With news this past week dominated by the Freeh report’s (Penn State’s Special Investigative Counsel) findings regarding several key PSU officials’ involvement in the Jerry Sandusky scandal, I couldn’t help but think what ramifications this would have on PSU’s future in college football. How does the NCAA view PSU officials’ involvement in the Sandusky cover-up? Will PSU be given the death penalty? If not, what penalty should be leveled against PSU?
Having read a majority of the Freeh report myself, there is significant evidence pointing to cover-ups at every level to protect the image of PSU’s beloved football program and the endeared head coach, Joe Paterno. A wealth of opportunities arose, as far back as 1998, for PSU officials and Paterno, to do the right thing. Yet these individuals remained mum or even denied knowledge of Jerry Sandusky’s activities for over a decade prior to being indicted by the grand jury.
My perspective on this situation has been affected by growing up in the heart of B1G country, including attending all of high school in the shadow of The Ohio State University in Columbus, OH. As a kid, if I was not at the church on Saturday’s watching BYU play on the church’s satellite feed, I was watching OSU and Big 10 football. Almost all of my friends from childhood still live in the area, and continue to be diehard OSU and B1G fans. This past weekend, I was talking to a H.S. buddy of mine about the Freeh report when he mentioned something I hadn’t heard or thought of before:
“I hope the Big Ten kicks them out., ” he said.
“What do you mean?” I replied.
“How can OSU and a group of institutions support one of its members who actively covered up child sex abuse by one of their own football coaches? I would be in full support of them (B1G) kicking them (PSU) out,” he noted.
I want to believe what Mark Emmert, the current NCAA president, said about PSU after the Freeh report was released.
“I've never seen anything as egregious as this in terms of just overall conduct and behavior inside a university and hope never to see it again. What the appropriate penalties are, if there are determinations of violations, we'll have to decide. We'll hold in abeyance all of those decisions until we've actually decided what we want to do with the actual charges should there be any. And I don't want to take anything off the table.”
Yet, after having watched the NCAA botch multiple penalties/investigations over the past several years – leveling relatively minor or no penalties for individuals and the involved programs (think Auburn/Gene Chizik/Cam Newton or Oregon/Chip Kelly/Lache Seastrunk) I have lost all faith in the NCAA to act out against PSU football program.
This is where I think (and I am not alone in this: http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2012/07/18/hoge-why-the-big-ten-should-but-likely-wont-kick-penn-state-out/) the Big Ten could get involved to level penalties against PSU, penalties that could potentially bring a positive effect for BYU scheduling.
Why would or should the B1G feel obligated to get involved? Jerry Sandusky was convicted of sexually abusing children as early as 1994, one year after PSU joined the Big Ten – in other words, to quote from Adam Hoge’s above linked article, “…for all but one year that Penn State has been playing football in the Big Ten, the school has had a coach raping children and/or administrators actively covering up that child rape.”
Even as I was preparing this article this morning, new broke that Jim Delany, B1G commissioner, is actively seeking power to penalize individuals at member institutions – perhaps to the level of firing staff for behavior that reflects badly on the conference. The article (found here: http://chronicle.com/blogs/players/jim-delany-wants-the-power-to-fire-coaches/30771) also quotes the B1G handbook regarding issuance of suspension or termination of member programs as follows:
“Any Big Ten university that employs or retains workers who intentionally falsify or deliberately fail to provide complete and accurate information during an investigation may be required to “show cause why its membership in the conference should not be suspended or terminated.” the Big Ten’s 2011-12 handbook says.”
On a weekly Big Ten Q&A session this week, ESPN B1G Blogger Adam Rittenberg said this about the B1G potential involvement in penalizing PSU,
“…Even a one-year ban would significantly impact Big Ten scheduling. There would have to be some rules in place for the Leaders Division with only five teams -- if the league stuck with division play at all. We could also see some serious scrambling to fill Penn State's spot on the schedule. It'll be chaotic, to say the least. Unless the Big Ten were to dismiss Penn State from the league, I don't foresee the divisions being realigned. And while the Big Ten could impose its own penalties, I don't sense much momentum for such a dramatic step as to remove Penn State from the conference.“
While I too do not believe PSU could ever be kicked out of the B1G, I could easily foresee them being penalized with a one year ban from participating in all B1G affiliated events. There is a gargantuan amount of pressure, and rightfully so, for any association even remotely associated with PSU to present themselves as strictly anti-pedophilia and anti-those who provide safe harbor for abusers.
A one-year ban, either leveled by the NCAA or the B1G, could bring some amazing scheduling benefits for an independent BYU. Undoubtedly, some of the B1G school’s not scheduled to play each other that year could scurry into a 9th league game (10th if later than 2014). Others would be left high and dry, needing a team to fill a last-minute hole in their mid-to-late season schedule. Any such scheduling hole would be difficult for most schools locked into conference play, leaving only schools, like BYU with the scheduling flexibility to jump into the holes vacated by a penalized PSU.
What season would such a ban take place? A 2013 ban would be extremely short notice to give PSU opponents, however would bring the desired penalizing affect swiftly to PSU. I will assume for argument’s sake that a 2014 would be more likely, giving the B1G schools +/- Temple/Akron/Rutgers/UMass (2014 PSU out-of-conference opponents) more time to find replacements, depending on the ban handed down.
According to fbsschedules.com, BYU in 2014 has only announced 5 opponents (Southern Miss, BSU, Hawaii, Texas, and Houston). I am sure Tom Holmoe and company in BYU athletic department would delight in filling some of those holes with B1G opponents. This would be a dream come true for me and my Big 10-loving roots. While BYU has played current B1G schools 10 times in it’s history, BYU has played only 3 games against B1G opponents during the regular season, including 1980 (at Wisconsin), 1991 (at Penn State) and 1992 (Penn State in a contest played in Provo).
Ironically enough, of all of the 12 schools in the B1G - only PSU has been to LaVell Edward’s Stadium – and that was prior to them joining the Big 10. Thus BYU has never hosted a B1G/Big 10 conference member while in the conference. NEVER! BYU has not even played Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan Sate, Nebraska, Northwestern, or Purdue in its 90-year history. (Of course this is changing with the recent announcement of 2015 game against Nebraska, and recent rumors of series’ with OSU/Wisc/and even PSU floated).
Should BYU fan root for a ban to be leveled against PSU football? Who am I to say? However, should BYU fan root for more opportunities to play against the B1G? Unquestionably, Yes! And perhaps this is the chance that opens that scheduling door for Tom Holmoe and BYU.