College sports' governing body Monday suspended Penn State's football team from post-season bowl play for four years and fined the university $60 million for its handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
The teams also must vacate all wins from 1998 through 2011.
Monday morning's announcement by the NCAA stood out as much for its harshness as for the swiftness with which it came. In past scandals at the University of Southern California, Auburn and Ohio State, the association attracted criticism for its slow pace.
The sanctions could punish more than just Penn State's football program, which generates windfall profits not only for the university's other athletic programs but also from the surrounding community.
According to the school's most recent NCAA financial reports, the football program brings in more than $50 million in profits each year. And home games usher in a brisk business for local hotels and businesses in the otherwise sleepy Happy Valley.
The NCAA moved swiftly in the days after former FBI Director Louis Freeh released the findings of his internal investigation into the university's handling of allegations against Sandusky.
Among them: that former head football coach Joe Paterno, Athletic Director Tim Curley, ex-university president Graham B. Spanier and others conspired to keep quiet reports that Sandusky was abusing children for fear that the scandal could hurt the program. Sandusky, 68, was convicted on 45 counts of child sex abuse last month involving 10 victims, many of whom were molested on Penn State's campus.
The sanctions announced Monday, though crippling, will allow Penn State's football program to continue. Only once in its history has the NCAA handed down its harshest punishment - the so-called "death penalty," which shuts down a university's football program for a season or more.
The association imposed the sanction on Southern Methodist University in Dallas in the late 1980s, after a scandal revealed university employees were involved in managing a slush fund that allowed donors to make prohibited payments to players.
Although the college was forced out only one season, its board of trustees opted to sit out another. The program never again regained its regional prominence.
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