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Past NCAA bosses question sanctions

The sanctions delivered to Penn State by NCAA president Mark Emmert made several people scratch their heads this summer.

Two of Mark Emmert's predecessors spoke about the way the NCAA president handled the Penn State sanctions Wednesday night.

That group included two former presidents of the organization.

Speaking Wednesday evening at a panel discussion in downtown State College hosted by Penn State's Center for Sports Journalism, former NCAA leaders Gene Corrigan and Cedric Dempsey both took issue with the way Emmert and the member presidents handled the discipline of Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse case.

Dempsey, the executive director of the NCAA from 1994 to 2003, said the NCAA made its ruling based on principle, not the organizations by-laws, allowing itself latitude that it had not used before.

"To me, they stretched that a long way," he said.

The university administration, however, put itself in an unfavorable position by agreeing to the consent decree, Dempsey said.

"It left you nowhere to go," Dempsey said. Had Penn State not accepted the decree, he added, "it would have left the NCAA with an interesting case to deal with."

Corrigan, a former ACC commissioner and NCAA president, said had the Penn State case happened under his watch, he would have gone to the school and tried to "find out every possible detail" before taking action. He said that, as one of the NCAA's member institutions, Penn State was like one of its children.

"You don't throw your kids out," Corrigan said. "You punish them and make them better."

Panelist Amy Perko, a one-time NCAA employee and current spokeswoman for the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, believes public relations pressure played into the NCAA's decision.

"The Penn State case fell into a list of bad stories for college sports," Perko said.

The five-member group, which also included former Penn State faculty athletics representative Scott Kretchmar and journalist Thomas O'Toole of USA Today, also discussed what they felt is a culture change in college athletics. Athletic directors have become fundraisers and budget-balancers, while there is less communication with faculty.

They also believe that the top BCS football programs and the massive amounts of revenue they generate hold all the power, and can even see the major programs eventually breaking off into another subdivision.

"The legislative structure gives BCS schools majority voting to do whatever they want to do," Dempsey said.

Though Dempsey said this was "the first time you could criticize the NCAA for moving too quickly," he doesn't think Penn State has any recourse. Nor does Corrigan.

"You've got to take it and move on," Corrigan said. "I don't see any sense in trying to take it to court."

Panelists agreed, though, that the way the NCAA handled the Penn State sanctions will put more eyes on the organization when troubles strike other programs in the future.

"The doors open for scrutiny on any NCAA case that's a legal issue," O'Toole said.

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