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Penn State Football: 4 Alternatives to Death Penalty as University Prepares Response to NCAA

by on July 19, 2012 6:00 AM

As the NCAA begins to sort through the avalanche of information that Penn State's independent investigation brought to light, it will have the difficult task of appropriately handling perceived justice in a case that found its way to the highest offices in the university's administration.

Less than a week removed from the release of the Freeh Report, national sportswriters have called for the Penn State football program to receive the so-called Death Penalty, the NCAA's harshest form of justice that would suspend the football program until further notice.

NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a recent interview with PBS that he wouldn't take any penalty off the table at this point in the NCAA's internal deliberations.

Penn State does not qualify for the Death Penalty by NCAA standards, which requires that an institution be a repeat major violations offender within a certain span of time. But given the somewhat arbitrary enforcement of its own rules, nobody truly knows what to expect from the NCAA.

Could Emmert's remarks have simply been posturing by the NCAA's head man, perhaps in hopes of forcing self-imposed sanctions by Penn State?

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Emmert, only two years into his time at the top of the ladder, has promised since Day 1 that he would no longer allow the rampant corruption in college athletics. The Penn State scandal is a perfect opportunity for Emmert to make good on his word.

Realistically, there is no form of justice the NCAA has the authority to hand down that could rectify the horrors that unfolded for the victims of Jerry Sandusky; the major players in the case have either passed away or are already, or may soon, face trial, leaving behind only a shattered shell of what once was Happy Valley.

To impose the Death Penalty on Penn State would not only punish those left behind, but potentially cause economic chaos in a town driven greatly by the existence of the Penn State football program. 

So what are some options on the table for Penn State and the NCAA? Here are four.

1. Bowl Ban: A season without a bowl bid can often feel empty; no fancy trip, no national TV audience, no relevancy in the national spotlight. Big Ten Conference rival Ohio State is going through a bowl ban under new coach Urban Meyer, but brighter days are surely over the horizon in Columbus. USC will be eligible for bowl contention for the first time in two years after violations ended the Trojans' reign at the top of college football. Recruits in the 2013 class have said a bowl ban wouldn't keep them from Happy Valley, but no promises from any recruits that could commit down the road.

2. TV Ban: TV is a powerful marketing tool and the NCAA could use it as a way to hurt Penn State without giving them the Death Penalty. No TV contracts, no prime time Whiteouts, and no carrot to lure a prized recruit into Happy Valley with. A combination of a bowl ban and TV ban could effectively erase Penn State from the national scene for a year or two without the economic repercussions on the surrounding area. Out of sight, out of mind.

3. Money To Charity: Part of a self-imposed penalty by Penn State could involve giving a certain percentage of revenue to a child abuse charity. Penn State Athletics is entirely supported (minus men's basketball) on football revenue, but Penn State manages to come out in the positive each year, leaving a substantial amount of money available. 

4. Scholarships: Maybe the most common form of NCAA justice is the loss of scholarships over an extended period of time. While your average recruiting class may have 20 or so prospects, cut that number down to 10 or 15 and the stakes are that much higher. Coaches can afford to recruit a player that doesn't pan out when two dozen more can take his place, but with only a handful of offers, the pressure is on to land immediate talent. While this may not seem like a drastic punishment to fit the crime, it can have a long-term effect on the success of a team.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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