Editorial: NCAA must keep Penn State sanctions

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

Penn State just can’t stay out of the headlines. 

The prestigious football program still faces sanctions imposed on it by the NCAA, which stem from the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal. 

But restrictions are easing up for the program. The NCAA dropped its postseason ban on Nittany Lion football in September, allowing the team to play Boston College in this year’s Pinstripe Bowl in New York City. And now the NCAA may further relax pelaties against Penn State, according to many news outlets.

Some may be happy to hear this news. Some may believe that the NCAA rushed to judgment when penalizing Penn State — after all, the media covered the story extensively. Perhaps now, a few years removed from the controversy, the NCAA thinks that current students and staff should not pay the consequences for the wrongdoings of those who came before them.

However, these notions still do not deserve to take away from the strong message that the NCAA’s sanctions on Penn State send.

And, thankfully, the NCAA has not yet taken any new action on these matters. But we urge the NCAA to stick to its original sanctions on Penn State’s football program, ensuring it pays the appropriate consequences for its actions.

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, the NCAA, state officials and Penn State are in discussions to restore Penn State wins back to the program — wins that were vacated as part of the program’s Sandusky scandal punishment. 

If the NCAA restores these wins and again goes back on its justly imposed sanctions against Penn State, it will send a message of wrongful priorities to all students and individuals across the country.

Remember the NCAA sanctions imposed upon University of Southern California in 2010 for wrongdoings in 2004 and 2005? The NCAA vacated the Trojans football team’s last two wins of 2004—a year in which it won the National Championship—and also vacated all of its 2005 wins. 

Why? Star USC running back Reggie Bush accepted gifts from agents before his collegiate career had ceased. Bush later voluntarily relinquished his 2005 Heisman Trophy in an effort to to put the controversy behind him and his Alma Mater.  

Although Bush and USC undoubtedly broke NCAA rules, there is no doubt that accepting gifts or signing autographs is a significantly less severe offense than making a minimal effort to expose known sex abuse of children. If USC and other teams must face consequences for prematurely accepting gifts, even when the same athletes, like Reggie Bush, consistently give back to their communities, Penn State should face its penalties to the fullest extent — no questions asked. Sandusky was convicted in 2012 of sexually assaulting 10 boys over 15 years. This behavior is despicable and unequivocally wrong, regardless of any other gray area surrounding the case. 

There are many areas of life far more important than sports. Guaranteeing children’s safety and wellbeing is one of them. We should all work together to ensure that nothing like the Jerry Sandusky scandal ever occurs on our college campuses again. 

By sticking to its initial sanctions against Penn State, the NCAA can play a major role in achieving that goal.