Sizing up NCAA's decision to reduce Penn State's sanctions; #DearAndy
A week heavy on news and light on compelling games has produced some quality questions. In the video segment, I answer the following:
• Can Georgia score more than 20 points at South Carolina for the first time in 20 years?
• Why did Penn State get its NCAA sanctions reduced and not USC?
• Why isn’t the College Football Playoff limited to conference champions?
As you’ll see, I also discuss the NCAA’s repeal of the Penn State sanctions in this column. It’s a pretty big deal, so it seemed appropriate to address it in both places.
From @DolceSosa: Garbage take. Players had chance to transfer without penalty. If the Penn State case involved football coaches/administrators, it was a football matter.
Mr. Sosa was upset with what I tweeted immediately after the NCAA reduced Penn State’s sanctions for the Jerry Sandusky scandal to time served. Here is what I said: “Good. NCAA should have never punished Penn State players in the first place. It was a criminal matter. Courts are handling.” There are some who think taking issue with the program’s sanctions is a tacit endorsement of what happened at Penn State. This is irrational. Some of us merely want to see the proper people punished.
If a case involves a violation of NCAA rules, it is an NCAA matter. If it does not, it isn’t. This wasn’t. Those who think this was a football matter because some men were allegedly attempting to protect the football program are also incorrect. If there was a cover-up, it happened because those men were protecting themselves. Why? Think about it this way. Had Jerry Sandusky been arrested three days after Mike McQueary saw him in the shower, would Penn State have played football the following season? Of course. Now, some people at the time might have thought they were so important to the Nittany Lions that the program couldn’t have gone on without them. But that's their own issue. They were protecting themselves and themselves only. They happened to work in an athletic program, but they could have acted the same way had they worked at a bank.
The more important point is that punishments should affect the guilty. In this case, nothing the NCAA levied had any effect on the people accused in the Sandusky scandal, other than the stripping of wins. That affected Joe Paterno’s win total, but stripping wins is a meaningless penalty. Those games were played. Everyone with access to the Internet can find out which team won. The real punishments affected a bunch of football players who were in elementary school when this all began.
Let’s analyze this at the most basic level. Punishments exist in part to keep others from repeating the bad behavior of the punished. They do this by creating a negative incentive. For example, I don’t want to go to jail. I have noticed people who steal cars get sent to jail, so I won’t steal another person’s car.
The men involved in the Sandusky scandal were all fired and/or prosecuted. Sandusky has been convicted and jailed. Former vice president Gary Schultz, former athletic director Tim Curley and former president Graham Spanier face perjury charges in Pennsylvania. If they are convicted, they should be thrown in jail. Schultz, Curley and Spanier have already been punished with a loss of employment and could be further punished with a loss of their freedom. Nothing the NCAA handed down two years ago had any impact on them, nor would the NCAA’s punishment deter anyone from committing the same actions of which those men have been accused.
The threat of a loss of employment (read: income) is a powerful negative incentive. The threat of a loss of freedom is even more powerful. The threat that a bunch of 19-year-olds you probably never met might miss a bowl game offers no negative incentive. That renders such a punishment completely worthless as a deterrent of future bad behavior, which renders the punishment itself completely worthless.
It is here that the Penn State sanctions join a host of other NCAA-issued sanctions in punishing the innocent while ignoring the guilty. These exist because the NCAA often has no power to punish the guilty. Why, when Reggie Bush played his final game at USC almost nine years ago, is the current USC team saddled with a lack of depth due to scholarship sanctions based on money Bush received when he was in school? Because the NCAA couldn’t punish Bush. (The NCAA also cooked up a case against ex-USC assistant Todd McNair involving a photo of McNair and the guy who played Big Worm in Friday. McNair has filed a defamation suit that is working its way through the court system in California.)
