July 23rd, 2012
05:04 PM ET

Do sanctions alter history books on Penn State and Paterno's legacy?

The NCAA's actions on Monday seem to be about more than just punishing Penn State's future football teams for the school's role in the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

In addition to the fines, bans and other sanctions it handed down that will hurt the storied program for a long time, in some eyes, the NCAA has wiped out almost all of the success of teams under coach Joe Paterno starting the moment he learned about Jerry Sandusky's actions but didn't do anything about it.

"Obviously, the 1998 date was selected because that's when the first reported incidents of abuse occurred and that's when the failure to respond appropriately began," NCAA President Mark Emmert said during a news conference on Monday. "And that was the point of time from which one could make an argument, of course, that the failures began inside the institution, so it seemed to both me and the executive committee that that was the appropriate beginning date."

Emmert's message was clear: The NCAA was choosing to punish a culture of silence, a culture that protected the program above all moral obligations and those responsible for making it that way.

Vacating wins has long been a debate in all sports. And so there is no surprise that the NCAA's ruling on Monday sent the debate over the decision to vacate the wins into a tailspin. But it raised questions about the implications the sanctions will have on past and current players, Paterno's legacy and ultimately Penn State's place among the best football programs.

Some say you can erase the wins, but it is an empty punishment that does nothing to move the university forward and doesn't ultimately change the facts. Others say it is the best way to punish a school: by wiping out a massive chunk of its history.

ESPN analyst and lawyer Jay Bilas told CNN that while the Penn State situation is egregious, the NCAA failed in doling out the penalties to the right people.

He believes the NCAA hammered the institution but failed to really hit those he believes are responsible, including former President Graham Spanier, former Athletic Director Tim Curley, former Interim Senior Vice President for Business and Finance Gary Schultz and Paterno.

“All any of them had to do was communicate (the Sandusky reports) to someone else. And all of them chose to be silent,” he said. “That’s unforgivable and unconscionable. The suggestions or implication that the football culture made them abandon their human decency is kind of offensive. Football didn’t do that; that was done by four individuals in positions of authority that could not be counted upon to do the right.”

And the message sent by the NCAA and Penn State based on the consent decree, Bilas believes, is that the culture of football was at fault, and so that institution should be punished. But Bilas believes that message neglects to get at the really heart of the issue.

“Putting this off on football just glosses over the fact that individuals were at a fault here, and they are not being held to account,” he said.

Bilas said he understood the frustration and anger of current and former Penn State players who say that by punishing the institution, the NCAA was punishing them, too.

"Yes, Joe Paterno turned out to be a really bad person. But he won more games than any college coach in history. That’s a fact," Forbes writer Mike Ozanian wrote. "Barry Bonds holds both the all-time and single season home run records in baseball. That’s a fact. We might not like either fact. But we should also be treated as mature and adult enough to be able to discern on our own the difference between sports heroes and villains."

For the players on the affected Penn State teams, taking away those 112 games means they have essentially become collateral damage to the institution they so proudly represented on the field, when they probably had no idea what was happening off the field. The 2005 team will argue that its one-loss season and Orange Bowl win cannot be erased.

Who pays the price for sanctions? | What happens to Penn State football?

Others argue that the scars of their efforts still remain even if the win column looks different. Adam Taliaferro, a former player under Paterno, tweeted about a plate in his neck that is a lasting reminder of his spinal cord injury from playing at Penn State.

For them, the emotions and the sacrifices that they left on the field have been tainted. Former Penn State player Derek Moye says the vacating of victories ordered by the NCAA can't erase his memories of what he has been a part of.

Former Penn State player A. Q. Shipley tweeted a picture of rings he won at Penn State.

And former defensive end Devon Still tweeted a picture of a ring that was given out to players when Paterno passed the 400-win mark. No NCAA ruling will take that moment for him, he said.

Almost all of the former players note that their frustrations pale in comparison to those of the victims. But still, this sanction in particular stings deep for them. They believe they are paying the price for actions they did not commit.

Bilas said that is often the case when it comes to NCAA sanctions.

“The NCAA winds up more often than not sanctioning institutions rather than individuals,” said. “They’ve always punished into the future and the ones that are left behind. This is business as usual. It is always the current players that take the hit, the current coach that takes the hit.”

Bilas had hoped that sanctions would include show-cause orders for the top officials as a way to force Penn State to disassociate themselves with those involved at the highest levels.

A show-cause penalty has been used by the NCAA to punish coaches and officials before. It essentially puts penalties on them not just at their current jobs but also should they choose go elsewhere, often leaving them without a job at the college level.

In some ways, vacating the wins can be seen as the biggest slap in the face possible. It may in part be the least overall harmful sanction, but it may have the longest impact. In some ways, it forever alters the history books on Penn State and Paterno's legacy as a whole.

