STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — NCAA president Mark Emmert says the sanctions levied on Penn State for the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal dealt with the behavior of university leaders and whether or not the school handled the allegations appropriately.
Emmert told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday in Chicago that the “fact that there was criminal activity is not the NCAA’s issue.”
The landmark penalties handed down by the NCAA in July included a four-year bowl ban and strict scholarship cuts.
A former assistant football coach, Sandusky was sentenced this month to at least 30 years in prison after being convicted on dozens of criminal counts. Authorities said allegations occurred on and off school property.
The NCAA had said before the sanctions it would look into institutional control at Penn State.
“I think it’s important to differentiate what the Penn State case was about and what it wasn’t about,” Emmert said. “What we were interested in, and what we focused on was the behavior of those people around that situation, and whether or not the university handled the allegations and the information that it received appropriately.”
He added the NCAA was interested “not in the crimes themselves, but in what happened after those crimes were committed and how they were dealt with or not dealt with.”
Many Penn State fans, alumni and former players have criticized the NCAA’s decision, along with the university’s acceptance of the penalties. But school president Rodney Erickson has said he wanted to avoid an even worse punishment—the so-called “death penalty,” or elimination of the program entirely.
The NCAA’s decision was based on a report by former FBI director Louis Freeh for Penn State that said that late coach Joe Paterno and three school officials concealed allegations against Sandusky in order to protect the school’s image. Paterno’s family and the official have vehemently denied those conclusions.
Emmert said, if a university addresses criminal activity “rapidly, then that’s not an NCAA matter. It’s whether or not a university fails to respond to treat a student or an employee in a way that’s fundamentally different than they might treat someone else in the same circumstance. That’s what constitutes a loss of institutional control.”
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