Penn State: The NCAA’s Own Ethical Dilemma

The internal investigation, called the Freeh Report, of Penn State was released today. In it contained damming evidence that according to Louis Freeh, demonstrated “total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State.”

“Four of the most powerful people at Pennsylvania State University – President Graham B. Stanier, Senior Vice President–Finance and Business Gary C, Schultz, Athletic Director Timothy M. Curley, and Head Football Coach Joseph V. Paterno – failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children over a decade. …They exhibited a striking lack on empathy for Sandusky’s victims by failing to inquire as to their safety and well-being…” [See Full Report Here]

The report leaves a wake of evidence that complete and systemic failure occurred under the watch of senior administration and much-loved head coach, Joe Paterno.

The NCAA inquired of Penn State to answer questions regarding ethical violations pursuant to their member code of conduct. After the release of the Freeh Report, the NCAA renewed its insistence for Penn State to answer the four key questions submitted earlier. The NCAA suggested that, “Penn State’s response to the letter will inform our next steps, including whether or not to take further action.

The NCAA’s actions in response to ethical violations by Penn State creates its own ethical dilemma. In the past the NCAA has sanctioned schools for compliance issues such as recruiting violations and alumni support of athletes. Few schools have ever received what is known as the “Death Penalty” by the NCAA, the most recent being the SMU football program of 1987. In SMU’s case, the primary violation included a fund to pay players that was in place for more than fifteen years. So, if the NCAA handed SMU the Death Penalty for a fifteen year violation that funded athletes, what should be the penalty for failure to protect a child from a predator for more than a decade? Forbes ranks Penn State as the third most valuable football team in the NCAA. Will the NCAA slap Penn State on the wrist, or will it levy the death penalty? If the NCAA refuses to impose the death penalty on Penn State, the message will be clear that SMU’s monetary violation supersedes Penn State’s criminal violation. Anything less than the death penalty sanction by the NCAA indicates they value money and program popularity over institutional integrity.


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