Here's What The 'Unprecedented' Sanctions Really Mean For Penn State And Its Football Program

pennPenn State students react to the NCAA announcement.

Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The NCAA just handed down what it characterises as unprecedented and severe penalties to the Penn State football program for covering up the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal.Monday morning’s announcement is unprecedented in that the NCAA normally conducts a long investigation, presents its findings and suggested penalties to the school, and then the school accepts/appeals the suggested penalties before any sanctions go into action.

In this case, the NCAA and its President Mark Emmert used the findings in the Freeh report and Jerry Sandusky’s sex abuse trial to hand out sanctions.

Here are all of those penalties and what they mean for Penn State going forward:

$60 million fine

  • The money will go to an endowment preventing child sexual abuse or assisting victims. 
  • It CANNOT affect some of the non-revenue sports who depend on football to operate properly (i.e. volleyball or cross country), nor can the fine negatively affect Penn State’s scholarship athletes. Emmert says Penn State must find another way to pay the fine. 
  • He also characterises the $60 million as being equivalent to the football program’s yearly revenue, but in actuality PSU will pay $12 million a year for five years to this endowment.

Four year postseason ban

  • Similar to USC a few years ago it can’t participate in any bowl games or conference championship games no matter how good its record may be. 
  • There are two years left in the current BCS postseason contract before the four-team college football playoff begins following the 2014 regular season. This ban covers the first two years of the new postseason format as well. 
  • The Big 10 is taking away PSU’s roughly $13 million in bowl revenues for the next four years and giving it to children’s charities. Conferences share a portion of the revenue from bowl appearances evenly among member schools.

PSU vacates all wins from 1998 to 2011

  • 111 wins were instantly wiped from the record books.
  • Joe Paterno is no longer the winningest football coach in Football Bowl Subdivision history with 409 wins. He drops to fifth in FBS history with 298 wins.

A significant reduction in scholarships

  • Penn State will only be able to offer 15 new football scholarships per year for each of the next four years as opposed to the usual 25. 
  • The football team can only carry a total of 65 scholarship players each of the next four years instead of the 85 it is usually allowed to. 
  • Players can transfer to any school and play right away instead of having to wait the usual one-year or two-year transfer period. 
  • Likewise, all current Penn State football players are essentially up for grabs. Under normal circumstances, the school would have to grant transfer rights to a player before he can look elsewhere, but in this case coaches from other programs can contact current PSU players without being penalised for improper recruiting behaviour.

Five-year probation

  • President Emmert says Penn State “must appoint an independent, NCAA-selected Athletics Integrity Monitor, who will oversee compliance with the agreement.”
  • Failure to comply with conditions of the sanctions would result in “additional, more severe” penalties.

Emmert summed up the sanctions thusly:

“Penn State can focus on the work of rebuilding its athletic culture, not worrying about whether or not its going to a bowl game.”

From an on-the-field standpoint, the penalties will be significant in that players can leave the program immediately and it will be much harder to recruit players to PSU with the scholarship reduction and postseason ban. Additionally, Penn State was already falling toward the middle/low end of the pack in the Big 10 so this will only speed up its demise.

Financially, the school and athletic program should be OK. It is one of the highest-grossing football programs in the nation with deep-pocketed donors who were already writing fat checks at the height of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Given these circumstances, the sanctions might embolden donors to help the athletic department “recoup” its money rather than steering clear of the football program.

Although Penn State was not officially given the death penalty, some have argued this is more severe because it cripples the program for a number of years. As soon as details of the sanctions began to leak out our thought was that the NCAA’s penalties were intended to be harsh enough to potentially force the school to shut down the football team on its own. Seeing as this is Penn State we don’t see that happening, however.

Find out everything you need to know about the Penn State sanctions in 100 seconds below:

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