NCAA sanctions against Penn State reinforce overemphasis on winning

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Mark Emmert had enough. He could no longer stomach the disgusting, sickening idea of Penn State winning football games.

The NCAA president put an end to that repulsive notion Monday. Emmert simply will not stand for Penn State winning football games on his watch. No sir. There is a new sheriff in town, and he makes it really, really hard to score touchdowns.

Emmert came down hard on Penn State, and that is the easy thing to do these days, for obvious reasons. The crimes of Jerry Sandusky were nauseating, and the cover-up of those crimes by Penn State's administration was a complete disgrace. It was all so horrific that any response seems reasonable.

But Emmert is not fighting against the hypocrisy of college sports. He is acknowledging it, legitimizing it, and -- in a way -- even embracing it.

Emmert can say that he is standing up against child abuse. He is not. The child abuse already happened. The people responsible are either in jail, going to jail or deceased. Emmert decided that Penn State put too much emphasis on its football team, and as a punishment, Penn State is not allowed to win football games for a while.

Emmert banned the school from bowl games for four years. He also took 20 scholarships per year (out of 85) away from the program, which means that 65 Penn State players will likely get their butts kicked on Saturdays as punishment for crimes that they didn't commit.

I don't care if Penn State wins games or not. But what kind of enterprise is this when an appropriate punishment for enabling a child rapist is to lose football games? Who is putting too much emphasis on winning now, Mr. Emmert?

Of course, Emmert also fined Penn State $60 million, which is the equivalent of one year of gross football revenues, so that money can go to a better cause, which...

Whoa, whoa. Hang on there, pal.

I thought that money was going to a good cause. Remember? That's why schools can't afford to pay players. These aren't businesses. Schools need that money for important educational reasons. Uh-huh.

The fine will go "into an endowment for programs preventing child sexual abuse and/or assisting the victims of child sexual abuse." I love this idea, and in fact I've pushed it several times in columns since the Sandusky allegations broke last November.

But this is where Emmert loses me: "The proceeds of this fine may not be used to fund programs at the University."

Think about this, people. An athletic governing body is taking millions of dollars away from an institution of higher learning, because the athletic governing body does not trust the university to educate people about sexual abuse.

Wow. For years, critics have screamed that elite universities contradict their own core values and academic standards so they can win games. NCAA administrators have disputed that. Now Emmert is actually taking that criticism a step further. He says Penn State University is so inept at being a university that the NCAA, which manages athletic contests, cannot even trust Penn State to run an educational program.

Again, I have no interest in defending Penn State. Even Penn State folks can't defend Penn State -- the reasonable ones among them are the most disgusted, because this feels like finding out something awful about their family.

The principals at Penn State seemed to think that they could do whatever they pleased, with no checks or balances. That was the problem. The school needs to fix its culture. If it can't fix its own culture, it should cease being a school. I don't see why an athletic governing body is making this decision.

And the irony of Emmert's penalties is that for the last dozen years, there was a single ongoing complaint about Penn State football: The school didn't care enough about winning.

If Penn State was so obsessed with winning, the school would have fired Joe Paterno 10 years ago. Penn State was not nearly as obsessed with winning as most schools are. You can level a lot of harsh criticisms at Penn State, and I have leveled my share. But an obsession with winning is not one of them.

If Penn State was obsessed with anything, it was the idea that the school was above reproach. Too many people in the community thought Joe Paterno was a deity who happened to coach football. School president Graham Spanier and his minions ignored what was morally right and wrong. They ignored the law. They didn't even worry about self-preservation. They lived in a cocoon. Their actions were awful and inexcusable. But they did not do it simply to win football games.

Emmert just announced to the world that winning football games is really, really important. Now he gets to look tough and powerful, and Penn State goes away for a while, and it all sounds good, because what happened at Penn State really was abhorrent. But it may be time for a new NCAA logo: a picture of a tail wagging a dog.