Tate: Punishment worse than 'death penalty'

Tate: Punishment worse than 'death penalty'

The Happy Valley community feared Penn State might receive football's "death penalty."

National columnists, analysts and myriad voices tried to set a tone favoring the cancellation of games in 2012. If the NCAA wouldn't do it, ESPN's Ian O'Connor demanded that Penn State leaders "take a season off and realign the school's moral compass."

The Atlantic called for Nittany Lion football to be shut down permanently. No more games. Forever!

ESPN's bombastic Stephen A. Smith said five years wouldn't be too much and, if the NCAA or school officials wouldn't do it, the Pennsylvania state legislature should.

Mark Emmert and the NCAA hierarchy ruled otherwise. But they felt the pressure. And they decimated the program. What they imposed Monday could, in the long term, be worse than a three-month hiatus.

A one-year "death penalty," taken by itself, would allow for a fresh start in November. Emmert's announced penalties are devastatingly long-lasting.

As it stands now, look ahead to 2015. The Nittany Lions still won't be eligible for postseason play.

Consider 2019. The junior and senior classes, based on their original limits of 15 scholarships, will be among the nation's smallest and probably weakest.

This is not, as it has been described, a four-year penalty. It's more like seven or eight, with longer-term repercussions.

Cuts deep

Money? According to a recent budget, the football program grossed $72 million and netted $53 million. That money is needed to run the 29-sport operation, and Emmert decreed that neither non-revenue programs nor their scholarships can be cut. The $60 million fine — and $13 million from four years of Big Ten bowl payouts — will fund an endowment to prevent child sexual abuse.

This $60 million will preferably be derived from the university's fundraising enterprise which, by the way, took in $88 million from a single family this past year to institute varsity hockey.

More dollars will be needed for a mandatory campus oversight program. And the university is bracing for a multi-year legal assault by those wronged by Jerry Sandusky, that figure possibly reaching $350 million. The anticipated shortfall will presumably be handled by the state.

This whole mess could approach a half-billion dollars, all of which could have been avoided by a five-minute telephone call.

Defections? This will be closely watched. The NCAA ruling allows all members of the football squad, including freshmen in the process of reporting for practice, to transfer without penalty ... to receive scholarships elsewhere and be eligible for postseason play. Loyalty to the program will be tested. And Bill O'Brien's future recruiting will be severely hampered.

Vacated victories? They can change the win total by 111 games but it's not much of a penalty. They know who won the games. The fans have memorized Joe Paterno's number (409). The Nittany Lions can't claim last October's 10-7 victory against Illinois but — this always seemed strange — the Illini don't get to count it as a victory. Neither side won.

Quick strike

A point to remember: This wasn't the customary, drawn-out Infractions Committee operation. The response by Emmert & Co. was stunningly swift, resolving issues prior to the start of the 2012 season. The sanctions were based on conclusions by the Freeh report, which was authorized and directed by the Penn State Board of Trustees. In other words, Freeh's accusations of cover-up amounted to an official admission by the school.

In a sense, Emmert sent a shot across the bow, a wake-up call to every university where the culture of football is out of balance with the educational side.

Will these severe sanctions affect cultural change? What do you think? Haven't we just announced that in 2014 the plus-one playoff will put more dollars in the pot after two semifinal bowl games? Are we to presume that Alabama and LSU, and their followers, will put less emphasis on football this season? You know the answer.

The Nittany Lions will operate in the face of a multi-year handicap, and will be hard-pressed to rebound. Southern Cal has done it, though from lesser sanctions. The Trojans received a two-year bowl ban and the loss of 30 scholarships, and here they are: ranked No. 1 in some polls and receiving commitments from the nation's most imposing recruiting class in 2013.

From the top down

As for Paterno, the late coach's legacy — this is, after all, nothing more than public opinion — has been destroyed. There was no choice other than to remove his statue.

From this viewpoint, JoePa outlived his time. In recent years he was too addled, too removed from reality, too insulated, too challenged by physical setbacks to have a full grasp of what was happening.

In his late years, while he was nationally revered, it isn't even clear he had charge of the day-to-day operations of the football team. Sure, he was the spokesman, but his coordinators were calling the plays and making key decisions on Saturdays. They were carrying out the Paterno system by habit.

There should be no hurry for the NCAA to sanction former President Graham Spanier and his administrative go-alongs Gary Schultz and Tim Curley. Like Paterno, their handling of the Sandusky episode has already destroyed their reputations, even though Spanier continues to claim that he was not privy to the precise information. The legal arm takes care of these three. They are dead insofar as future work in higher education. Emmert is smart to let the legal aspect play out.

