Take Two: Punishment for Penn State?

Big Ten bloggers Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett will occasionally give their takes on a burning question facing the league. We'll both have strong opinions, but not necessarily the same view. We'll let you decide which blogger is right.

Former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of sexual abuse charges on Friday night, but some are suggesting that Penn State needs to be punished for allowing Sandusky to commit his crimes. The NCAA and Big Ten announced they would investigate the school back in the fall. So Today's Take Two topic is this: Should Penn State be subject to punishment from NCAA or the Big Ten?

Take 1: Adam Rittenberg

The NCAA is under pressure to take action against Penn State because of the scope and nature of this story, but if it does, it will be an unprecedented step. Was there a lack of institutional control (LOIC) at Penn State that allowed Sandusky to commit some of his despicable crimes on university property? Without a doubt. But not in the context where the NCAA levels its most serious charge against an athletic program. The LOIC charge surfaces when an institution makes blatant major mistakes in relation to NCAA rules compliance. Although it sounds like a blanket term, it really relates only to NCAA rules. And unless the Louis Freeh investigation or other probes show Penn State knowingly violated NCAA rules, I can't see how the NCAA penalizes the football program. I spoke to a source this week who used to be an NCAA investigator, and he explained that it's a jurisdiction issue. The NCAA governs NCAA issues with an NCAA program, not criminal ones. It only imposes the LOIC charge during major rules infractions cases. If a coach gets a DUI or beats his wife, as bad as those things are, they aren't issues where the NCAA imposes penalties. So while LOIC sounds broad and vague, it really is specific in how the NCAA uses it. Could the NCAA and Big Ten take action against Penn State? Anything is possible. But it would be a step outside the jurisdiction, judging by past cases. Maybe such a case merits a step, but programs aren't punished for administrative failure and possible cover-ups relating to criminal activity. If no specific NCAA rule violation surfaces, I don't see how the NCAA takes action.

Take 2: Brian Bennett

The worst chapter in Penn State history is not over yet, as there is still the Freeh report and the potential perjury trials of Tim Curley and Gary Schultz to endure. Even more than the Sandusky trial, those proceedings may finally shed light on just what school officials knew about the Sandusky allegations and how they decided to act. It already appears that there was a shameful lack of responsibility, courage and moral fiber on the part of Penn State's leadership, and few people outside of the Nittany Lions fan base would be outraged if the NCAA took its pound of flesh from the school. While it may be popular to suggest that Penn State football get the death penalty, that's a specious argument and an outcome that would only really serve to hurt current players and coaches who had nothing to do with Sandusky's crimes. Those responsible should be and will be subject to criminal charges, and the school should lose a sizable chunk of its endowment in civil suits brought by the victims. The NCAA would set a very dangerous precedent if it imposed scholarship reductions or other types of its usual penalties in this situation since technically Penn State violated no NCAA rules. At the same time, the NCAA and Big Ten announced in the fall that they were launching investigations into Penn State mainly because they didn't want to be seen as sitting idly by during the worst college sports scandal ever, especially during a supposed climate of reform. That was symbolic then and suggests a course of action now. Both the NCAA and Big Ten should issue some sort of public reprimand for Penn State and let the court system take care of the rest.