great place Penn State would be to play football?

As for when the NCAA might act, I think they’re making the right move and waiting until the legal process goes a little further. But to Penn State fans who argued to me last night that this isn’t a football matter, I say this: You’re high. Of course this is a football matter and if the NCAA doesn’t act in some way, the NCAA should cease to exist and a governing body that can police college athletics will take its place.