So, while Emmert's sanctions may be deemed too severe, he gets high marks for his handling of the case. It was appropriate that the NCAA not break Penn State's contracts with Navy, Illinois, Nebraska and the rest, It didn't make sense to punish the hotels and restaurants and businesses, to punish the TV networks and other broadcasting entities, to punish the students and marching band members ... or the longtime fans who have expanded seven Saturdays into weekend vacations alongside Beaver Stadium.

And while the athletes have been restricted, they still have an opportunity to compete.

Loren Tate writes for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at ltate@news-gazette.com.

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peterborich wrote on July 24, 2012 at 1:07 am

Isn't the fifth paragraph up from the bottom, the proverbial pot calling the kettle black?  

DaisyJ wrote on July 25, 2012 at 11:07 am

maybe you are so talented that you can go down to the IQ and replace him Mr. chump.

JimOATSfan wrote on July 24, 2012 at 5:07 am

I think stopping football for 11 years would have driven the point home.  Or perhaps total closing down forever.

Why wouldn't the Big Ten Twelve take action to?  Is that out of their jurisdiction?  Does allowing PSU to play with the BigTen Twelve league schedule yearly mean the league does not care about the events ... and they just want the revenue?

The league could easily rearrange the schedules to make it work.


Moonpie wrote on July 24, 2012 at 8:07 am

Funny, but Obi Wan Tate refers to Smith as "bombastic." Gee, pretty much the same as Obi Wan, when he's not merely condescending and mean, that is. Does Obi Wan view all those who agree with Smith as bombastic? Or just the black ones? Hee!!

westcoast wrote on July 24, 2012 at 10:07 am

Moonpie, enough already.  You have no credibility because whatever Tate says, you reflexively disagree and name call.  Also, your little nicknames are not funny or clever.

uofiisu wrote on July 24, 2012 at 7:07 am

You are a real gem.  If you really dislike Tate that much, which you clearly do, here's a suggestion: don't read his damn articles! And then you can spare us all your smarmy ass comments.

IlliniNationsCapital wrote on July 24, 2012 at 9:07 am


No question that this penalty will be more long-lasting than a one- or even two-year death penalty. As Tate suggests, this penalty will make it extremely difficult to recruit for four whole seasons, which means the senior class in 2019 will still not be at full-strength. And winning in D-I football requires all four (five, really) classes be strong to have the depth and team strength necessary to compete. Turning around a football program is like an aircraft carrier; unlike basketball, a couple stud recruits will not do much good.

And it is indeed remarkable how many of you spend time reading Tate's articles, only to bad-mouth him immediately afterwards. Charming.


rd1989 wrote on July 24, 2012 at 10:07 am

Cowpies back.  Tate prints an informative article and all Borich and Cowpie can do is look for something to critisize.  What a pair.

JimOATSfan wrote on July 24, 2012 at 11:07 am

Let's encourage Tate to write until he is 100. That will cause some stress in readers.

manhattanillini wrote on July 24, 2012 at 1:07 pm

  Whats with all the Tate bashing, do you jump on the other writers like you do Tate?

Jam wrote on July 24, 2012 at 1:07 pm

When people resort to name calling I think this shows a real low self esteem by them.  They must build themselves up by trying to tear other down.  Loren is a great writer, and for someone to work at his craft for as long as he has is quite a milestone.  I hope that he is able to continue for many more years.

FloridaIllini wrote on July 24, 2012 at 1:07 pm

I can't understand why the Paterno's and Bowden's of the world are allowed to coach well past a normal retirement and into their sunset (or dementia) years.  It seems as though in each case they had such power that they answered to no one.  Sure seems like an example of absolute power and lapdog administrators.  At least in Bowden's case they woke up and got him out of there.  In each of these two cases they both were obviously lost and nothing more than figureheads.  Geez, Bobby looked like he didn't even know where he was on the sidelines and Joe was falling asleep in his private box.  Both ended up as pathetic figures who stayed way beyond their times.  Can't they be required to retire at a certain age?  

IlliniLous wrote on July 24, 2012 at 6:07 pm

No, guys like Paterno and Bowden can't be required to do anything.  That is the problem.  

