Centre Daily Times, Christopher Weddle, Associated Press
INDIANAPOLIS — Now the NCAA gets its say on Penn State.
College sports' governing body was expected to deal a series of heavy blows to the Nittany Lions football program on Monday, less than two weeks after a devastating report accused coach Joe Paterno and other top university officials of concealing child sex abuse allegations against a retired assistant coach for years to avoid bad publicity. A news conference was scheduled for 9 a.m. in Indianapolis.
A multi-year bowl ban, lost scholarships, recruiting limits, probation and a multimillion-dollar fine all seem likely for the program Paterno built into a national power under the slogan of "success with honor." And the NCAA, heavily criticized for its sometimes-ponderous pace in deciding penalties as scandals mounted at Ohio State, Auburn, USC and elsewhere, acted with unprecedented swiftness in arriving at what it called "corrective and punitive" sanctions for a team that is trying to start over with a new coach and a new outlook.
The NCAA announced no details Sunday in serving notice that it would indeed weigh in on perhaps the worst scandal in American college sports history. President Mark Emmert cautioned last week that he had not ruled out the possibility of shutting down the football program altogether — the so-called death penalty, famously used against Southern Methodist a quarter-century ago — saying he had "never seen anything as egregious" as the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
Eight satellite TV trucks filled the bay directly behind the NCAA headquarters Monday morning and several more were stationed in a nearby parking lot. More than a dozen TV cameras lined the back of the room where the news conference was being held, and more than 70 media credentials were issued.
The NCAA announcement Sunday came shortly after Penn State took down its famed statue of Paterno, six months to the day since his death from lung cancer. The university said leaving it up would be a "recurring wound" for Sandusky's victims. An accomplished defensive coordinator, Sandusky was convicted of molesting young boys over more than a decade.
A harsh penalty from the NCAA could have repercussions well beyond Penn State's football program, which generates large profits — more than $50 million, according to the U.S. Department of Education — that subsidize dozens of other sports at the school. The potential for a historic NCAA penalty also is worrisome for a region where the economy is built at least partially on the strength and popularity of the football program.
Kayla Weaver, a Penn State senior and member of the dance team called the Lionettes, said an NCAA death penalty would not only make football players transfer, but it also would force program changes for cheerleaders, dancers and band members, and would hurt season-ticket holders.
"It could ruin everything that we've built here," said Weaver, from Franklin Lakes, N.J.
Added Derek Leonard, a 31-year-old university construction project coordinator who grew up in the area: "It's going to kill our town."
Emmert put the Penn State matter on the fast track. Other cases that were strictly about violating the NCAA rulebook have dragged on for months and even years. There was no sign that the infractions committee so familiar to college sports fans was involved this time around as Emmert moved quickly, no doubt aided by the July 12 release of the report by former FBI director Louis Freeh and what it said about Paterno and the rest of the Penn State leadership.
The investigation focused partly on university officials' decision not to go to child-welfare authorities in 2001 after a coaching assistant told Paterno that he had seen Sandusky sexually abusing a boy in the locker room showers. Penn State officials already knew about a previous allegation against Sandusky by that time, from 1998.
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