The NCAA has given an unprecedented and harsh punishment to Penn State football, handing down a four-year postseason ban and a $60 million fine for covering up the sexual abuse crimes of former coach Jerry Sandsuky. In addition, the school is on a five-year probation that slashes scholarships to unheard of levels and vacated all of its wins since 1998, when the cover-up began. The $60 million fine was determined as the equivalent of one-year of gross revenue for the football program, and that money will be used to set up an endowment to to benefit victims of child abuse.
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NCAA President Mark Emmert made the announcement himself, taking the unusual step of handing out a punishment without a separate investigation by the organization or the input of the Committee on Infractions, which usually deals out justice to its schools. He described this case a "cautionary tale" and a "horrifically egregious" situation that merited the unprecedented punishment.
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While not the "death penalty" that some had feared, this punishment may actually be harsher in the long-run than a year or two without football altogether. The loss of so many scholarships and the four-year bowl ban will make it nearly impossible to recruit top players, knowing that they will never play in a postseason game or win a championship. (The team's total number of football scholarships will be capped at 65 for five years, compared to 85 for all other schools.) Current players and incoming freshmen will be allowed to transfer to another school and play immediately, likely decimating the squad right away. The team they do field will be well below the quality of other Big Ten schools for years, meaning mounting losses; declining attendance and revenue; and a tarnished and broken program when it emerges from probation in five years.
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As for Joe Paterno's legacy, the decision also wipes from the record books 112 of his 548 career victories, meaning he is no longer the winningest coach in college football history. The Big Ten is holding a press conference at 11:00 a.m. where they are expected to announce their own conference sanctions.
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Update: The Big Ten has announced its own sanctions against the program. In keeping with NCAA's post-season ban the Nittany Lions will not be elgible for the Big Ten championship game for four years. In addition, its annual share of conference-wide bowl revenues will be donated to charity rather than given to the school. (Each conference pools the money earned by teams that play in bowls and divides it among all the conference members. That's estimated to be abut $13 million over the four years, and will likely go up with the new playoff format.