The recent NCAA announcement regarding a reduction in penalties assessed against Penn State University represents a much-needed positive move by an organization currently beset with criticism.

In my view, the NCAA overstepped its enforcement parameters from the start in this matter.  Traditionally, NCAA enforcement action has been based on alleged wrongdoing in one of three main areas:

-  Academic fraud,

-  Improper recruiting, and

-  Provision of extra benefits to enrolled student-athletes.

Of course, other matters involving improper competitive advantages (e.g., excessive out-of-season practices) are within the purview of NCAA enforcement, and the association has developed a meaningful drug-testing program, but the main courses on the NCAA enforcement menu are those three items listed above.  Penn State’s situation involved none of these.

Certainly, the criminal actions committed by a former Penn State assistant football coach, who has had his day in court, were horrific. Further, allegations of other criminal conduct against Penn State employees will be considered appropriately by our judicial system.

I don’t think the NCAA membership ever envisioned a day when the NCAA would insert itself into criminal matters in terms of fact-finding or imposing penalties prior to the completion of the criminal process (e.g., in point-shaving cases).  I know when I worked as an NCAA investigator, we were clearly aware of our place in the enforcement world.

My prediction?  Common sense will prevail, and the postseason ban against Penn State football will be lifted within a year.

Please see this article for the thoughts of a media member who is not a fan of the NCAA.  I share his view that we should credit the NCAA (and its unpopular president) for a step in the right direction.

What do you think?  Was the NCAA right to do what it did throughout this process?  Does this mean the NCAA will now consider reductions in future penalties if a school demonstrates a heightened commitment to compliance?  Should the NCAA get involved the next time a coach is arrested for driving under the influence?  Should the NCAA ever act prior to the completion of the legal process?

Please let me know what you think at mgilleran@scu.edu. Thanks.

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