One man’s “narrow focus” is another man’s “thorough investigation”.

Oh, boy.

A member of the team that produced a 267-page report condemning the response of Pennsylvania State University’s leaders to a serial child molester believes that the NCAA’s use of that document was insufficient to justify the punishment it handed the university this week.

“That document was not meant to be used as the sole piece, or the large piece, of the NCAA’s decision-making,” a source familiar with the investigation told The Chronicle on Thursday. “It was meant to be a mechanism to help Penn State move forward. To be used otherwise creates an obstacle to the institution changing.”

A better way of putting that would be to say that in the future, schools will see Penn State as a cautionary tale about the risk entailed in authorizing an investigation like this to start with, or, if after authorizing one, accepting its conclusions.  It’s hard to see how that helps strengthen Emmert’s stated goal of changing the culture in big time college athletics.

Especially when the goals of the school and the NCAA may not be entirely aligned.  And I don’t mean that in anything other than a neutral sense.

“The Freeh team reviewed how Penn State operated, not how they worked within the NCAA’s system,” this person said. “The NCAA’s job is to investigate whether Penn State broke its rules and whether it gained a competitive advantage in doing so.”

Now I don’t have any sympathy for the institutional stature concern the source raises – if you don’t want that problem, don’t enable a serial child molester – but this argument about the obvious structural inadequacies of the process behind the report as the basis for NCAA action certainly resonates:

Mr. Spanier was the only one among them to be interviewed by the Freeh investigators, and that was just days before the report was released. (Mr. Curley and Mr. Schultz, facing charges of perjury and failing to report child abuse, did not answer questions for the report.)

Because of those and other limitations, some of the Freeh team’s findings were circumstantial. “The report is critical, but nothing is black and white,” The Chronicle‘s source said. “No investigation can totally answer all the questions everyone has.”

The Freeh report also could have explored more about the various coaches who knew about Mr. Sandusky’s showering with boys—an area in which the NCAA obviously should have followed up, said the person close to the Freeh investigation.

“The NCAA took this report and ran with it without further exploration,” this person said. “If you really wanted to show there was a nexus to cover up, interview the coaches. See their knowledge and culpability and how far this went.”  [Emphasis added.]

That’s not an issue the people who hired Freeh were concerned with, as they were looking top down at how Sandusky was able to operate with apparent impunity for more than a decade on the Penn State campus.  And that’s why Freeh’s report goes no higher than Spanier in assigning blame for that.  But, again, from the NCAA’s perspective, if this is supposed to be about rooting out a diseased football-first culture, then the investigation didn’t go nearly far enough.  Emmert failed to follow through on his mission.

In short, by his own standards, Emmert did a half-assed job, regardless of the sincerity of his intentions.  And because of that, it won’t surprise me at all if over the next couple of years some of the sanctions begin to be walked back.  And that’s going to look bad for all parties concerned with message sending.

79 Comments

Filed under The NCAA

79 responses to “One man’s “narrow focus” is another man’s “thorough investigation”.

  1. DawgPhan

    I know this whole PSU thing plays right into your wheelhouse, but good grief it is getting tiresome. Media guides and tickets are hitting mailboxes, August is next week. Football season is about a month away, PSU has nothing to do with UGA. UGA has 2 returning all americans, one of the best QBs in the country and questions marks all over the place. Walls of text about voting rights, procedural issues, and jurisdiction are horrible ways to kill time on a friday. How about a nice ‘Skin it back’ interlude, a bbq post, or mumme poll updates?

    • I’ve posted thirty articles on the blog this week and six today. You really can’t find something worth reading?

      Man, you guys are a tough crowd. ;)

      • Scorpio Jones, III

        Hey, you our Sphere Daddy, you set the stage, we just follow your lead oh esteemed leader of the tough crowd.

      • Mayor of Dawgtown

        Senator, you are dead right about the sanctions being “walked back.” The NCAA is already making noise about rolling some back if it appears that PSU is complying. Somebody at the NCAA is apparently nervous about all the blowback it is receiving from this.

        • ChicagoDawg

          “The NCAA is already making noise about rolling some back if it appears that PSU is complying.” That seems rather arbitrary doesn’t it? Therefore, I can we assume you would not be in favor of them doing anything that deviates from what they have already decreed, even if it further actions may warrant it?

