When the NCAA dropped the sanctions hammer on Penn State last weekend over the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal, most casual observers thought the punishment fit the crime– and most expected nothing less. However, experts worried as to whether the NCAA had the power to levy such a strong punishment in the first place. Though “lack of institutional control” was cited in the Penn State sanctions by NCAA President Mark Emmert, the term was previously reserved for illegal player payments and benefits or bribery, and not for criminal wrongdoings. Therefore, the NCAA’s punishment was unprecedented.
Some believe that Penn State could have fought and won against the NCAA sanctions had they chosen to do so. Of course, this would have further devastated Penn State’s already-tattered public image. But the fact that the NCAA might have overstepped its boundaries is an ongoing question in the greater debate over the organization’s reach.
Heralded sportswriter Frank Deford described the NCAA as a “cartel” and an “impossible organization” at a Commonwealth Club event in June. Deford says that concepts such as amateurism and the student-athlete are used to capitalize on the success of players in order to generate large sums of money for vested interests within big universities.