NCAA Lowers Boom on Penn State: $60 Million Fine and Four-Year Bowl-Game Ban

Penn State's football program faces the daunting task of rebuilding itself while accepting punishment for enabling a culture that covered up child sexual abuse and led to the downfall of a storied college coach

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Jim Prisching / AP

Former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, walking off the field after warm-ups before a game against Northwestern in Evanston, Ill.

A month after former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of sexually abusing young boys during his tenure at the university, the NCAA has levied heavy punishment on the school’s football program, possibly the most far-reaching in college-sports history.

NCAA president Mark Emmert said on Monday that the school will be forced to pay a $60 million fine, funds that will endow a foundation to help combat child sexual abuse. The fine is equivalent to one year’s revenue from the football program. The school will also be banned from all bowl games for four years. Additionally, all of Penn State’s wins from 1998 to 2011 will be vacated.

The NCAA chose not to administer the “death penalty” and suspend the football program entirely, which was a possibility. “Suspension of the football program would bring unintended harm to many who have nothing to do with this case,” Emmert said.

(MORE: ‘Death Penalty’ Would Be an Act of Mercy for Penn State Football)

Penn State’s athletics department was accused of having a “football first” culture that left a window open for Sandusky’s crimes to take place while encouraging others to cover them up. “At our core, we are educators,” Emmert said. “Penn State leadership lost sight of that.”

The fines come as a result of the Freeh report, an independent investigation released on July 12 that outlines Penn State’s actions — and inactions — regarding Sandusky. The probe, conducted by former FBI director Louis Freeh, revealed that former head coach Joe Paterno, along with a number of other Penn State officials, were aware of Sandusky’s misconduct but failed to act properly on the allegations. Calling Paterno one of the “most powerful people” at Penn State, Freeh noted that Paterno repeatedly concealed facts related to Sandusky’s child abuse so as to avoid the consequences of bad publicity. The report stated, “The most saddening finding by the Special Investigative Counsel is the total and consistent disregard by the most senior leaders at Penn State for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims.”

Paterno was once a revered figure on Penn State’s campus. After the scandal broke in November, students rioted on his behalf, enraged at the thought that Paterno could be involved. But in recent weeks, the central Pennsylvania town’s feelings toward the legendary coach, who passed away in January after battling lung cancer, have soured. A halo painted above his head on a mural near the campus was removed, and most tellingly, a bronze statue of Paterno that stood prominently on the campus was taken down over the weekend.

In addition to the fine, bowl-game ban and vacated wins, Penn State must reduce 10 initial and 20 total scholarships for a four-year period. It has been placed on probation for five years and is subject to more punishment if any NCAA rule is broken within that time. The school must enter into an athletics integrity agreement with the NCAA, adopt all Freeh report recommendations and appoint an independent athletics integrity monitor to be selected by the NCAA.

Student athletes will be allowed to transfer to other schools. If they choose to stay, they may retain their scholarships whether or not they decide to stay on their teams.

(PHOTOS: Joe Paterno: Dec. 21, 1926–Jan. 22, 2012)

Sandusky was convicted on June 22 of 45 counts of criminal child sexual abuse. He remains in the Centre County jail awaiting sentencing. Sandusky and his lawyers have maintained his innocence, but on the basis of sentencing requirements, the 68-year-old will likely spend the rest of his life in prison.

Emmert said that after criminal proceedings are final, the NCAA reserves the right to further investigate individuals who may be linked to the scandal. The independent athletics integrity monitor will report on the progress of the university on a quarterly basis, added the NCAA.

MORE: Penn State Cover-Up: Groupthink in Action

— With Nick Carbone