          • Mayor of Dawgtown

            I personally don’t GAS if the NCAA does or does not roll back any sanctions on Penn State. I do find it interesting, indeed almost amusing, to see the NCAA in full “cover you ass” mode this soon, however.

    • Dog in Fla

      Good point. For example, what does Little Kim do to occupy his time during college football pre-season during interludes between Freeh Report bombshells? Spot talent and take it to the Pyongyang People’s Palace Pleasure Park

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/gallery/2012/jul/26/kim-jong-un-north-korea-wife#/?picture=393635479&index=0

      • Cojones

        With a bride’s name that sounds like “We sold you”, I’m sure the rush to the 4-Ps Park was high on his list.

  2. Scorpio Jones, III

    “The NCAA’s job is to investigate whether Penn State broke its rules and whether it gained a competitive advantage in doing so.”

    From the person who may have broken a confidentiality agreement in speaking publicly about the report.

    Obviously this person has not read the chartering documents for the NCAA, or the transcript of the NCAA’s press conference announcing the Penn State penalties.

    What else is he wrong about?

    • Joe

      Right, and who the hell cares what he thinks, he wasn’t tasked to do anymore than what they did.

      IN the end, there was clearly enough in there to make what the NCAA did reasonable IMO.

      It may be bad to use their own investigation against them, but these items (especially emails) were discoverable under both NCAA rules and the next round of civil cases. PSU KNEW they got the best deal possible with these sanctions than if it went on for years.

      • but these items (especially emails) were discoverable under both NCAA rules…

        Bullshit. Southern Cal used Freeh for its post-Bush investigation and kept his report private.

        • Cojones

          Senator, are you saying that the NCAA couldn’t have reviewed and discovered the e-mails? tOsu went through theirs only prior to the NCAA calling for them and found the damning evidence against Tressel themselves, but is there any doubt that the NCAA would have done that?

          What does the USC decision to keep Freeh’s report to themselves have to do with PSU who decided that it would go public? They certainly were privy to any info in Freeh’s report to USC since it implicated the school was not in control of CFB events on their campus.

          Jus’ asking out of law ignorance. My knowledge of such matters comes from Compliance Departments in the industry that I worked with. Transposing from compliance to the rules of a duly organized and elected body that composes the NCAA does not differ in the spirit of compliance when compared to a govt org backed by law. Aren’t we dicussing(saying bad things about bad people) the spirit of compliance rather than duly elected laws under which they are imposed? In my industry, the spirit of compliance was the opener of every document on file in the company, including reports by consultants that the company had employed. The background and resume of the consultant was also fair game to compliance inspectors.

          • Cojones

            Excuse the misspelling of “dickcussing”.

          • The NCAA doesn’t have subpoena power to compel production of documents. It can only threaten if it doesn’t get the level of cooperation it seeks.

            • Lrgk9

              The NCAA is traveling under a quasi ‘Equity’ versus a rules and contract commitments on this one. If they aren’t willing to backup what they did – just shows how capricious they are. Have to question Emmert’s authenticity – but hey – we have already been doing that all along. Emmert is a popinjay and overdue for a 20 year vacation…

          • Governor Milledge

            Wouldn’t USC be a different situation, being a private school, versus PSU?

            I know there’s a high bar legally preventing an internal investigation from being discoverable, but the availability of Open Records requests would somewhat reduce the strength of that protection. Then again, Pennsylvania is not know for its sunshine laws.

            • Mayor of Dawgtown

              You make an excellant point as usual Gov. The fact that Penn State is a public institution probably guaranteed that the Freeh report had to come out.

  3. Governor Milledge

    I think it is an important point, after mulling over all of this, to look at the purpose and goals of the Freeh report.

    By it looking at the top primarily, we never get to look in the weeds… for all we know, the entire 2011 PSU football staff knew about Sandusky and did not a thing (besides McQueary). Did they have any sort of supervisory capacity over Sandusky? No. But there are several Federal laws which make it a crime to not report such child predation with knowledge. Additionally, some of the staff could very well have been actively complicit in the whole mess… for all we know, had the NCAA dug deeper, we may have seen some “show cause” sanctions against coaches and Athletic Department administrators.

    I’m not sure about the “walking back” of sanctions, though. Even if the NCAA board ran with an imperfect/ill-framed report, I think your previously mentioned public pressure that forced their hand to act quickly will prevent any dialing back of sanctions. If anything, as the story unfolds further, depositions are taken and abused kids step forward, I think the NCAA will be forced to look at further sanctions against the program.

