NCAA president Mark Emmert made it clear Monday that sanctions -- and potentially severe ones -- are very much in play for Penn State's football program in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
Emmert, speaking on PBS' "Tavis Smiley" show, said he'd like a swift response from Penn State to the letter he sent to school president Rodney Erickson in November. Erickson said last week that the release of the Freeh report would expedite his response to the NCAA.
Regarding potential penalties, Emmert had this to say to PBS:
"I've never seen anything as egregious as this in terms of just overall conduct and behavior inside a university and hope never to see it again. What the appropriate penalties are, if there are determinations of violations, we'll have to decide. We'll hold in abeyance all of those decisions until we've actually decided what we want to do with the actual charges should there be any. And I don't want to take anything off the table."
Emmert acknowledges the Penn State situation is unlike any case the NCAA has seen and doesn't deal with standard violations such as impermissible benefits or academic fraud. Many have argued that because there aren't typical NCAA violations, the NCAA should stay out of the situation entirely.
But there's also tremendous pressure for the NCAA, already seen as a weak organization that too often deals with trivial matters, to come down hard on Penn State because of the severity of the scandal and those it involved (head football coach Joe Paterno, athletic director Tim Curley).
"This is completely different than an impermissible benefits scandal like happened at SMU, or anything else we've dealt with," Emmert said, referring to the SMU football scandal that resulted in the so-called "death penalty" being imposed. "This is as systemic a cultural problem as it is a football problem. There have been people that said this wasn't a football scandal. Well it was more than a football scandal, much more than a football scandal. It was that but much more. And we'll have to figure out exactly what the right penalties are. I don't know that past precedent makes particularly good sense in this case, because it's really an unprecedented problem."
Emmert certainly sounds like a guy ready to levy penalties, and Penn State fans should take his comments very seriously, but we'll see if he actually follows through. The next step is for Penn State's response, which should come in the next few weeks.