It seems the NCAA was envious of all the bad press the NFL had received in recent days and decided to remind everyone of the real champions of poor decisions.
Shortly after the Ray Rice video rocked the Internet on Monday, the NCAA announced it was dropping nearly all sanctions imposed in the Penn State University child-abuse scandal, in which it was determined that longtime assistant coach Jerry Sandusky had used his position and influence to sexually abuse at least 10 boys (and potentially dozens more). Sandusky was found guilty on 45 counts of sexual crimes against the children and will spend the rest of his life in jail.
The announcement is a giant misstep in a long line of missteps from the NCAA, one that rather conveniently flew under the radar while Rice and the NFL dominated headlines.
The university had found the actions of Joe Paterno, the longtime, legendary head coach of the football team to be negligent and fired him. Paterno died shortly thereafter, and his statue on campus was removed as the university attempted to move past the shame.
Penn State students, roundly criticized for their unwavering support of Paterno in the fallout two years ago, did their part Monday night to perpetuate the notion that they're part of a strange cult as they celebrated the sanctions being lifted.
Celebrating the return of postseason eligibility is somewhat understandable from their point of view as fans. Chanting for the return of Paterno's statue, on the other hand, is indefensible.
One of the few sanctions remaining is the vacated wins, which slashed Paterno's all-time record of 409 wins to 298. It's clear the students want that lifted as well.
These students need a serious wake-up call. According to the Freeh report — commissioned by the university itself — Paterno very well may have knowingly sheltered Sandusky from justice. At best, he enabled Sandusky and his abuse to continue.
To those who would say that it's unjust to hurt players who had nothing to do with the scandal, well, that's been the case with just about every punishment the NCAA has ever handed down. USC lost its eligibility to bowl games, scholarships for two seasons and more due to improper benefits received by Reggie Bush, who had long since gone pro. Likewise for Ohio State, which lost out on a season of bowl game action due to benefits received by Terrelle Pryor.
NCAA sanctions inevitably affect student-athletes who had nothing to do with the actual crimes or infractions committed. Those athletes are free to transfer. Recruits are free to go elsewhere.
Katie Nolan, host of FoxSports.com's No Filter, summed things up nicely:
The sanctions leveled against Penn State were meant to keep the best players away from the university. As the stream of top talent dries up, the program suffers as a result — and rightfully so. Instead, the NCAA went back on its own ruling, presumably because there had been no new instances of rampant, systemic child abuse in the last two years — which isn't exactly a high bar to clear. The NCAA's decision, along with the students' reactions, reaffirm to victims of child abuse that football trumps their suffering.
Viewing football as more important than life itself is exactly what led to the disgraceful Rice affair. The NCAA and Penn State's students have shown themselves to be no better.