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The National, 7/25/12: Denouement.

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At least this guy will still be able to go wave his flag.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
At least this guy will still be able to go wave his flag. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Fallout Is Bad, Avoid At All Costs: So we've had a couple of days to absorb the Penn State mess, and I don't think anyone's changed their mind about anything. There's been a lot written about the sanctions and whether they're meaningful or stupid, helpful or destructive, proper or illegal. At the mothership, Andrew Sharp thinks the NCAA got it right, while Spencer Hall thinks it's an atrocity. CBS has taken a pretty neutral stance across the board, while SI is leaning against with Stewart Mandel insisting the NCAA overstepped and Michael Rosenberg arguing that the NCAA placed the wrong emphasis on the punishment, while Andy Staples seemed content not to editorialize and Holly Anderson is too busy handling Media Days coverage to get in on the feeding frenzy. ESPN appears mostly in attack mode, but their motives are, as always, suspect.

In summary, ask three guys about this and you'll get five opinions.

Still, I think that almost every editorial I've read on the sanctions this week has missed at least one key element if not several. There's a few things that have crystallized in my mind this week, and they seem so patently obvious to me now that it's almost impossible to believe others aren't picking up on them... and, indeed, have been making arguments based on sheer nonsense. To wit:

"The NCAA had no authority to act." I will gladly have a discussion with anyone who wishes to argue that the NCAA shouldn't have done anything, because I can see their point. I disagree with it now -- and we'll get to that in a minute -- but it's a stance one can take without me thinking they've lost their mind. The arguments that the NCAA had no authority to act, however, are just patently insane. The NCAA's bylaws grant the Executive Council and Board of Directors the right, by a 75% vote, to enact "emergency legislation". Sure, they can get overruled by the membership as a whole at the next annual NCAA meeting, but have you heard any university presidents speaking out against the sanctions? No, you haven't. That's all you need to know right there.

"It's horrible that the fans are being punished." This is just abjectly silly. Never mind the fact that every time the NCAA has ever punished a program the fans got "punished". "Innocent" people are punished almost every time punishment occurs. Kids lose fathers to jail, employees lose jobs when federal regulators put the hammer down on bad accounting. But it's even worse than that in this case because we're expected to feel sorry for Penn State's fans having to watch bad football for a decade. Hello? Have we forgotten why we're even having this conversation in the first place? Hey, I have sympathy for PSUFan, but the reality here is that their inconvenience is nothing at all compared to the kids who were subjected to Jerry Sandusky after he should have already been locked up. Let's get some perspective here, people.

"The NCAA is just doing this for its own PR purposes, and for money." The NCAA's financial interest in Division I FBS football, as an institution, is so minimal as to be non-existent. Nobody ever remembers that the NCAA doesn't make money on big-time football because they fail to separate "the NCAA" from "the members of the NCAA". It's not "the NCAA" getting rich off billion-dollar television contracts. It's Texas, and Alabama, and USC, and... Penn State. As for the PR argument, yes. The NCAA has an interest in making sure the public comprehends that the NCAA will act to rein in this sort of nonsense, because that's the NCAA's entire purpose. We're talking about an organization which was initially formed in order to convince the President of the United States that they could control college football and stop kids from dying. It's an organization whose first true test of authority was its response to a massive point-shaving scandal stretching across multiple universities. It's an organization which polices the amateur status of college athletes because it's important to fans and observers to at least have reason to believe that teams aren't out there simply buying players to win championships (since, after all, the old school team is supposed to be students at the university coming together to compete, not competitors pretending to represent the university). We demand that the NCAA act to preserve the ethical integrity of college athletics because that's why they exist. Yet when they do it? Oh, well, we have to bitch about them meddling. Why? Because we're dishonest and refuse to admit that being able to watch great college sports is more important to us than having those activities conducted with integrity, that's why. We're part of, if not the entire source of, the problem. Hell, we won't even tell ESPN to shove it because god forbid we refuse to watch Florida State play Miami even if we don't give a damn about the ACC.

