Big day today. Blog Duke of Glocester Mike had the initial reaction today and made some very good points about a private entity handcuffing a public body. Here's some more writers I liked today.
1) Dave Zirin spent most of yesterday preparing to be angry, and his column today doesn't disappoint. Particularly useful is his discussion of the NCAA's move into criminal law- the only real "unprecedented" thing in this situation.
2) Drew Magary excoriates the NCAA for brand management disguised as protecting its values.
3) Travis Waldron reminds us that Penn State did this because of a reverence for football- a reverence the NCAA has encouraged for years.
4) The Hang Up and Listen guys are dismissive of the "extra-legal" concerns- but are also very skeptical that the NCAA will take any other action to rein in runaway football programs.
5) For my part: Penn State deserved to be punished. I was nervous about collective punishment, but I also didn't know how you successfully targeted the program without hurting students, athletes, or other low-men-on-the-totem-pole (hot dog vendors and such). I was also nervous about scapegoating; Penn State was, as we've said before, kind of a symptom of college football's larger problems, and we can't act like punishing it solves those problems. But: Penn State did screw up, horribly so. And I've got no problem in making it account for that.
I'm concerned that the NCAA was the wrong body to do it. Like Mike said, it's hinky for a private entity to handcuff a public body. Like Waldron said, the NCAA is morally complicit here. Plus, the NCAA had to abandon its usual rules and procedures to get here. And I can't shake the feeling that continued criminal action would have been much better targeted. But, Mike's point about the NCAA's moral obligation is well-taken; I think I would have been satisfied with NCAA action so long as it had followed its normal procedures. As it stands, though, I'm uncomfortable.
Then, there's the fact that I'm pretty unimpressed with the punishment. The money is the eye-catching thing, but the alumni and boosters will ride to the rescue there. The postseason probably wasn't a factor for a few years anyway, and the loss of prestige will be forgotten as soon as Penn State posts a winning record and ESPN trips over itself to tell the story of Penn State' return to honor. Vacating wins? Just silly. Scholarships hurt, but it's the exact kind of hurt that football programs usually pass on to the students. Meanwhile, this is still collective punishment, the very thing I was worried about, and the NCAA's mandate that athletes be given free transfers- while entirely necessary- is going to set off an ugly recruiting derby that's going to remind you of every thing you hate about college football- as if you needed another reminder here.
So, it's kinda like the NCAA gave us the worst of both worlds- it assumed too much power to deliver too little punishment, and preserved all the worst impulses of the sport in the process.