Last year, the NCAA dropped the hammer on Penn State after several of its top leaders were revealed to have been complicit in covering up former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky's rampant abuse of children. It handed down some of the most severe sanctions ever imposed on a football program--including some pretty draconian scholarship reductions. Penn State was only allowed to offer 40 scholarships until 2017, and during that same time was limited to a total of 65 scholarship players--the same number as a I-AA team. But late Tuesday, the NCAA announced Penn State will gradually top up to a full complement of football scholarships.
The Lions are getting some of their scholarships back, beginning next year.Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, who was appointed as athletics integrity monitor by the NCAA, recommended that Penn State get its scholarships back because it has fully implemented the recommendations in the Freeh report. And apparently there's talk that Penn State could have its four-year bowl ban reduced as well.
And that will make Penn State a much more competitive program in the near future.
Penn State is now allowed to offer 20 scholarships in 2014 instead of 15. And the NCAA announced it will restore an additional five scholarships the following year, 2015, putting PSU at the full allocation of 25 per season.
In addition, the NCAA is allowing PSU to be at 75 scholarship players in 2014-2015, meaning the Lions will be back to 85 scholarship players by 2016-2017.
In just about any other circumstance, the NCAA would be justified in granting some form of leniency. But this wasn't just a case of point-shaving or academic fraud. We're talking about a fundamental violation of basic standards of decency--putting the image of a football program above protecting children. And this wasn't just a decision made in the football office. This was a decision made at the highest levels of Penn State--all the way up to former president Graham Spanier. Plus, I have to wonder--did Mitchell or anyone at the NCAA consult with the victims of Sandusky's rampage before coming to this decision? Not only that, but a federal criminal probe of this matter is still well underway last time I checked, as well as an Education Department investigation into possible Clery Act violations.
I know what the NCAA is trying to do--minimize the damage to players for a decision that was made when they were in elementary and middle school. But as draconian as the original sanctions were, they were more than justified in light of the outrageous decision to cover the tracks of a child predator. Seen in this light, the NCAA should have let the original scholarship reductions stick at least until the criminal probe was completed.