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Published April 19, 2024

Penn State sanctions ripple through Big Ten

The program will endure some of the harshest penalties in college sports history.

A month after former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was convicted on 45 counts of sexual abuse the NCAA has levied some of the most crippling penalties in history to the university and its football program.

NCAA President Mark Emmert, along with Oregon State president Edward Ray, the NCAA executive committee chair, announced Monday that Penn State will be fined $60 million, and the football program will be banned from the postseason for the next four years while suffering significant scholarship losses.

“We can impose sanctions that both reflect the magnitude of these terrible acts but also ensure that Penn State will rebuild an athletic culture that went horribly awry,” Emmert said at a press conference Monday.

The Nittany Lions will vacate all wins from 1998-2011. If eligible, current football players can keep their scholarships even if they choose not to play, or they can transfer to another school without penalty. The football program’s maximum scholarships per year will be cut from 25 to 15 for the next four years.

Penn State will not appeal these penalties, as its president, Rodney Erickson, signed a consent agreement with the NCAA.

The unprecedented fine of $60 million is “equal to one year’s revenue of the football team,” according to Emmert, and the school will have five years to pay it. The money will go into an endowment preventing child sex abuse or assisting victims.

Following Sandusky’s conviction, a report commissioned by Penn State’s Board of Trustees led by former FBI director Louis J. Freeh released this month found that key figures in the university’s leadership — former president Graham Spanier, former vice president Gary Schultz, former athletics director Tim Curley and former football coach Joe Paterno — were at fault for Sandusky’s continued sexual abuse of children. The NCAA used information from the Freeh report to determine the sanctions.

Ray said Monday that Penn State officials showed “reckless, callous disregard for the children.”

Penn State’s athletics department generated $116 million in revenue for the 2010-11 school year, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

“We’ve said [the $60 million fine] is not to be at the expense of the nonrevenue sports or scholarships,” Emmert said. “The university needs to find a different way to deal with it.

“Taking [money] away from academics isn’t the answer either.”

Many speculated the NCAA would hand down the “death penalty” for Penn State, banning the football program for at least one year.

“The executive committee, and [Division I] board and I discussed suspending football for one or more years, but the suspension of the football program would bring significant, unintended harm to those not involved,” Emmert said.

On Sunday, just hours after former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno’s statue was removed from its location in front of Beaver Stadium, the NCAA said it would take “corrective and punitive actions” against Penn State.

The vacated wins removed 111 total wins and 64 conference wins from Paterno’s record, dropping the legendary coach’s total from the once all-time Division I high of 409 to 298.

The Big Ten conference announced just hours after the NCAA’s sanctions that it will not allow the university to collect football bowl revenue sharing while it is banned from the postseason.

The conference will essentially be down to 11 teams again for football. Penn State will still play conference games, but it can’t compete for a Big Ten title or collect any football revenue, so the football program has no tangible benefit of playing in the conference for the next four years.

The Big Ten dictated that the forfeited revenue, about $13 million across four years, will be donated toward preventing sex abuse and aiding victims.

In turn, Penn State will be giving approximately $73 million to an endowment for children and their safety.

Effects on Minnesota

University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler released a statement Monday saying the University “support[s] the sanctions imposed on Penn State today by the NCAA.”

Many criticized Penn State and its football program for being “too big to fail,” with a coach in Joe Paterno who had been at Penn State for 61 years, 46 as a head coach. Some claimed he held too much power in deciding university affairs.

“The grave dangers stemming from our love of sports is the sports themselves can become too big to fail and too big to even challenge,” Emmert said at the press conference.

Kaler echoed that sentiment in his statement.

“Penn State’s situation is a cautionary tale for all of us: The culture of big-time college sports must never supersede a culture of safety, compliance, transparency and accountability on our campuses,” Kaler said.

“I remind the University of Minnesota community that any university employee who witnesses a sexual assault on campus, or a sexual assault involving employees on or off campus, is expected to immediately report the assault to law enforcement.”

For Minnesota, the impact of Penn State’s sanctions is minimal.

With Ohio State and Penn State now barred from next year’s postseason, only four teams out of the conference’s Leaders Division are eligible to compete for the Big Ten championship game: Illinois, Indiana, Purdue and Wisconsin.

Minnesota, a member of the Legends Division, will still have to compete with five other teams, including Michigan and Michigan State, for a shot at the Big Ten title.

The 111 vacated wins by Penn State don’t translate into wins for former Gophers teams, but it removes past losses against the Nittany Lions.

Former Gophers football coach Glen Mason, who, by today’s Gophers’ football standards had a successful campaign against Penn State in his 10 years with Minnesota, will have just two losses removed from his record.

Mason’s new total is 64-55 overall, including a 32-46 Big Ten record.

Former coach Tim Brewster gets a loss to Penn State off of his record, changing his third-season record with the Gophers to 6-6.
Brewster’s new total is 15-29 overall, including a 6-19 Big Ten record.

The Gophers’ 2010 interim coach, Jeff Horton, finishes with a 2-2 record — all Big Ten games after discounting his loss to Penn State that season.

Many current Nittany Lions players may look to transfer so they can compete for a chance at postseason play. Minnesota has offered scholarships to only three players in Penn State’s past four recruiting classes, according to

The three student-athletes recorded showing no interest in playing for Minnesota at the time, according to the site.

Besides Kaler’s statement, Minnesota declined to allow anyone else comment on the situation at this time.

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