    • O’Brien’s been quoted as saying it’s his understanding that if PSU stays on the straight and narrow, some of the sanctions would be reduced down the road.

    • Willie J

      [This post has been removed by the administrator.]

    • Debby Balcer

      McQueary did not do enough if I had seen what he had seen and nothing was done I would have gone to the police and PBI and FBI I would not have said oh well I told JoePa.
      About the NCAA I don’t know what to think. The whole situation is just awful. Kids who had nothing to do with this are being hurt.

      • Macallanlover

        I agree with you about McQueary, I don’t see how any man would walk away from that without intervening. I do feel reporting it to Saint Joe was the right first step for a subordinate in an organization, but that does not mean it should be the last step taken if you don’t see follow-through.

        I don’t know what you mean by innocent kids being hurt, but I hope it isn’t sympathy for the PSU players. While they were innocent, virtually every program of any size has been forced to endure penalties as a result of the actions of others, often who came before them. USC and tosu are just two of the recent ones. And not all are allowed to transfer without penalty. These sanctions may be stronger than nearly all the others, but they do have an out. Innocent children are the victims of divorce every day, as are those born into horrible family situations. The few PSU players who are injured as a result of this are hardly the ones who are the most injured here. The point is how we take steps to minimize the chances of this happening again. I think a strong deterrent is preferable to a “do better in the future” promise.

  4. SCDawg

    I am kind of interested in how the decision to accept the Freeh report as truth will affect the civil suits currently working their way through the courts. Of particular interest is the fact the boy McQueery saw in the shower with Sandusky has been located and retained counsel.

    Also what sort of caps are we looking at in Pa. under their tort claims act, and, if conduct is intentional, are those caps disregarded or may they be exceeded? Won’t these admissions to be used by plaintiffs’ counsel to squeeze until all the defendants let go of all the money they have?

  5. Scorpio Jones, III

    I, for one, would be more comfortable with the critics of the NCAA in this case if they would stop attaching all the blame to Mark Emmert.

    That’s like blaming FEMA for all the problems during and after Hurricane Katrina, or Abe Lincoln for the civil war….or like blaming Aaron Murray for losing the bowl game.

    Emmert is only the shill, the barker, the front man. Emmert’s bosses run the NCAA, not Mark Emmert.

    Emperor Emmert….give me a break.

    • Except that’s not what happened this time. Which is part of the problem.

      • Scorpio Jones, III

        What did not happen this time?

        Both Emmert and the Oregon State president said more than once the governing bodies were involved all along….

        I actually don’t understand what you mean.

  6. ChicagoDawg

    Senator — We have about litigated this thing to death and appear settled in our respective camps on whether this was ultimately a good vs bad outcome. Having said that, I am curious as to what you are suggesting should have happened, if anything? As I have stated before, we can all agree on the many failings of the NCAA over the previous decades, be it inaction, too much action, lengthy investigations, lack of transparency in the investigative process (nameless/faceless people w/ no accountability), over emphasis on minutiae vs real problems, etc., However, in this case the NCAA attempted to correct many of those complaints, perhaps to your disliking.

    Nonetheless, what would you have had them do differently? Nothing at all, business as usual and if PSU plays for the Rose Bowl or National Championship, etc., so be it? JoePa’s record stands as is, etc., Or, if they were to do anything should they have pursued their normal interminable investigative process that no doubt would have drug out forever?

    • It doesn’t matter what I would have done differently.

      We all agree that Penn State is a perfect example of what happens when powerful people are allowed to operate without accountability. It’s ironic that so many are lauding Emmert and the NCAA for essentially acting in the same way in punishing PSU.

      • ChicagoDawg

        It matters what you would have done differntly because I am asking, if for no other reason. If you choose not to share, that is fine I guess. However, I thought this whole blog thing was for the very purpose of exchanging ideas/opinions — many of which matter very little in the grand scheme of things.

        • If you’re asking me for what I find fault in what Emmert and the NCAA did, I’d say essentially that once they decided they were going to make an example out of PSU with the most severe sanctions they’d ever issued and once they decided they weren’t going to follow established protocol – both decisions they reached months ago, I believe – they owed it to the public, their member institutions and PSU to be as above board and transparent in their dealings with the school. They also owed it to their members and PSU to nail down the justification for those sanctions in a much more concrete way than they did (I’m thinking of Delany’s half-assed “this by-law or that by-law” explanation). Finally, they should have taken the Freeh report as a starting point for their own investigation, instead of accepting it as the final word.

