NCAA should go all the way
By restoring five of the scholarships that it had stripped from the Penn State football program, the NCAA made a tacit admission this week and raised a question.
Although NCAA President Mark Emmert and other officials couched the announcement in terms of Penn State improving its supposedly wayward culture, the underlying reality is that Mr. Emmert and the NCAA went way over the top with the unprecedented sanctions they imposed in July 2012, and they know it.
The Jerry Sandusky scandal and the furor around it, of course, drove Mr. Emmert's rush to impose the draconian sanctions - penalties so severe that he and innumerable "experts" anticipated they would kill the Penn State program.
Mr. Emmert's self-insertion into the issue itself was questionable since the NCAA exists to regulate competition among sports programs. Mr. Sandusky committed an infamous crime for which he will serve the rest of his life in prison. Former PSU President Graham Spanier, former Vice President Gary Schultz and former Athletic Director Tim Curley await trial for their alleged roles in the Sandusky case. Penn State is in the process of settling civil suits. All of those proceedings are the American society's prescribed means to deal with alleged wrong-doing. There has yet to be any evidence that the Sandusky matter involved Penn State trying to gain competitive advantage - the NCAA's only legitimate interest.
The NCAA contends that a major part of its mission is to promote academics, and it has a host of regulations regarding the levels of academic progress necessary for athletes to remain eligible to compete. But eliminating scholarships is the opposite of promoting education.
Now, under pressure from the Big 10 Conference, looking at the potential for damages in a lawsuit filed by the family of the late PSU coach Joe Paterno, and facing intense scrutiny for the mishandling of a series of matters legitimately within its realm, the NCAA has decided to take a step back.
But the question is, why one step? The sanctions punish only people who had nothing to do with Jerry Sandusky or his crimes. Corrective action does not lie with five restored scholarships alone.