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Penn State Students Bear Brunt of NCAA Sanctions for Sandusky Cover-Up as Trustees Emerge Unscathed

Sports writer David Zirin argues that the NCAA's unprecedented punishment harms innocent students but lets trustees off the hook.

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AMY GOODMAN: Well, first, let us go through these sanctions, each one, what they are, and especially for people who are not sports fans, who don’t understand what each of these sanctions are.

DAVE ZIRIN: Oh, absolutely. The sanctions are extreme. I mean, the first one, the $60 million that I already described, what that is going to mean, it’s going to mean that sports across the campus that are not revenue-producing sports, like the women’s sports program at Penn State University, that’s not going to get the funding that it needs. It’s going to mean that a lot of people are going to try to leave Penn State in the next year and try to find scholarships elsewhere, which will, if they get them, deprive people on other campuses of athletic scholarships.

The other sanction, which we haven’t discussed yet, is the vacating of all the wins that the Penn State football program completed from 1998 to 2011. These wins just didn’t happen. I mean, it’s kind of a bizarre thing that the  NCAA does. They have stricken these wins from the record book. And what that does is it further punctures the legend of Joe Paterno, the late coach, because he no longer is now the winningest coach in  NCAA history. Now, automatically, with a snap of their fingers, he’s the 12th winningest coach in  NCAA history. And as one of the players tweeted out—this is a player who—Adam Taliaferro, he has a metal plate in his neck. He said, "I guess this metal plate doesn’t exist, either, in my neck, because that—the game that I was in where I got it just never happened."

But the biggest blow that really takes place is—it’s the biggest blow, I think—is it’s the blow to the basic idea that a public university can have its own process to deal with these matters and that the civil and criminal courts are the primary force that deals with criminal matters as they take place. That’s what really was punctured yesterday by the  NCAA. And unfortunately, what this does is it ensures more scandals in the future, because I would argue that it’s the very setup of the  NCAA, the very setup of a multi-billion-dollar entity, that builds its money on the idea of turning coaches into deities, turning football programs into too-big-to-fail operations, and turning players into basically unpaid campus workers as opposed to student athletes. That’s the root of the problem here.

AMY GOODMAN: At a news conference Monday announcing the sanctions on Penn State,  NCAA President Mark Emmert said the steps were in line with the mandate of the organization.

MARK EMMERT: Our constitution and bylaws make it perfectly clear that the association exists not simply to promote fair play on the field but to insist that athletic programs provide positive moral models for our students, enhance the integrity of higher education, and promote the values of civility, honesty and responsibility. The sanctions we are imposing are based upon these most fundamental principles of the NCAA.

AMY GOODMAN: Your response, Dave Zirin?

DAVE ZIRIN: I mean, if this whole case wasn’t so tragic, I would be laughing too hard to respond to what Mark Emmert just said. I mean, the  NCAA started a hundred years ago by Teddy Roosevelt, because too many students were dying on football fields, particularly in the Ivy Leagues, and it was created to create a uniform code of conduct and a uniform rules for collegiate sports. It has since morphed into this kind of operation where they negotiate $10.8 billion television deals, where they sell the likenesses of players to video games, where they sell the likenesses of players on credit cards for well-heeled boosters. This is what the  NCAA has become.

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