“I think it's pretty clear that this was about dismantling a football program that the NCAA executive committee and board felt had gotten too big,” Bilas said. “That conclusion is inescapable. They wouldn’t have involved itself but for the fact that football was omnipotent and revered to that level.”

Paterno, as the most visible and symbolic figure of the institution, has perhaps been hit the hardest. On top of Penn State removing the statue of the man who defined the program for years, the move of vacating wins dethrones the Happy Valley hero from the title he clung to most: the winningest coach in college football. He achieved it during his last game, and many close to him said that goal was what he was holding on to as he coached into his later years.

Vacating the wins may be the least overall harmful sanction, but it may have the longest impact. In some ways, it forever alters the history books on Penn State and Paterno's legacy as a whole.

Photos: Final tributes, Paterno statue removed

The NCAA's move sent Paterno from the top of the heap with the most wins down to 12th all-time and fifth for Division I schools.

Paterno's family issued a statement saying that they feel the coach has unfairly been defamed and now shamed without having the chance to defend himself.

"The release of the Freeh report has triggered an avalanche of vitriol, condemnation and posthumous punishment on Joe Paterno. The NCAA has now become the latest party to accept the report as the final word on the Sandusky scandal," the family said in a statement. "The sanctions announced by the NCAA today defame the legacy and contributions of a great coach and educator without any input from our family or those who knew him best."

Penn State review recasts story of football hero Paterno

Now, his friend Bobby Bowden sits at the top of the heap as the winningest coach.

And Bowden knows a thing or two about being in the midst of NCAA troubles. He had 12 wins vacated by the NCAA for the time he was coach at Florida State University relating to ineligible players and an academic scandal. With those wins, he would have been sitting atop Paterno for the most wins even before the NCAA sanctions.

Bowden said he remembers how upset he was having those wins taken away, but he acknowledges that a much more horrible situation occurred at Penn State than just academics or player issues.

"I'm not rejoicing," Bowden told CNN.

The coach said he was truly surprised at the extent of the measures taken by the NCAA.

"I guess they felt that with the extent of what happened with Sandusky and the way it was handled," those measures were appropriate, he said. "I didn't expect them to take that many away."

The vacating of all of those wins does not just have an effect on what we will say about Paterno. It also largely shakes the standing and legacy of Penn State in the history books, which now is no longer one of the Top 10 winningest football programs of all time.

Penn State, however, unlike Paterno, has had the chance to give input and respond to the Freeh report. And the school is making a statement by saying it will not fight the view the NCAA has taken about previous inaction.

And ultimately, it has agreed to not challenge the NCAA's harsh perception of the past but also self-sanction the school's future and ultimately rewrite Paterno's entire legacy.

Paterno loyalists call NCAA sanctions excessive

soundoff (1,035 Responses)
  1. Eat Mor Chkin'

    They are however keeping the library named after Paterno. This will be a reminder to patrons that they need to "Keep Quiet".

    July 24, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • skipper Sam

      Sush Please be quiet, No talking to child welfare officials in the Paterno library !

      July 24, 2012 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Newt Hamlin

    I have no personal connection with Penn State, except that over the years I have heard a lot of good and bad about Paterno from people who do have a connection. The most damning confirmation of the bad and the facts in this case is what has been learned about the former PSU vice president for student affairs. She paints a picture of a bully who was the final authority regarding the athletic department, not someone who could have just "reported" incidents to his "bosses." She was forced to resign in ignominy; now she is revered for trying to stand up against him.

    July 24, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. 12970

    For the record, the record Joe hung on to claim is really held by John Gagliardi of St John's Minnesota, as reported in my morning newspaper. He is still actively coaching with a record of 484-133-11. Paterno now claims the record for most consecutive losses. Penn State and Paterno will hold the record for eternity. I'm just glad Paterno did not live to see the wreckage. I wish the new coach well in rebuilding the program, I just hope the administration gives him a fair chance.

    July 24, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. forgetthis

    Can someone tell me what NCAA rules Penn State violated? I didn't see any specific rule mentioned in the article. If no NCAA rules were broken, I don't understand how they have the right to enforce any of these penalties. The people who had nothing to do with the horrible things Sandusky did are now paying the price. That doesn't seem like justice to me. Why aren't the members of the Board of Directors being scrutinized? I bet they had knowledge of what was happening, but all they got was a slap on the wrist.

    July 24, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Stark from Texas

    The real punishment will come during the CIVIL litigation case against PSU and the claims against former President Graham Spanier, former Athletic Director Tim Curley, former Interim Senior Vice President for Business and Finance Gary Schultz and Paterno's estate. The $60M fine the just got is going to look like chump change. All these clowns are going to kiss their all their assets goodbye.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Daniel Boulanger

    The captain is a criminal? Burn the boat with all the passengers in it!
    That doesn't make any sense!

