Penn State fined $60M, vacates wins from 1998-2011

Penn State head coach Joe Paterno pauses during Penn State head coach Joe Paterno pauses during a 2008 post-game news conference. Photo Credit: AP

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The NCAA slammed Penn State Monday with what it called "unprecedented sanctions" in response to the university's handling of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal.

The governing body of college sports hit the school's football program with penalties that include a fine of $60 million, make Penn State ineligible for the postseason for four years, cap scholarships at 20 below the normal roster limit for four years and place the team on five years' probation.

A day after the school removed the bronze statue of its once beloved coach, Joe Paterno, the NCAA also ruled the team must vacate its victories from 1998-2011, costing Paterno 111 victories and the title of college football's all-time winningest coach at the Division I level.

"No price the NCAA can levy will repair the grievous damage inflicted by Jerry Sandusky on his victims," NCAA president Mark Emmert said. "However, we can make clear that the culture, actions, and inactions that allowed them to be victimized will not be tolerated in collegiate athletics."

The NCAA's announcement comes a little more than a week after a report by former FBI director Louis Freeh commissioned by the university found that top administrators -- including Paterno -- "repeatedly concealed critical facts" about Sandusky to avoid "bad publicity."

Sandusky, a former assistant coach, was found guilty on 45 of 48 counts of sexual abuse in June and is awaiting sentencing.

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The NCAA said in a statement the university perpetuated "a football-first culture that ultimately enabled serial child sexual abuse to occur."

Penn State president Rodney Erickson said the university accepted the punishment.

"It is important to know we are entering a new chapter at Penn State and making necessary changes," he said in a statement. "We must create a culture in which people are not afraid to speak up, management is not compartmentalized, all are expected to demonstrate the highest ethical standards, and the operating philosophy is open, collegial, and collaborative."

Current or incoming football players are free to immediately transfer and compete at another school.

The NCAA said the $60-million fine, which represents "the average gross annual revenue of the football program," will be paid over a five-year period and placed into an endowment for programs benefiting the victims of child sexual abuse. The Big Ten Conference also announced that Penn State will not be allowed a share of the conference's bowl revenue, an estimated loss of about $13 million over the four years.

By vacating every football victory since 1998, Paterno loses 111 wins off his previous record 409 victories, dropping him to eighth all-time among Division I football coaches. A vacated win is not the same as a forfeit, meaning the game does not count as either a win or a loss for either school.

The team is not banned from television appearances.

The family of the late coach, who died in January, argued that the NCAA made a rash decision, improperly victimizing Paterno's legacy.

"The sanctions announced by the NCAA [Monday] defame the legacy and contributions of a great coach and educator without any input from our family or those who knew him best," the Paterno family said in a statement.

Paterno broke the all-time Division I record of 408 victories set by Grambling's Eddie Robinson on Oct. 29, 2011. A week later, a grand jury indicted Sandusky on charges of sexually abusing young boys over a 15-year period, and the university responded that week by firing Paterno, who was in his 46th year.

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Bill O'Brien, who was hired as Paterno's replacement before the full scope of the scandal was realized, said in a statement that he is "committed long-term to Penn State."

The NCAA had remained largely silent on the Sandusky scandal since it broke last November, saying it was waiting for Penn State to respond to a letter it sent that had asked, essentially, for the school's explanation how a suspected pedophile had been allowed to roam free for years.

But after the university swiftly accepted the findings of the Freeh Report, the NCAA "determined that traditional investigative and administrative proceedings would be duplicative and unnecessary."

The NCAA also said it did not consider shutting down the school's football program for a period of time -- a punishment commonly referred to as "the death penalty" -- because that "does not address the cultural, systemic and leadership failures at Penn State."

The NCAA, in a statement, added that it believes the sanctions levied against Penn State "far exceed the severity of shutting down a program for a year or two. Our sanctions address the cultural change necessary at Penn State. What some refer to as the death penalty was not severe enough."

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