Penn State University couldn't make Joe Paterno report horrific child abuse.  In fact, according to the Freeh report, Joe Paterno prevented Penn State University from reporting that child abuse itself.

peterborich wrote on July 24, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Just like Tate?

westcoast wrote on July 24, 2012 at 3:07 pm

Peterborich, go back and look at what Floridaillini wrote and think about whether any of those examples apply to Tate.  Does Tate answer to no one?  Is he a figure head?   Does he not communicate with others?  Does he not know or remember other people's names, like players on the team?  Is he uninvolved in key parts of his job?  Is Jim Rossow afraid of him?

I don't agree with Tate's politics at all, nor do I agree with plenty of the sports things he says, but that doesn't mean he's too old.  

hopefulmike wrote on July 24, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Paterno's refusal to retire in a timely fashion caused his ultimate demise. If he had retired at 70, already a late age, in 1996, he would have avoided all the trouble. Bobby Bowden retired at age 70, knowing he would relinquish the all time wins record to Paterno. Ironically, he now gets the record back. To me this is a reward for his better judgement.

mankind wrote on July 24, 2012 at 4:07 pm

The NCAA pulled its punches. These penalties should have been coupled with a suspension of the football program for at least two seasons -- long enough for weeds to take over the parking lot of Beaver Stadium. SMU received the death penalty for far less; Penn State would have received the same if there wasn't so much money circulating around the program. How much is an innocent little boy worth? To Joe Paterno he wasn't worth spoiling a chance at a bowl game. Not even several boys were worth that. To the NCAA he's not worth a few million dollars in television contracts. I don't understand why any consideration should be paid to the athletes or marching band in determining the punishment. They will be fine. Those little boys aren't. Penn State needs to pay dearly for reasons beyond football and jersey sales.

Oh, and about the personal attacks on Mr. Tate. Any columnist that writes with character and flair is targeted by comments like those. I see it with columnists far and wide. I don't always agree with Mr. Tate's commentary, but I'm happy to see that these attacks on him don't seem to be affecting his views or productivity at all.    

Dudesickle wrote on July 25, 2012 at 4:07 am

Just exactly what NCAA rules did PSU break? In my opinion, the NCAA lacked standing to impose these kinds of penalties. They punish the current students, athletes, and staff at PSU, not the people who failed to act with any kind of moral compass. Local businesses will fail, and an entire community will suffer for the acts (or lack thereof) of a few. Removing Paterno's wins reminded me of George Orwell's classic "1984", where the statement "he who controls the past controls the future" pervaded. Paterno, although obviously involved in this affair, won those games without violating NCAA rules or gaining a competitive advantage.

Take down the statue, fine. That is a local decision and probably the correct one. But these other penalties do nothing but punish the innocent, an NCAA tactic that has gone on for it's entire existence. I hope there are massive lawsuits against the NCAA over this, as there should be massive lawsuits against the people that participated in this heainous situation.

crackerman wrote on July 25, 2012 at 8:07 am

They f@#king lied to everyone! Nobody wanted to tarnish the Penn ShiT. foolsball program! Are you joking about what rules they broke? Perjury, perjury, perjury! Sandusky brought kids to the campus to molest! You still wanna ask what rules PSU broke? Seems to me that alot of people think that if it's not recruiting violations, the NCAA's should step aside. Had Sandusky been outed years ago from his coaching position, PSU might not have won some of them games, therefore possibly giving PSU a competitive advantage. There's a human element here that was lacking at PSU, and it seems to be popping up it's ugly head in the media as to whether or not PSU got to harsh a penalty. The powers that be at PSU covered up a Monsters secret, now they have to deal with the consequences. What's so hard to figure out?

Dudesickle wrote on July 25, 2012 at 9:07 am

Crackerman, perjury is a criminal act and should be taken care of by law enforcement officials. You are confusing these very serious crimes with NCAA infractions. The legal community should mete out punishment for illegal activities, not the NCAA!!! If it was your business that will tank because of NCAA punishment, you might feel differently. While I agree this is probably the worst situation in college athletic history, punishment should be handled by the proper authorities.

crackerman wrote on July 25, 2012 at 3:07 pm

Apparently, PSU entered into a sweeping consent decree with the NCAA, stating that any charges brought against PSU to be true and accurate. PSU would except any and all punishment handed down to them. From what i've read, they knew they were in deep crap and were'nt about to dispute the facts, possibly resulting in the "death penalty" of the football program. Btw, are you a business owner? I'm a little disturbed by your stance on the issue! Sounds like monetary gain is more important than the atrocious acts that took place.

blmillini wrote on July 26, 2012 at 11:07 am

For those that argue the NCAA has no authority, I simply have four words for you... LACK OF INSTITUTIONAL CONTROL!