    July 24, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Elvis

    By standing with full knowledge and thereby allowing kids to be abused for FOURTEEN YEARS, Joe Paterno is nothing more than a criminal child molestor himself. The sanctions were not even half of what I would impose on that utter disgrace of a University and I completely agree with vacating the wins. I would further support barring the University from any kind of Football program. They lived with the knowledge now let them live with the shame.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • GoAwayPlease

      The flaw in your statemnet is "full knowledge". Actions were alleged and not witnessed by anyone but a fellow named Mike McQueary – who did not report it to police. Paterno reported the "allegation" to the Chief of Police Services and then went about running a winning, $90 million dollar a year business. Paterno commited no crime. Read up before you "pontificate".

      July 24, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • skipper Sam

      What did Joe Know
      And when did he know it ?

      I think the NCAA IS CLOBBERING ANYONE who knew about these allegations and failed to protect the kids !
      Btw I would fire the janitorial staff who knew too ..

      July 24, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Report abuse |
  8. WillyWalnuts

    What the NCAA did to Penn State is akin to what the Taliban does to the family of those who they perceive as their enemy... murder the innocent people not involved. The NCAA has no legal ability to penalize Penn State – especially when no NCAA rules were violated. PSU should tell the NCAA to go "pound sand".

    July 24, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • skipper Sam

      Sure sure tell the NCAA to pound sand

      Then see you football team join the Canadian Interuniversity Sport football .
      I am sure your 106,000 seat stadium will sell out for your home games against.
      University of Toronto Varsity Blues
      University of Ottawa Gee-Gees
      McMaster University Marauders
      York University Lions
      University of Windsor Lancers

      Heck Windsor's South Campus Stadium seats 2,000

      July 24, 2012 at 10:39 pm | Report abuse |
  9. GoAwayPlease

    When the 100,000 or so people in the community surrounding Penn State start to think "the worst is over, we can begin to heal.." some outsider throws a grenade through the door. The NCAA has no legal authority to penalize when no rules were broken. Yet they keep throwing grenades. One jailed, one dead, two charged and punish the innocent retroactively? Illegal.

    July 24, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • skipper Sam

      oops you miss this ?

      On June 10, 2010, USC was forced to vacate two wins from the 2004 season, and all wins from the 2005 season, after an NCAA investigation into the football program (and men's basketball program) declared Bush retroactively ineligible. Additional sanctions included a bowl ban in 2010 and 2011, and the loss of 30 football scholarships (10 per year in 2010, 2011, and 2012

      July 24, 2012 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jerry

    Take all money from Joe Pa and his wife that was earned over the last 14 years, and give it to the victems
    I GUARANTEE THE CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN WOULD SCREAM AND SAY NO WAY. even though that money was earned due to the cover up of children being abused

    July 24, 2012 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. DR

    As reprehensible as were Sandusky's actions and the subsequent attempts to cover them up, the NCAA's erasure of Penn State's victories over a 13 year period is simply absurd and even harkens to the days of Soviet style manipulation of history and facts. It's not as though Paterno stole the play books of opposing teams, force fed his players steroids, or did anything that would specifically provide an advantage for his teams. The facts are that real players of Penn St. who toiled the entire season and who were in no way whatsoever connected to this scandal labored to win those games and as such their history deserves not to be erased or altered. It may be permissible to discuss the way in which the scandal severely tarnishes Paterno's legacy, but a complete modification of history over a 13 year period is itself a deplorable abuse of the NCAA's authority and serves as a bad example to the veracity of history that academia purports to teach, maintain and preserve for posterity.

    July 24, 2012 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • skipper Sam

      oops another one

      5 years after his final game. For reviving gifts, not for failing to protect children.

      Because of what Reggie Bush had done FIVE YEARS !! EARYLER !! On June 10, 2010, USC was forced to vacate two wins from the 2004 season, and all wins from the 2005 season, after an NCAA investigation into the football program (and men's basketball program) declared Bush retroactively ineligible. Additional sanctions included a bowl ban in 2010 and 2011, and the loss of 30 football scholarships (10 per year in 2010, 2011, and 2012

      July 24, 2012 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • DR

      Skipper Sam,
      You're mixing apples and oranges. The NCAA gift rule is in place in order to prevent teams from giving improper incentives to high profile candidates during recruiting or preventing a star athlete from transferring to another university. If high profile athletes were to be seduced by gifts or money, then an obvious recruiting advantage would occur for a particular university. The USC/Bush case was a clear violation of this rule.

