(Update, 9:10 a.m. Monday): The National Collegiate Athletic Association, citing the unprecedented nature of the child sexual abuse scandal at Pennsylvania State University, on Monday stepped outside its usual enforcement process to impose a powerful set of financial, competitive and other penalties on the university.
The association's leaders opted not to bar the university from playing football, as some had suggested it might. Instead, the NCAA:
- Fined the university $60 million (equivalent to one year's revenues of its football program), with the revenues to be used to finance programs to create an endowment to protect child abuse victims around the country.
- Barred the Nittany Lion football program from postseason play for four years.
- Stripped 10 initial football scholarships a year for four years.
- Vacated all Penn State football victories from 1998 (when institutional leaders first learned of Coach Jerry Sandusky's actions) through 2011.
“There has been much speculation on whether or not the NCAA has the authority to impose any type of penalty related to Penn State,” said Ed Ray, president of Oregon State University and chairman of the NCAA's executive committee. “This egregious behavior not only goes against our rules and Constitution, but also against our values.”
Ray added: "I heard not a single voice in the Executive Committee or the Division I Board [of Directors] that wanted to step back and not take action now.... We needed to act and needed to act quickly and efectively."
Penn State's leaders have signed off on the consent agreement between the university and the association, the NCAA's president, Mark Emmert, said during a news conference Monday morning. The university's president, Rodney Erickson, released a statement of his own Monday in which he said: "It is important to know we are entering a new chapter at Penn State and making necessary changes. We must create a culture in which people are not afraid to speak up, management is not compartmentalized, all are expected to demonstrate the highest ethical standards, and the operating philosophy is open, collegial, and collaborative."
More information on the NCAA's actions will be available here later.
Early Sunday, Pennsylvania State University removed the statue of Joe Paterno from outside the football stadium.
"I now believe that, contrary to its original intention, Coach Paterno's statue has become a source of division and an obstacle to healing in our university and beyond," said a statement Sunday by Rodney Erickson, president of the university. "For that reason, I have decided that it is in the best interest of our university and public safety to remove the statue and store it in a secure location. I believe that, were it to remain, the statue will be a recurring wound to the multitude of individuals across the nation and beyond who have been the victims of child abuse."
At the same time, Erickson announced that the Paterno name would not be removed from the campus library. "The Paterno Library symbolizes the substantial and lasting contributions to the academic life and educational excellence that the Paterno family has made to Penn State University. The library remains a tribute to Joe and Sue Paterno’s commitment to Penn State’s student body and academic success, and it highlights the positive impacts Coach Paterno had on the university," he said. "Thus I feel strongly that the library’s name should remain unchanged."
Since the release this month of the results of an outside investigation into Penn State's handling of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, national attention has been focused on how the university would respond to the inquiry's harsh criticism of Paterno -- a beloved figure on the campus for generations, who died in January. The report included Paterno among the top Penn State officials who should have reported Sandusky to authorities when they first heard reports about inappropriate behavior with boys. Had these officials done so, the report said, other victims might not have been vulnerable to Sandusky.
The statue has been at the center of much of the public debate, with commentary all over the web, signs (pro and con on removal) placed around the statue, and much lobbying of Penn State officials.
Erickson's statement acknowledged all the attention. "The world will be watching how Penn State addresses its challenges in the days ahead. While some may take issue with the decisions I have made, I trust that everyone associated with our University will respond in a civil and respectful manner," Erickson's statement said.
"I fully realize that my decision will not be popular in some Penn State circles, but I am certain it is the right and principled decision. I believe we have chosen a course that both recognizes the many contributions that Joe Paterno made to the academic life of our university, while taking seriously the conclusions of the Freeh Report [the outside investigation] and the national issue of child sexual abuse. Today, as every day, our hearts go out to the victims."
The Centre Daily Times reported that the removal process started shortly after dawn Sunday, with police officers surrounding the statue, and workers putting up a fence around the statue. The workers then placed tarp over the fence so that the actual removal would be less visible. The work was finished before 9 a.m.
The Paterno family issued a statement Sunday criticizing the removal of the statue: "Tearing down the statue of Joe Paterno does not serve the victims of Jerry Sandusky's horrible crimes or help heal the Penn State community," the statement said. It went on to say that it was wrong for the university to act on the basis of the Freeh Report, which the family called an "obviously flawed and one-sided presentation."
While many have been calling for the statue's removal since the Freeh Report was released, other Penn State fans have demanded that the honor remain untouched. On Saturday, fans worried that the statue would be removed lined up to pose with it, fearful that they might not again have the chance to do so, CBS Sports reported.
The statue and the library are not the only places where the Paterno name is evident at Penn State. There are also fellowships, funds and an endowed chair. Michael Bérubé, president of the Modern Language Association, is the Paterno Family Professor in Literature at Penn State. Via e-mail, he said that he has not been informed of any decisions about his endowed chair or other uses of the Paterno name. "But as you might imagine, I'm watching carefully as things unfold," he said. (In an essay in The New York Times in November, after the Sandusky scandal broke but prior to the release of the Freeh Report, he reflected on his interactions with Paterno and his wife while holding the chair with their name.)
More Penn State news is expected today. The National Collegiate Athletic Association issued a news release Sunday saying that it would announce "corrective and punitive measures" for the university on Monday. While the official NCAA announcement won't come until 9 a.m., several press organizations quoting people with knowledge of the punishments, said that they would be severe, and would include postseason bowl bans, scholarship cuts and a significant fine. For the NCAA, the case represents a shift to enforcing standards related to illegal acts that -- however horrific -- had nothing to do with NCAA rules.