Williamson: Four bad arguments against the NCAA's Penn State ruling (and one good one)

July 26, 2012

Thad Williamson, associate professor of leadership studies and philosophy, politics, economics and law in the Jepson School, writers on power, sports and the NCAA's leadership in regard to the Penn State sanctions.


"Monday’s announcement of the NCAA’s “unprecedented” penalties against Penn State’s football program in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal has generally drawn praise from pundits inside and outside the sports world. The NCAA hit the football program hard with its postseason ban and scholarship reductions, and set a clear goal of cultural and institutional change at Penn State.

The sanction also hit Penn State fans where it hurts—in the heart—by vacating all football wins since 1998 and dethroning Joe Paterno as the sport’s winningest coach. The sour feeling expressed by some Carolina fans after the football problems in Chapel Hill led two seasons to be vacated has been multiplied seven times over in (not-so) Happy Valley.

Nonetheless, some observers remain skeptical or uncomfortable with the NCAA’s actions. One of the most virulent arguments was forwarded by columnist Dave Zirin of Edge of Sports and The Nation fame, who called the NCAA’s actions a “crime…masquerading as a farce.”

I’ll put my cards on the table: I think the Penn State ruling was the most welcome, promising and appropriate move by an NCAA President in decades. It sent an unmistakable message that the football culture at Penn State must change permanently, and it sent a clear warning to other institutions where sports and coaches have become too big and powerful to challenge.

Here are four unpersuasive arguments forwarded by critics of the decision."

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