The NCAA recently imposed sanctions widely labeled “unprecedented” on Penn State for their apparent longstanding cover up of Jerry Sandusky’s child abuse.
What is certainly unprecedented in the collegiate world is the magnitude of the scandal at Penn State. Less clear is whether the NCAA’s actions are warranted, appropriate or a signal of future NCAA actions.
Much of the debate focuses on the harshness of the penalties, the appropriateness of the punishment and the implications for the future of Penn State football. While those discussions are of interest, what is missing is a perspective on the role of the NCAA and the very ethos of college football at the big-time programs.
Historically, NCAA punishments have been aimed at programs explicitly breaking NCAA rules, in particular engaging in activities such as paying players (Southern Methodist University) or allowing boosters to provide inducements to players (Ohio State and USC) or violating rules that limit practice time (Michigan).