By Threatening Worse, NCAA Pushed Penn State Into Accepting Tough Penalties

August 6, 2012

The president and board chairman at Pennsylvania State University agreed to accept an unprecedented set of penalties imposed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association because the NCAA's leaders insisted that the association was poised to shut down the football program for several years, ESPN reported. The article provides more details than have previously been reported on the secretive negotiations that unfolded between the NCAA's president, Mark Emmert, and a small set of institutional leaders at Penn State.

According to ESPN, Emmert on several occasions told Rodney Erickson, Penn State's president, that most members of the NCAA's Division I Board of Directors favored barring the Nittany Lion football team from competing for four years. The article describes efforts by Penn State representatives -- without the knowledge of most of the university's trustees -- to persuade the NCAA to do otherwise, because they believed shuttering the program for that long would be too devastating. The article outlines the concerns of some Penn State officials (and other observers) that Emmert and the NCAA had overstepped their bounds by eliciting a remarkably punitive set of penalties by threatening an even tougher one.

The article quotes Gene Marsh, a lawyer and former NCAA official who represented Penn State, as saying: "In federal bankruptcy court, there is a concept of a cram-down -- a judge tells creditors, 'Here's the deal, this is all you are going to get, a few pennies on the dollar, and you should be happy with that.' You know, take it or leave it, because you don't really have any choice.... [T]his was the NCAA equivalent of a cram-down."

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