Penn State University's American football program has been fined $60 million and sanctioned following evidence that officials hid information about former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky's sexual abuse of underage boys.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association imposed the fine on Penn State on Monday. The sanctions included a four-year postseason football ban and the forfeiture of all wins dating back to 1998.
The penalties come after a report found earlier this month that university officials had concealed information regarding former assistant American football coach Jerry Sandusky's sexual abuse of children.
By promoting a "football first" culture, said the NCAA in a statement, "the Pennsylvania State University leadership failed to value and uphold institutional integrity, resulting in a breach of the NCAA constitution and rules."
"This case has invoked deeply powerful emotions in all of us," said NCAA Director Mark Emmert at a press conference in Indiana following the announcement. "This case is incredibly unprecedented, as are these actions we are taking today."
The $60 million fine is equivalent to the gross annual revenue for Penn State's football program. The fine will paid to an external endowment for sex abuse prevention and victim assistance programs, said the NCAA, adding that funding for other sports programs may not be cut to help pay penalty.
"We have expressly said the payment of the fine cannot come by reducing or eliminating other sports," said Emmert.
The four-year post-season ban means the school's football program will not be eligible for bowl games until the 2016-17 season.
The university will also be required to cut 10 scholarships every year for four years. Current players in the football program have been given permission to transfer to other schools immediately.
Normally the NCAA requires players to sit out one season when transferring between schools at the Division One level, the highest level of collegiate sports.
Furthermore, high school recruits who have signed a National Letter of Intent committing them to play at the university can be released from that agreement.
Years of abuse
In November of last year Sandusky, an assistant coach for 31 seasons, was indicted for allegations of sexual assault against underage boys dating from 1994 until 2009. In June the 68-year-old was convicted of sexually assaulting 10 underage boys and was found guilty of 45 of the 48 counts against him. He faces a minimum of 60 years in prison.
Former Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno, under whom Sandusky worked, was fired in November after nearly 46 years on the job. He faced criticism when it became known that he was aware of Sandusky's actions, but only alerted his immediate supervisor, Athletic Director Tim Curley, and not the police.
A report by former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Louis J. Freeh, commissioned by the Penn State Board of Trustees, found that Paterno and three other university officials, including Curley, had concealed allegations of Sandusky's criminal abuse. The four men "failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade," the report said.
"They exhibited a striking lack of empathy for Sandusky's victims by failing to inquire as to their safety and well-being," added the report.
'Failure of institutional integrity'
The NCAA said in a press release that the Freeh Report "presents an unprecedented failure of institutional integrity leading to a culture in which a football program was held in higher esteem than the values of the institution, the values of the NCAA, the values of higher education and most disturbingly the values of human decency."
PennState will also have to adhere to an "Athletics Integrity Agreement" with the NCAA, which requires following all of the recommendations outlined in the Freeh Report.
On Sunday the university removed the statue of its long-time coach from outside its Beaver Stadium. Paterno died in January at age 85 from complications related to lung cancer.
The NCAA has said it will wait until criminal proceedings involving the Sandusky case have concluded before investigating individual Penn State officials who may face disciplinary sanctions.
Author: David Raish
Editor: Nancy Isenson