Some say this system is fine because it’s how the NCAA has always operated. But just because stupidity has longevity doesn’t make it any less stupid. In the Penn State case, the NCAA did not even adhere to its own enforcement procedure. President Mark Emmert acted because he heard a bunch of people yelling, “Do something!” and never bothered to stop and think whether he truly had the power to do something meaningful. So, he did something worthless, and in the process he took away an opportunity for a free education from 20 people over the past two years. Those players who didn’t go to Penn State probably got a scholarship from another school, but that only pushed the penalty down the food chain. At a certain point, some players who would have gone to college for free couldn’t because the NCAA decided to issue a punishment that ultimately didn’t do anything helpful.
From @Andyfromcheese: Will Penn State be in the Sugar or Rose Bowl?
It has been two days. Let’s see how the Nittany Lions handle Rutgers in their Big Ten opener. Then maybe we can start talking about potential bowl destinations.
From @MikeAbelson4324: What is the ceiling for Virginia Tech? Was Saturday an aberration or the start of something bigger?
This seems like the start of something bigger for one reason: Bud Foster. Virginia Tech’s defensive coordinator put an excellent group on the field last year, but the Hokies’ offense couldn’t hold up its end of the bargain. Basically, Virginia Tech won when quarterback Logan Thomas had a good game. It lost when Thomas didn’t.
Saturday’s 35-21 win over Ohio State showed that the defense hasn’t dropped off a bit in 2014. But it’s possible the unit may get some help from an offense featuring a veteran line and Texas Tech transfer quarterback Michael Brewer. The Hokies still didn’t establish the power-running game that has been a fixture in the better parts of the Frank Beamer era, but that also might have a little to do with the talent across the line of scrimmage last weekend. Virginia Tech won’t play a better defensive line than Ohio State’s, and it likely won’t face one even close to that caliber unless it takes on Florida State in the ACC championship game.
That said, the Hokies need to be very careful this weekend. It’s easy to get cocky coming off a win like the one in Columbus, but Virginia Tech faces East Carolina this Saturday. The Pirates hung around in a 33-23 loss at South Carolina last week and have a far more polished offense -- thanks to the grizzled quarterback-receiver tandem of Shane Carden and Justin Hardy -- than the Buckeyes. Of course, East Carolina played Virginia Tech tough in a 15-10 loss last year in Greenville, N.C., so the odds are lower that the Hokies will underestimate the Pirates.
From @MU4124: I heard LSU was going to put Johnny Horton’s “The Battle of New Orleans” on its uniforms.
This is a reference to the uniforms Maryland will wear on Saturday against West Virginia. These beauties might be the first to include poetry. They honor the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore from the War of 1812. During the battle, an observer jotted down some lines that became a poem titled “Defence of Fort McHenry.” The observer’s name was Francis Scott Key, and his poem was later set to music. The Terrapins will have the poem inscribed on their uniforms this week.
The idea referencing LSU in the above tweet is a good one, and it got me thinking: What other verses should grace the uniforms of college football teams?
Harvard wouldn’t even need capital letters to transcribe the work of alumnus E.E. Cummings on its uniforms. Meanwhile, Wake Forest could stitch “I Rise” into its jerseys in honor of the late Maya Angelou, who worked as a professor at the school. Northwestern, which bills itself as Chicago’s Big Ten school, should clearly use the work of Carl Sandburg:
“Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:”
Speaking of the Big Ten, Illinois, the school that once expelled Shel Silverstein, should make amends by printing "Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me Too" on its unis. If that’s too silly, perhaps the Illini should use the lyrics to Johnny Cash’s "A Boy Named Sue," which were also penned by Silverstein.
Since we’re including verses later set to music, we’ll need to decide where to stitch the greatest song ever written about a fiddle contest with eternal damnation hanging in the balance. "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" obviously takes place in the Peach State, so the Bulldogs have a claim. But Charlie Daniels, who wrote the song and played that fiddle, is a diehard Tennessee fan. The teams play on Sept. 27 in Athens. The winner should reserve the right to stitch “Now sit down in that chair right there and let me show you how it’s done” down the legs of their pants.