          • ChicagoDawg

            So, if were Emmert and/or on the Governing Body, would you have done nothing at all or as you say “taken the Freeh report as a starting point for their own investigation”?

            • If I were Emmert, I wouldn’t have proceeded as he did.

              If I were on the board and was presented with his course of action as a fait accompli, I would have insisted on transparency with PSU and on making sure that there was a clearly stated rationale for abandoning standard NCAA procedure. And, yeah, in the end, still insisted that the organization conduct an investigation with its own people.

              • ChicagoDawg

                Fair enough. However, there is decades of precedence to show that there is little or no transparency in the NCAA investigative process. I find the outsourcing of the process to be a fresh alternative that no doubt could be tweaked and improved upon, but may offer a better, quicker and more trust-building approach.

      • Mayor of Dawgtown

        +1. A small cabal of the NCAA voted to give Emmert the power to impose sanctions when by the NCAA’s own Constitution and Bylaws that type of thing requires “Special Legislation” and approval by a vote of all member institutions. This is exactly the type of non-transparent behavior that the Emmert says he is trying to change.

  7. Patrick

    Since the worm can refuses to close, I might as well toss my cents in there.

    I think the aspect of competitive advantage has been under-discussed in this story.

    To my knowledge, the NCAA has never levied any punishments for crimes outside of recruiting violations, amateurism violations, or some other violation that creates a competitive on-field advantage (like academic fraud). Keeping the playing field even always seemed to be the NCAA de facto role.

    These PSU crimes do not have that element.

    There are other crimes within college athletics that don’t have that element.
    A coach gets a DUI (Gillespie, Huggins, others) – that crime kills people and destroys lives.
    A culture of selling hard-core drugs infests the football team (TCU) – that crime kills people and destroys lives.
    But nobody clamors for the NCAA to punish those crimes, and so they don’t.

    I understand that the long-term complicity of senior administration is what makes the PSU case different than those. But is that enough to merit NCAA involvement? Eh, not for me it doesn’t.

    If Mickey Andrews got drunk and paralyzed a kid in a car crash – and it came out that he, Jimbo Fisher, and his former FSU superiors had somehow managed to convince the police for 10 years that somebody else had been driving the car………would there then be a clamor to sanction FSU’s football team?

    Trying to find a hypothetical to compare to PSU is probably not the best practice……but whatever, I’ve said my piece (peace?).
    NCAA should stick to their role of keeping the playing field even…..leave the rest to the professionals.

    • Always Someone Else's Fault

      “These PSU crimes do not have that element.”

      Yeah they do. Saint Joe and the pristine Penn State Way – queue Sandusky and his charity work – was Exhibit A, B and C in their recruiting pitch.

      For the drunk driving comparison to work, FSU would have to cover-up the fact that the coach had run over several kids while driving drunk – not just that he drove drunk. And yes, if a coach were driving drunk and running over kids, and the university from the president down conspired to cover that up, then I can see the NCAA getting involved again.

  8. HobnailedBoots

    You know, Penn State wasn’t really relevant to begin with, so has ANYTHING really changed?

  9. Always Someone Else's Fault

    So a trustee takes issue with the Freeh report being used for a purpose other than the one the trustees used to justify its commission? Shocker.

    PSU is moving forward – just not in the direction the Paterno loyalists want. They wanted to fight this, and then they woke up one day and discovered the war was over. They’re left with this sort of stuff instead.

    • Read it again. The source isn’t a trustee. It’s somebody on Freeh’s team.

      • Always Someone Else's Fault

        someone CLOSE to Freeh: “The NCAA’s approach is not sitting well with the source close to Mr. Freeh’s staff.” Not on. Close to. Yes, the opening calls the person a member of Freeh’s team – but Freeh’s “team” included people with PSU connections. So – on the team, close to Freeh’s staff. Those are clues.

        Who doesn’t like the NCAA’s actions. And if they are on Freeh’s staff, they violated a term of employment (confidentiality agreement). Doesn’t make their opinion less valid, but it does call into question why someone would throw away their job to follow a set of specific talking points coming from the Paterno camp within the trustees. Which leads me to think it was someone on the PSU side who coordinated directly with Freeh’s staff.

