On Wednesday, the NCAA released a new handbook.
It didn’t involve rules changes for football or basketball or soccer. It doesn’t address the ethics of student athletics. It doesn’t deal with the somewhat hot-button issue of compensation for student-athletes or sports injuries.
It’s about sex and violence.
The new handbook, “Addressing Sexual Assault and Interpersonal Violence,” is a guide that the NCAA’s press release points to as having been under construction since 2010, when they say the association “identified the prevention of interpersonal violence as a major initiative and appointed the NCAA’s Committee on Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct to lead it.”
But in Happy Valley, some are pointing to the handbook’s recommendations as being somewhat ironic given the Jerry Sandusky scandal that broke in 2011, and the subsequent historic sanctions against Penn State handed down in 2012, including a $60 million fine, a four-year ban on bowl game appearances and severe restrictions on football scholarships.
All of those penalties stemmed not from the fact that Sandusky, a former assistant coach, was convicted of 45 counts of child sex abuse. Instead, the punishment was directed at the university and the coaching staff under longtime head coach Joe Paterno for failures including reporting and investigation.
That is why language in the new book strikes a chord with some. In a resolution passed Aug. 6, the NCAA’s executive committee, the same body that imposed Penn State’s sanctions, spelled out how sexual violence should be handled. Among the recommendations are “know and follow campus protocol for reporting incidents of sexual violence; report immediately any suspected sexual violence to appropriate campus offices for investigation and adjudication” and “cooperate with but not manage, direct, control or interfere” with investigations.
Paterno has been roundly criticized for not exerting more of the power of his near-legendary status on campus and in Centre County to push the investigation against Sandusky. But does the NCAA’s report acknowledge that was not his place?
“The hypocrisy of the NCAA is beyond belief,” said state Sen. Jake Corman, R-Benner Township. “Report to superiors. That’s exactly what Joe Paterno did. ... This is just one more example of how the NCAA got carried away in the emotion of the time and rushed to judgment and got it wrong.”
Corman is part of a lawsuit against the NCAA to keep the $60 million in fine money, supposed to be earmarked for child sex abuse programming, in Pennsylvania.
Penn State trustee Anthony Lubrano saved his comments directly for NCAA President Mark Emmert, calling him a “sanctimonious hypocrite.”
“Joe Paterno was vilified for following the procedure now set forth by the NCAA,” he said. “Ironic, isn’t it?”
Former Penn State running back and NFL Hall of Famer Franco Harris said the handbook points to the NCAA trying to involve itself in something that isn’t a football issue, but a campus issue. Instead of putting out the handbook for student-athletes, he would prefer to see those players used to convey positive messages to their universities.
“If you really want to do something, it should be a campaign. ... This is something people don’t want to talk about. Student-athletes could be leaders,” he said.
The NCAA did not return phone calls or emails for comment.