When the ‘Death Penalty’ is not enough
The Rieger Report
Published: Monday, August 20, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 20, 2012 23:08
“Football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing and protecting young people,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said during the news conference addressing the scandal at Penn State University.
However, college athletics have become “too big to fail.”
Universities rely so heavily on revenues generated from athletic programs that they literally cannot afford a hit to their revenue stream resulting from sanctions or bad publicity.
Case-in-point: the Penn State football program.
Administrators and coaches repeatedly failed to take proper measures against former Defensive Coordinator Jerry Sandusky, even to the point where former Head Coach Joe Paterno was renegotiating his contract in 2011 after prosecutors began investigating Sandusky for molesting young boys.
Analysts estimate that it could take Penn State over 10 years to build its football program back up to the same level of national prominence it experienced under Paterno and Sandusky following NCAA sanctions against the sixth oldest college football program in the nation. The sanctions included a $60 million fine, a four-year postseason ban and a reduction in scholarships over the next four years.
Despite this, the NCAA did not go far enough.
The issue at hand is the university and its administration, not the Penn State players, who were allowed to immediately transfer to any other program in the country.
The $60 million fine administered accounts for only one year of football revenue for Penn State, a small slap on the wrist considering how important the football program is to the university and how long Sandusky was molesting young boys.
Penn State should be banned from playing football for the next few seasons to show that football is not the most important part of the school.
When the NCAA administered the “death penalty” to Southern Methodist University (SMU) in 1987, preventing SMU from competing during the 1987 season, it took SMU 22 years to return to a bowl game.
However, as the University of Southern California (USC) and the Ohio State University have shown, it is not difficult to bounce back from NCAA sanctions in the 21st Century.
Even with recent penalties administered to both institutions, USC will enter this season No.1 in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll and Ohio State will begin this season with Head Coach Urban Meyer, who has won two national championships since 2006 and who was the second fastest coach since 1945 to reach 100 career wins.
The main goal of universities should be to educate and grow students. The NCAA and university presidents repeatedly explain the importance of student-athletes and college athletic programs, but what takes priority in the end?
Recently, universities have prided themselves not on education but on how many big donors they have.The New York Times’ Pete Thamel reported in July that “television contracts for individual college sports conferences had increased by an average of nearly 350 percent since 2008.”
And according to USA Today, 65 Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I) coaches earned over $1 million in 2011, while median compensation for private college presidents in fiscal year 2010 was less than $400,000 and median compensation for public college presidents in fiscal year 2011 was approximately $420,000, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.
The NCAA and universities now face a choice in light of the Penn State sanctions: continue to grow athletic programs and compensation packages for coaches with the risk of missteps and penalties for programs, or to step back and examine the broader impact of a program that is “too big to fail.”
But as long as money rather than educating is the driving force in college athletics, don’t expect anything anytime soon.