So, just in case anybody missed it, here are the sanctions levied against Penn State and their football program earlier today by the NCAA:
- $60 million fine that is to be paid to charities not associated with Penn State University
- A ten-scholarship reduction immediately followed by twenty scholarships every year for the next four years
- All football wins since 1998 vacated
- No postseason games (including the Big Ten Championship Game) for the next four years
- A signed agreement by Penn State not to appeal
With that being said, what does this all mean?
$60 million fine: I was said that number was reached by averaging the yearly revenue the football team brings in. Remember, revenue does not equal profit. This is the money the football team brings in before expenses are taken into account. So they basically have to play one year for free. It’s not necessarily the football team that’s going to be hurting from this. The football team is going to be provided for no matter what, but can you say the same for the baseball team? Golf? Soccer? Wrestling? Gymnastics? Swimming?
There is going to be some massive belt-tightening around Happy Valley, and if you think the football team is going to carry the burden, you are very naïve. It’s just like when a new tax is imposed on an industry (let’s say, oil). The industry isn’t going to pay that tax; they’re going to pass it on to the consumers. I would venture to guess that the prices of everything having to do with Penn State just went up. Ticket prices (for every sport), merchandise, apparel, fees, parking, books, and anything else you can think of is going to be a little more expensive now. Penn State is going to have to make that money from somewhere.
As far as making the money back from donations, a university-wide scandal involving child rape, the highest levels of administration, and the football program would top the list of what would make me never pry my wallet open again. I wouldn’t expect for wealthy donors to start lining up with their checkbooks and platinum cards.
Let’s say for a minute that this scandal never happened, and Joe Paterno retired following the end of the 2011 season under honorable conditions, and then died at some point during the off-season. Don’t you think that revenue would take a hit anyway without him there? He was one of Penn State’s biggest fundraisers, and I find it hard to believe that his efforts would have been matched no matter who took over. The bad press following a child rape scandal is going to make the fundraising job damn near impossible, and it should be.
Also, let’s not forget that every civil attorney in The Commonwealth is going to be circling State College like it’s a bathtub drain. Penn State is going to be dealing with lawsuits for a very long time to come, so that $60 million fine from the NCAA isn’t the only lost revenue that’s going to come to pass. PSU is going to have to shell out money for lost lawsuits, defending lawsuits, or out-of-court settlements. The University is going to be hurting for recreational and disposable cash for quite some time.
Winning at big-time college football is like winning an election or a war: Being well-funded greatly contributes to victory, and Penn State is going to be strapped for cash for a very long time.
Vacated Wins: Penn State must vacate the 112 wins they accumulated from 1998 until the present. This sanction is completely symbolic and has little real effect on the program. At least the proprietor of the “Grand Experiment” won’t hold the record for career victories in college football.
Scholarship reduction: FBS (Division I) teams are allotted eighty-five scholarships a year. This season, twelve percent of their scholarships are off the table. Almost twenty-five percent disappear after that. That means that there is zero margin for error when recruiting a kid. Penn State can’t take someone who they hope might be good someday. Even more so, going into a season with twenty percent less manpower than you opponents is no way to build a program back up. With a full clip of scholarships, PSU averaged nine regular season wins per year for last five years. For the next five years, in my opinion, the over/under would be five and a half regular season wins per year.
No postseason games: Bowl games provide a hell of a lot of money to athletic departments. The New Orleans Bowl was the smallest payout of any bowl game at half a million dollars. Any of the BCS Bowls net an athletic department eighteen million dollars. That revenue stream is now cut. Any money coming in is now going to be from their own fundraising efforts and ticket/merchandise sales.
The Big Ten has announced that Penn State will receive none of the bowl revenues for the entire conference for the next four years, and cannot play in the Big Ten Championship Game. So much for positive exposure. What recruit (other than dyed-in-the-wool Penn State fan) is going to want to play for a school that can’t play against the elite teams in elite games? Unless that recruit has their heart set on playing for Penn State and only Penn State, you can say goodbye to any elite talent, or anyone who is not damaged goods for that matter.
Final Verdict: It’s not the Death Penalty, but it might as well be. Sure, Beaver Stadium will still be sold out (for now), you will still hear that annoying “We are Penn State” chant, but the program is going to die a slow painful death. It may not cease to exist, but it will be a shell of its former self. Nittany Lion Football will continue to decline as the full weight of the penalties take effect, and so will support for the program. In five years, Penn State will be a lot closer in stature to Indiana and Minnesota than Ohio State and Michigan.
This program is going to starve to death, and frankly they deserve it. The last fourteen years (and who knows how much more that we just don’t know about yet) is the worst-case scenario for an athletic program out of control. I just can’t think of anything worse than kids being raped in the shower and every action thereafter being directed towards a cover-up and building of a legacy. This is not a case of the world being against Penn State University or a witch-hunt. The University needs to see what they did was wrong, and they will in the coming years.