Tuesday, the NCAA decided to cut back one of the harsh penalties levied on Penn State in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
The NCAA stated that it will restore 20 football scholarships to the university’s football program over the next few years, five coming next season and 15 more through the 2016-17 season. The choice came in response to improvements in Penn State’s athletic program observed by the NCAA that came earlier than anticipated.
“This action provides an opportunity to recognize Penn State’s significant momentum, while also providing opportunities for student athletes,” said Nathan Hatch, president of the NCAA Board of Directors.
The statement has been met with mostly positive reactions but for former coach Joe Paterno’s son Jay, it is not enough.
“NCAA gives back SOME PSU scholarships? Why not ALL?” Paterno said via Twitter. “ANY football sanctions are still an affront to the truth.”
It’s almost amusing in a sense to hear Paterno accuse anyone of an “affront to the truth.”
The return of scholarships will be beneficial to the recovery of Penn State’s tarnished name, but the NCAA must always keep the initial reasoning behind the penalties in mind.
While there is certainly an argument against punishing students, athletes and coaches who had nothing to do with the heinous acts themselves, the penalties were viewed as recognition of a program-wide flaw.
The fact remains that members of the Penn State athletic program, including Joe Paterno, covered up sexual abuse to protect the program’s reputation. That should have never happened, but football’s high place in the university hierarchy allowed for the years of denial and deception.
The NCAA laid the hammer down in hopes of ensuring that football would never be placed in such unreasonably high regard again. By even slightly letting up, is the NCAA softening that message?
According to NCAA president Mark Emmert, the answer is no.
“This action is a recognition that the university has in fact begun that process in a very serious way and has worked very hard at it,” Emmert said. “So rather than backtracking, it’s in fact a reward for and recognition of the responsiveness of the university.”
While it’s important to reward compliance with punishment and recognize successful reform, history must not be allowed to repeat itself.
Ultimately, when held against the innocence of even one child, the success of a sports program should have no precedence. The NCAA, Penn State and college athletics as a whole must never forget that in their future deliberations.