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Penn State football faces severe NCAA penalties

Jeff Horwich: The NCAA, this morning, announced a withering array of sanctions against Penn State University. The penalties are for allegedly covering up or at least overlooking the sexual abuse of Jerry Sandusky. A $60 million fine and Penn State is banned from bowl games for four years, scholarships cut by 40 percent. All wins by the football team between 1988 and 2011 are vacated.

Andrew Zimbalist is a sports economist at Smith College. Thanks for talking with us.

Andrew Zimbalist: My pleasure.

Horwich: Other schools have had scandals and been slapped by the NCAA, put these penalties in perspective for me.

Zimbalist: Well, the most serious penalty that's been given was to SMU. SMU was not allowed to play football at all for a year, and it essentially gutted their program. The NCAA has on a number of occasions imposed a post-season ban, a bowl game ban, so this is along those lines. It's not the most severe penalty, the most severe penalty adds in the $60 million fee, but that money goes to supporting the other programs and athletics, goes to paying the ridiculously high coaches salaries, it goes to defraying some of the capital expenses of the athletics program. 

Horwich: How devasting is this going to be for State College, the town where Penn State is located?

Zimbalist: Yeah, I think that State College has already taken a big hit just from the revelations about the program and Joe Paterno. Beyond that, in terms of the local economy of State College, most of the money that is spent at Penn State football games goes to the athletics department, it doesn't stay within State College. 

Horwich: I think people understand the handling of this was certainly bungled by the school to some degree, but it still boils down to the horrible actions of one man. How do you understand these severe penalties levied against the school itself?

Zimbalist: Well, it's a little unusual for the NCAA to venture into this territory, but what does make sense to me is this notion of institutional control -- that if a program accepts any kind of behaviors so that the team will win, the NCAA does have to step in and say this is unacceptable. 

Horwich: Sports economist Andrew Zimbalist from Smith College, thanks very much.

Zimbalist: My pleasure. 

About the author

Jeff Horwich is the interim host of Marketplace Morning Report and a sometime-Marketplace reporter.
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