"So, raping a child is this much worse than accepting a car." Really, at this point I just want to explode. Penn State is not being punished for raping children. Penn State did not rape children. They're being punished for covering it up, yet people just can't let go of the idea that Penn State is being punished because Jerry Sandusky is a creepy pederast.

"This wasn't a football problem, so the NCAA shouldn't even be involved." Penn State's administrators chose not to report Sandusky's actions because they were afraid of the fallout which would come down on their precious "Success With Honor" football program. Worse, the public relations disaster of covering up the crime absolutely outstrips any negative impact reporting it would have had, thereby making the decision not only venal, corrupt, and cowardly... but colossaly stupid. The football coach, the athletic director, and a man who had spent his entire career at Penn State actively participating in NCAA activities (often looking down his nose and sneering with smug superiority at the misdeeds of his peers at other institutions) were involved in the cover-up. Someone care to explain to me how this was not a football problem now?

"This isn't a deterrent. You think if jail's not a deterrent, this will be?" This is just my belief, of course, but I think that deep down most people involved in adminstering college athletics are, in fact, more afraid of NCAA sanctions than they are jail. The entire game of seeing how far they can push boundaries with the NCAA is a classic risk-reward scenario. Mark Emmert has now made it clear: the risk of covering up criminal activity within your athletic department is too great. As to the argument that it's not a deterrent, it's important to note that whereas before SMU schools were still brazen and unapologetic about paying players under the table, since then we've only had a handful of cases. Most major sanctions nowadays are the result of third parties providing illegal benefits to players, or due to a critical string of secondary violations which add up to lack of institutional control. The death penalty was a deterrent to outright professionalism; this is going to be a deterrent to the idea that protecting the program from bad press is more important than obeying the law.

I really do hope this will be the last time I ever write about this other than to discuss its impact on the football field itself, unless maybe to examine it historically. Still, I couldn't help cynically noticing that it only took about five minutes for every writer and blogger on the planet to shift focus from child molestation to speculation on who was going to be picking Penn State's roster clean. Because after all that's what's really important, right?

Hey, Bartender, Press the Panic Button: The Insight Bowl, which we all remember as the site of Bill Snyder's first bowl win (and also the site of one of the ugliest K-State bowl atrocities ever with that game against Syracuse), is no more. They've got a new sponsor now as Buffalo Wild Wings will be taking over. Construction crews are almost certainly busy turning Sun Devil Stadium into a veritable death trap designed to insure multiple overtimes.

Honey, I Think We Should See Other People: EA Sports has settled a class-action suit which mostly revolved around price-fixing related to NCAA Football and Madden NFL. The key result here is that EA will no longer have an exclusive license with the NCAA, meaning other companies could theoretically launch competing products. What this means to you: nothing at all, because EA's not going to stop making the game just because someone might compete, and it's not terribly likely anyone's going to try anyway.

Bad Internet Debaters Demand Oklahoma State Get Sanctions: OSU's Darrell Williams, suspended since February 2011 after being accused of rape, was convicted Monday evening of sexual battery and rape by instrumentation. Sentencing takes place August 24, and he's expected to get two years in prison, one for each count on which he was convicted.

Quick Hits: Northern Illinois LB Devon Butler was stabbed in the chest at a party early Sunday morning, after having been shot last year, and god I am so tired of this crap happening to college athletes. ... Say hello to TCU's new linebackers coach, a certain Randy Shannon, late of bucolic Coral Gables, Florida.

Diablerie: Michigan, ever beholden to tradition, presents yet another new uniform design. ... West Virginia is living up to the hype, interrupting Mike Gundy's press conference at Big 12 Media Days by belting out the Mountaineer fight song just outside the press room. ... INJURY REPORT: Georgetown: Probable: aJack the Bulldog (ACL).