Penn State's football program has been banned from the postseason for four years and will pay a $60 million penalty as part of a wide-ranging set of sanctions in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal, the NCAA announced Monday.
Stopping short of giving the program the so-called "Death Penalty," the penalties are among the harshest even given out to an athletic program in the history of college sports.
“There is no action we can take to remove (the victims') pain and anguish, but we can impose sanctions that reflects the magnitude of these acts," NCAA President Mark Emmert said.
The actions come just more than a week after former FBI director Louis Freeh blasted campus leaders in the wake of Sandusky's conviction on dozens of counts of sexual abuse, saying that they covered up and even enabled Sandusky while he sexually abused young boys.
The $60 million penalty will be used to endow a program establishing youth sports programs for victims of child sexual abuse.
Penalties given to Penn State include:
1) A $60 million fine which will be used as a fund to endow national sports programs for victims of child sexual abuse
2) A 4-year postseason bowl ban
3) A reduction in initial scholarships from 25 to 15 per season
4) All Penn State wins between 1998 and 2011 will be vacated
5) A 5-year probationary period
The NCAA also says that all current players and committed recruits will be able to transfer to and play football at another school without sitting out a standard 1-year waiting period. The Big Ten Conference, of which Penn State has been a member since 1993, has also barred the school from playing in its conference championship for 4 years as well.
Oregon State University President Edward Ray, who chairs the NCAA Executive Committee, said before the penalties were announced that the punishment comes after a "conspiracy of silence at the highest levels of the university."
Emmert fast-tracked penalties rather than go through the usual circuitous series of investigations and hearings. The NCAA said the $60 million is equivalent to the annual gross revenue of the football program.
The money must be paid into an endowment for external programs preventing child sexual abuse or assisting victims and may not be used to fund such programs at Penn State.
“The fundamental story of this horrific chapter should focus on the innocent children and the powerful people who let them down," Ray said.
More than 100 wins vacated
A total of 111 victories from 1998 through last season will be vacated, including six bowl victories and a win in the 2006 Orange Bowl, the school's only BCS bowl win. It also revises Joe Paterno's career victory total to 298, taking him from being the winningest coach in college football history to 12th on that list.
With those wins vacated, the last "official" victory for Penn State football came on Nov. 22, 1997, a 35-10 victory over Wisconsin. The starting quarterback for the Nittany Lions in that game was Mike McQueary, the man who, as an assistant coach, told investigators he witnessed Sandusky sexually assaulting a young boy in a campus locker room.
Just one day after the school took down the iconic statue of former head coach Joe Paterno, who died shortly after being fired earlier this year, the NCAA gave the school a series of the stiffest penalties in the history of the association.
"Our goal is not only to be punitive, but to make sure the university establishes a culture where football is not placed ahead of anything," Emmert said.
Shock in Happy Valley and nationwide
The shock, disbelief and anger that many current students and alumni of Penn State quickly spread through the central Pennsylvania town as well as across the United States.
"I feel sad for the students," Penn State alumna Jeannine Lipez said. "I feel sad for the university; I feel sad for the family of Joe Paterno."
Football games will still be played at Beaver Stadium this autumn - the season starts Sept. 1 against Ohio - but with no prospects of the postseason and the potential of a mass exodus of players, the Nittany Lions face an extremely difficult path ahead of them.
"I think it had to be done," Penn State fan Ernie Knobloch said. "It's setting an example for future programs and letting everyone know nobody is bigger than what happened to those kids."
However, not everyone feels that the sanctions were warranted. Critics of the harsh punishment say that current Nittany Lions players shouldn't be penalized for what coaches and officials of the past did.
Players currently on the Penn State roster have been granted the ability by the NCAA to transfer to another school immediately. Players who decide to stay at the school but no longer want to play football will also be entitled to the remainder of their scholarship.
'The players and current staff don't deserve that, but the monetary sanctions are enough," Nittany Lions fan Adam Tragone said.
Former Penn State players also exhibited dismay, especially over the decision to force the school to vacate every win since the 1998 season. That includes Washington Redskins running back Evan Royster, who rushed for nearly 4,000 yards between 2007 and 2010 for the school.
ah crap... so i lost every college football game i ever played in?— Evan Royster (@Evan_Royster) July 23, 2012
In the meantime, the constant refrain from many who are reacting to the sanctions wish the focus would remain on the victims rather than the effect the scandal has had on the football program.
They brought it upon themselves," Penn State alumnus Kent Zakour said. "The focus is all on the football program right now when it really should be on actually the victims."
"The path ahead will not be easy"
Penn State Athletic Director Dave Joyner and football head coach Bill O'Brien both accepted the sanctions in statements issued by the school shortly after the announcement of the penalties.
"We are deeply disappointed that some of our leaders could have turned a blind eye to such abuse, and agree that the culture at Penn State must change," Joyner said.
Joyner took over after former AD Tim Curley was let go shortly after the allegations of Sandusky's sexual abuse became public. O'Brien to was hired in January to replace Paterno as the school's first new head coach in more than four decades.
I knew when I accepted the position that there would be tough times ahead," O'Brien said in a statement. "But I am committed for the long term to Penn State and our student athletes."
Joyner also said that he believes that the sanctions will ultimately make Penn State a better place.
"The path ahead will not be easy," Joyner said. "But it is necessary, just, and will bring a better future. Penn State will become a national model for compliance, ethics, and embodiment of the student athlete credo."
The NCAA's findings
The Associated Press contributed to this report.