NCAA could take action against Penn State

The NCAA has been very quiet since the Penn State sex-abuse scandal broke, issuing only a brief statement by president Mark Emmert that emphasized the need to let the process play out.

But Emmert broke his silence Thursday and Friday in several interviews with media outlets. And he addressed a critical question: Will the NCAA investigate what happened at Penn State and possibly take any action against the athletic program?

This is a tricky case because the allegations at Penn State aren't typical NCAA violations. They don't directly involve recruiting. They don't involve academics. They don't involve extra benefits for student-athletes. What type of charge could the NCAA level against Penn State ?

Unfortunately for PSU, it's the most serious charge: lack of institutional control.

Here's what Emmert told National Public Radio's Kai Ryssdal:

Ryssdal: As the body that is charged, in theory, with guaranteeing the safety of student athletes in American colleges and universities, how are you going to do that? What is your role in something like Penn State?

Emmert: Well we have rules and bylaws that -- while they were never written to address anything quite like this of course -- they speak directly to the control that institutions have to maintain over their athletic departments and their programs. And they speak very directly to ethical behavior of people in those programs and we'll apply those bylaws, and if the allegations hold up, then we'll act accordingly.

He's clearly talking about lack of institutional control, a vague, blanket-level type charge that can cover unique situations like Penn State's. The scandal at Penn State not only affects the football team or the athletic program, but the entire institution.

More from the NPR interview:

Ryssdal: Let me make sure I understand you: There is room here for NCAA sanctions against Penn State?

Emmert: We have a very strong interest in making sure that our programs are reflective of the best values of athletics and of universities.

Penn State has bigger issues right now, more important issues than its football program's future. There are numerous questions to be answered at every level of the institution.

But Emmert's comments indicate Penn State is not in the clear with the NCAA and potential violations. Just the opposite.

The potential for an NCAA investigation and penalties will be a factor in Penn State's coaching search, as candidates will want to know what the program could be facing. Right now, it's hard to say.