Column: Line Drives — Finally, NCAA gets it right

[This is my column in the Sept. 11 issue of The Commercial Review.]

Kudos to the NCAA for doing something right for a change.

Lost amidst the news Monday of Ray Rice, the NCAA lifted the postseason ban imposed on Penn State University two years ago.

In 2012, the NCAA hit the university with a $60 million fine, forced the program to vacate 111 wins under Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno and slapped the football team with a four-year ban on postseason play in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal.

The collegiate athletics governing body also docked 40 scholarships from the Nittany Lions, although 25 of those were restored a year ago and the remainder is set to return in 2015.

The NCAA’s Executive Committee made the announcement after the recommendation from U.S. Sen. George Mitchell that the university had made the progress in improving its athletic programs.

With the recent history of the NCAA mishandling issues — former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor’s tattoo scandal, Johnny Manziel’s autograph scandal and the amateurism and payment of players — it is nice to see it finally do something right.

Unfortunately, the NCAA is rescinding (some) sanctions it should have never made.
The postseason ban, including leaving Penn State out of the Big Ten championship — it finished atop the Leaders Division in 2012 but was not allowed to participate in the game — was far too extreme.

The NCAA should have never taken away the 40 scholarships either.

How can the NCAA justify punishing players that were not involved with Sandusky or the terror he caused to children?

When the sanctions were handed down to the Nittany Lions, the NCAA did do the right thing by letting players transfer to other schools without having to sit out a year.

Star running back Silas Redd took full advantage, jumping ship from State College, Pa. to the tropical climate of Los Angeles and the University of Southern California.

Penn State and then-coach Bill O’Brien responded by putting the names of players on the backs of the jerseys for the first time in program history to honor those athletes who chose to stay despite being given a free pass by the NCAA.

It was an admirable gesture for a school with a tarnished image.

Two years later, after Penn State displayed it is moving in a positive direction, it was given the opportunity to compete for a conference championship again and a potential berth in the new College Football Playoff.

But those are things the Nittany Lions should have been able to do in the first place.

Make the university pay the large fine and vacate wins from the program when Sandusky was on staff, but don’t eradicate scholarships or take away the right for the players to compete in the postseason.

It’s a punishment the players never deserved.

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