      July 25, 2012 at 6:32 am | Report abuse |
  12. smarty

    This is dumb, you can't erase what Sandusky did by "taking away" wins that Paterno's teams' won. You can't erase History PERIOD. Kind of like the way people want to just say the Holocaust "never" happened and to think that people would buy into it. One word comes to mind "IGNORANT" The only thing that can help the victims is a time machine to go back and stop it from happening. I think the Fines are good, and the investment in Abuse charities is a fantastic idea though. To take away and erase wins of all the past teams from over a decade isn't fair to the players that put in their heart and souls. That doesn't make any sense

    July 24, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • smarty

      One more thing, I agree that Paterno was and is guilty but the teams that won those games are not guilty.

      July 24, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • skipper Sam

      Wow 3 in a row who never have heard of Bobby Bowden Reggie Bush or USC football

      July 24, 2012 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
  13. lady*sbi

    Seriously.....why doesn't everyone see that Paterno did what he thought he could at the time. He followed the chain of command as he had learned it within the University. He wasn't really certain what had taken place. He just knew something had happened and he reported it. He left it to the ones that were suppose to handle it to handle it......they dropped the ball. The earlier allogation of Sandusky in 1998.......it was known, but nothing ever became of it.....so one was to assume that there was nothing.....unless you were doggedly following and investigating personally.....there is no way someone could have known the degree of Sandusky's sickness. Please do not blame Joe Paterno and make him into a bad man as if he committed the crimes. That is just not right. He made a mistake in not doggedly following through to see exactly what was taking place.......Truthfully.....how many of us would have done the same thing in his same place. I am not a Penn State Fan.....I root for Notre Dame......but I believe in fairness of judgement. Joe Paterno is not being judged fairly. Everything he has done and accomplished is being cast aside when his character would never have committed such acts. Let's put the blame where it belongs......Jerry Sandusky......a truly evil, evil man. I think if Joe Paterno would have walked in on Jerry Sandusky in action........there would have been hell to pay......and he would have delivered it personally. I think time will reveal all of the truth. Right now my prayers are with the victims. Let this be a lesson to all of us......to keep our eyes and ears open for our youth......and speak loudly if we think anything is happening that is inappropriate......and intervene on their behalf.....no matter what the cost.

    July 24, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • sergio

      You seriously believe Paterno would of raised HELL? If he didn't when he was told of the incident what makes you think he would if he saw it with his own eyes? Lady get your head out of your ass!

      July 24, 2012 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • skipper Sam

      I worked at Disney
      If i heard that a Supervisor was raping kids in the bathroom , I think all of you would expect me to do more than bump the report to the next level.
      What do you think would happen at Disney, if they allowed the same stuff to occur under their watch ?

      July 24, 2012 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Joe Paterno RAN that university. Anything he said, went. It's a weak excuse to say he reported it, when he was the absolute power at PSU.

      With great power comes great responsibility.

      July 25, 2012 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
  14. WheresTheJustice?

    The NCAA is rediculous !! In 1998 the Centre County District Attorney refused to file charges against Sandusky due to lack of evidence. Now every Penn State football player (& fan) since then is severly penalized ? Thousands of innocent people have & will be adversely affected by this... wait for the backlash !!

    July 24, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Broadcasting

      If PSU didn't want to play by NCAA rules.....they should not have joined. It's that simple.

      July 24, 2012 at 7:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rise-Up Penn State

      @Broadcasting = PSU broke NO NCAA RULES. Look it up.

      July 24, 2012 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • skipper Sam

      So what happened their Matlock ? Why did they refile the charges ?

      July 24, 2012 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • skipper Sam

      Great arguement. So what happened there Matlock ? Why did they refile the charges ? Somebody drop the soap ?

      July 24, 2012 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Diana

    Why didn't the NCAA follow its usual procedures and have a formal inquiry? Could it be that Penn State officials preferred the incredibly harsh penalties to having all sides present evidence and argue their case? Does anyone think that Penn State officials would be happy if Paterno were vindicated? A formal NCAA inquiry may have been the only opportunity for Paterno's defense to be presented, so maybe they were afraid that exculpatory evidence would be presented and the Freeh report would not hold up to scrutiny. Maybe they were afraid that information they don't want people to know about would be discovered. At very least the NCAA would have conducted its own investigation and gotten input from all parties. Even if the NCAA believed the Freeh report, why wouldn't they at least listen to what others might have presented? It plain just looks bad that they changes their procedures to prevent anyone from raising any questions. A formal inquiry would have benefited the public, no matter with the outcome.

    July 24, 2012 at 7:41 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • skipper Sam

      If your right then Penn State is allowing the memory of Joe Paterno to fall on his sword .

      Maybe the cover up goes way higher than Joe Pa

      July 24, 2012 at 11:08 pm | Report abuse |
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