INDIANAPOLIS — Penn State football was all but leveled Monday by an NCAA ruling that wiped away 14 years of coach Joe Paterno's victories and imposed a mountain of fines and penalties, crippling a program whose pedophile assistant coach spent uncounted years molesting children, sometimes on university property.
The sanctions by the governing body of college sports, which capped eight months of turmoil on the central Pennsylvania campus, stopped short of delivering the "death penalty" of shutting down the sport. But the NCAA hit Penn State with $60 million in fines, ordered it out of the postseason for four years, and will cap scholarships at 20 below the normal limit for four years. The school also will be on probation for five years.
Any current or incoming football players are free to immediately transfer and compete at another school.
"Football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing and protecting young people," NCAA President Mark Emmert said as he announced the penalties at a news conference in Indianapolis.
The sanctions all stem from the case of former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted last month of sexually abusing 10 boys over 15 years. An investigation commissioned by the school and released July 12 found that Paterno, who died in January, and several other top officials at Penn State stayed quiet about accusations against Sandusky in 1998 and 2001.
The NCAA ruling holds the entire school community accountable for failing to protect children.
"Against this backdrop, Penn State accepts the penalties and corrective actions announced today by the NCAA," Penn State President Rodney Erickson said in a statement. "With today's announcement and the action it requires of us, the University takes a significant step forward."
The Big Ten announced that Penn State would not be allowed to share in the conference's bowl revenue during the NCAA's postseason ban, an estimated loss of about $13 million. And the NCAA reserved the right to add additional penalties.
Emmert fast-tracked penalties rather than go through the usual circuitous series of investigations and hearings. The NCAA said the $60 million is equivalent to the annual gross revenue of the football program. The money must be paid into an endowment for external programs preventing child sexual abuse or assisting victims and may not be used to fund such programs at Penn State.
"The sanctions needed to reflect our goals of providing cultural change," Emmert said.
By vacating 112 Penn State victories from 1998-2011, the sanctions cost Paterno 111 wins. Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden will now hold the top spot in the NCAA record book with 377 major-college wins. Paterno, who was fired days after Sandusky was charged, will be credited with 298 wins.
The scholarship reductions mean Penn State's roster will be capped at 65 scholarship players beginning in 2014. The normal scholarship limit for major college football programs is 85. Playing with 20 less is devastating to a program that tries to compete at the highest level of the sport.
In comparison, the harsh NCAA sanctions placed upon USC several years ago left the Trojans with only 75 scholarships per year over a three-year period.