‘Stark Wake-Up Call’ for Penn State? Not for This SMU Grad
Earlier today the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) slapped Penn State with a $60-million fine and took away 14 seasons of football victories from the late Joe Paterno.
Adding a kick in the gut, the NCAA also banned PSU from the postseason for four years and limited the program to 15 football scholarships a year for four seasons. (Read about the full sanctions here.)
So that’s it?
Are you kidding me?
Can we really say that the punishment here fits the crime? Are these sanctions severe enough for football program whose officials – including the head coach - concealed evidence that former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky sexually abused minors?
Let me tell you the story of another football program that got it way worse for something that technically speaking, wasn’t even a crime against the law.
The Death of SMU Football
In 1987, the NCAA found the football program at Southern Methodist University (SMU) guilty of recruiting violations (basically SMU was paying some of its players). As a result, the NCAA took out it’s big guns and shot SMU’s football program right between the eyes. Known as the death penalty – the harshest penalty a NCAA member school can receive – banned SMU from competing in football for the 1987-1988 season.
Here’s what the sanctions looked like in full, according to Wikipedia:
- The 1987 season was canceled; only conditioning drills (without pads) were permitted until the spring of 1988.
- All home games in 1988 were canceled. SMU was allowed to play their seven regularly scheduled away games so that other institutions would not be financially affected. The university ultimately chose to cancel the away games as well, wiping out football for two full seasons, instead of just one. (I started at SMU in 1991, so trust me when I say SMU football at that time was painful to watch.)
- The team’s existing probation was extended to 1990. Its existing ban from bowl games and live television was extended to 1989.
- SMU lost 55 new scholarship positions over 4 years.
- The team was allowed to hire only five full-time assistant coaches instead of the typical nine.
- No off-campus recruiting was permitted until August 1988, and no paid visits could be made to campus by potential recruits until the start of the 1988–89 school year.
In justifying the sanctions against SMU, the NCAA infractions committee cited the need to “eliminate a program that was built on a legacy of wrongdoing, deceit and rule violations” as a factor in what is still the harshest penalty ever meted out to any major collegiate program.
Let me repeat. So even given the Penn State/Sandusky scandal, the sanctions faced by SMU are still considered “the harshest penalty ever meted out to a major collegiate program.”
And I have a major moral issue with that.
The thing is, SMU committed NO CRIME. While SMU broke NCAA rules by paying some of its players with money and cars, the infractions had nothing to do with the abuse of a child. No child was harmed. No crime against a child was committed. There was no harboring of criminals. Still, SMU’s death penalty remains the worst penalty ever.
In stark contrast, the officials at Penn State empowered a sexual predator. THEY LET A MONSTER ROAM FREE. They allowed a sick and deranged individual to continue getting his sexual “fix” on young boys – all in the name of football, which makes me sicker than a dog left out in this 100-plus degree Texas heat. Bottomline, Penn State sacrificed the sanctity of children to keep Sandusky’s “problem” under wraps.
And all SMU did was pay its players.
I’m sorry, but that pales in comparison of what went down at Penn State. We aren’t talking apples to apples here. It’s more like apples to rotted oranges.
A $60-million fine will never come close to making up for the mental and physical anguish suffered by these children that will most likely haunt them for the rest of their lives.
Taking away scholarships will never make up for the horrendous sexual crimes that were allowed to take place in showers, in locker rooms and behind closed doors.
And removing a statue of a revered coach will never erase the scars left by a football culture built on a legacy of abuse, cover ups and lies.
SMU might have been in the wrong for paying some its players, but I’ll defend my Alma mater all the way into next week when it comes to upholding the law.
“The corrective and punitive measures the executive committee and the Division I board of directors have authorized [against Penn State] should serve as a stark wake-up call to everyone in college sports,” said Ed Ray, chairman of the NCAA’s executive committee.
And yet, the NCAA stopped short of handing the death penalty to Penn State.
Does anyone else see a disconnect here?
Holler loudly if you do. I’m all ears as big as Texas.