2-Minute Law School: NCAA Sanctions

Hi. Professor Albert here for this week’s edition of THELAW.TV’s 2-Minute Law School. This week, we’re going to discuss N.C.A.A. sanctions.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association, or the N.C.A.A., was formed more than one hundred years ago to govern student athletics. It includes more about 1,200 schools. The N.C.A.A. regulates things like personnel, recruiting, eligibility, benefits, and financial aid for student athletes.

On July 23, 2012, as a result of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, N.C.A.A. president Mark Emmert handed down sanctions against the Penn State University’s football program. These sanctions include a four-year ban from appearing in any bowl games, a removal of all wins from 1998 through 2011, a removal of forty scholarships for a four-year period, a five-year probationary period, and a 60 million dollar fine.

Penn State avoided what’s commonly referred to as the “death penalty” — the banning of a school from competing in a sport for at least one year. The death penalty is the harshest sanction an N.C.A.A. member school can receive. It’s only been used only five times. The N.C.A.A. always had the power to ban an institution from competing in a particular sport. However, in 1985, in response to rampant violations at several schools, the N.C.A.A. Council passed the repeat violator rule. The rule stipulates that if a second major violation occurs at any institution within five years of being on probation in the same sport or another sport, that institution can be barred from competing in the sport involved in the second violation for either one or two seasons.

On January 3, 2013, Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett sued the N.C.A.A. in a federal antitrust lawsuit claiming the N.C.A.A. veered dramatically from its own disciplinary rules in placing sanctions against Penn State University earlier in 2012. Corbett wants a federal judge to throw out the sanctions on the basis that they have harmed students, business owners, and others who had nothing to do with the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

The intent of penalties is to ensure they are sufficient to deter schools from breaking the rules again. For this reason, penalties can be retrospective, such as the vacating of wins and records. Unfortunately, some sanctions, such as a ban on postseason competition, while serving as a deterrent for institutions, also negatively affect innocent student-athletes. However, the simple fact is that the punitive nature of N.C.A.A.-imposed sanctions make it unavoidable that the penalties imposed on institutions as a result of their involvement in major infractions will have some negative effect on innocent student-athletes.

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