Greeson: Emmert says NCAA punishment possible for Penn State

Greeson: Emmert says NCAA punishment possible for Penn State

July 18th, 2012 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

The statue of former Penn State University head football coach Joe Paterno stands outside Beaver Stadium in State College, Pa., Friday, July 13, 2012. After an eight-month inquiry, former FBI director Louis Freeh's firm produced a 267-page report that concluded that Paterno and other top Penn State officials hushed up child sex abuse allegations against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky for more than a decade for fear of bad publicity, allowing Sandusky to prey on other youngsters.

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

NCAA president Mark Emmert spoke openly for the first time since the scathing Freeh report detailed the layers of cover-up and the deafening silence that permeated Penn State and allowed Jerry Sandusky to be a child sex predator for decades.

Speaking to Tavis Smiley on PBS, Emmert showed he has followed the case -- who hasn't? -- and appears open to any and all measures of punishment.

He spoke plainly, echoing the sentiments of almost everyone not named Paterno: "I've never seen anything as egregious as this in terms of just overall conduct and behavior inside a university and hope never to see it again. What the appropriate penalties are, if there are determinations of violations, we'll have to decide. We'll hold in abeyance all of those decisions until we've actually decided what we want to do with the actual charges, should there be any. And I don't want to take anything off the table."

And if that is not clear enough that the death penalty -- the NCAA's ultimate weapon in which a program must close its doors like SMU was forced to do amid scandal in the 1980s -- is in play, Emmert was not finished.

"This is completely different than an impermissible-benefits scandal like happened at SMU, or anything else we've dealt with," he said. "This is as systemic a cultural problem as it is a football problem. There have been people that said this wasn't a football scandal. Well, it was more than a football scandal, much more than a football scandal. It was that but much more. And we'll have to figure out exactly what the right penalties are.

"I don't know that past precedent makes particularly good sense in this case, because it's really an unprecedented problem."

No matter how Emmert and the NCAA deal with this, it's a no-win situation. There's no one at Penn State now who had much, if anything, to do with the Sandusky nightmare, but the NCAA would be hard pressed to do nothing and appear to ignore it. In turn, there is no punishment, no matter what Emmert does, that could be harsh enough for the crimes, even though the penalties will be handed to those who are left in the wake of the guilty.

We all know now that the culture at Penn State was more than a lack of institutional control of the football program; it was complete institutional control by the football program. And that's way more dangerous and damaging than rogue boosters or cheating coaches.

SEC commissioner Mike Slive addressed the debacle in his remarks Tuesday at the SEC media event at Hoover, Ala.

"We must maintain an honest and open dialogue across all levels of university administration," Slive told the hundreds of media members. "There must be an effective system of checks and balances within the administrative structure to protect all who come in contact with it, especially those who cannot protect themselves.

"No one program, no one person -- no matter how popular, no matter how successful -- can be allowed to derail the soul of an institution."

Notice please that Slive did not mention Paterno by name, and he didn't have to of course. He is not alone.

Penn State has promised changes and even started Monday by announcing that the organizers of "Paternoville" -- the place where students camp out before home games -- are changing the name to "Nittanyville" after the terror and damage to the legacy of Penn State.

Remember, those are many of the same students who took to the streets protesting the firing of Paterno last November. It was a response to a decision that at the time seemed unpopular in State College, but now -- knowing what we know and what Paterno knew and refused to share -- seems obvious and light.

Here's wondering if those who once inhabited "Paternoville" will honor the victims at the first home game, and if they do let them ignore tradition and have the first-ever "Moment of Screaming."

If for no other reason than a moment of silence started this whole thing.