        Maybe not a trustee. But not a Freeh employee, either, I am guessing.

        • The first line of the story identifies the source as “A member of the team that produced a 267-page report…”

          • Always Someone Else's Fault

            And once again, that “team” included PSU liaisons. You don’t say some who is ON the staff is “close to the staff.” I guarantee you the source is a PSU employee or representative.

      • Scorpio Jones, III

        Somebody who is breaking a confidentiality agreement to talk about the process…fits right in.

  10. Macallanlover

    No, “a better way of putting it” is the whiners are getting pressure on those who dare criticize the institution which turned its head to child rape to protect Saint Joe and a corrupt group of administrators. This bitching about making people pay for the unspeakable BS that happened as a result is getting more tiring, and sickening, than the cowards who brought this all about. Now I am really wishing PSU had dropped football as a self imposed punishment so everyone could stop skirting around the issue. They REALLY screwed up, they got hammered, good; I wish it had been more severe. Can you imagine what else they “tolerated” if this didn’t bother them?

    • Always Someone Else's Fault

      And can you imagine how PSU’s reputation would be in two years with this same group fighting over every scrap of evidence with the NCAA in public as this moved through the traditional COI process? Destroyed. Right now, no one really associates this with PSU rank and file. After a two-year NCAA war, with headlines and money quotes being generated by the Paterno loyalists in the heat of battle, it would be.

      Olympics start tonight. News cycle moves on in 4, 3, 2, 1…

      • Governor Milledge

        I’m waiting for the news cycle to move on too… let’s hear about Isner and the rest of the Bulldawg Olympians!

        Senator, at some point, you have to use this image if/when you post another story about the NCAA enforcement process taken.

        http://www.threadbombing.com/data/media/55/BeatDeadHorse.gif

        I think minds differ over the precedence their actions may set, but ultimately I think we mostly agree about the outcome/punsihment PSU got. I know there’s a saying out there about how you shouldn’t watch how hot dogs/sausage are made…

    • Scorpio Jones, III

      What is fascinating to me is the unending bitching about THE PROCESS OF PUNISHING PENN STATE….Look, I get the idea this may trickle down in some unforseen and unpleasant way, but right now…. to me the situation at Penn State was the worst thing that has ever happened that was related in any way to college football.

      And if you want to look into the future, think what could happen if the NCAA did nothing.

      Whether you agree or not that the NCAA was the proper enforcement agency, whether you agree or not that the NCAA did all it could do, the point is that Penn State has been, for decades, reduced to a second rate football program with a terrible history.

      To me, and I gotta tell you I am beginning to agree with the folks who think this is a dead horse some of us insist on picking apart, that Penn State got and will continue to get for years severe punishment that almost fits the crime.

      Somebody had to do something, the NCAA membership did something.

      • Somebody had to do something, the NCAA membership did something.

        The perfect epitaph.

      • BMan

        + f-ing 1 SJIII

      • Macallanlover

        Amen SJ. Save the slap on the wrists for the hundred dollar handshakes and summer jobs where little work is required, this punishment for such a disgusting conspiracy is more than justified. I am not worried about Emmert becoming a tyrant, he serves at the wishes of university presidents (wow, scary) and proved his lack of backbone in 2010 with Cammy, Cecil, and The Fairy.

        This was an extraordinary situation and required a major slap. The bigger question to me is did they go far enough? Many of the PSU supporters still don’t get what the big deal is.

    • Cojones

      Unfortunately, I can.

      • Cojones

        This belongs under Mac’s 4:08 post.

      • Scorpio Jones, III

        If you mean you can see worse down the road, so can I, and that’s what I am so freaked out about. Not worse in the criminal sense, but worse to the future of college football.

        Oh…wait a minute….Senator are you concerned the NCAA has “just begun to fight?”

        Well, hell yes, that’s why Penn State is so horrible, it could give the leather elbow-patched wicker picnic basket crowd all the ammunition they need to destroy college football and send us all back to hanging out in a cow pasture with the ghosts of football past.

        • Always Someone Else's Fault

          You mean reduce it to a game that has to put fans and tradition ahead of regional cable subscriber totals and net advertising rate increases? Please don’t throw me into that briar patch.

  11. Scorpio Jones, III

    Success with Honor….God Damn Joe, how could you have done this to us.?

  12. Mayor of Dawgtown

    HOLY MACKEREL!! I just looked it up and about 2 dozen Dawgs are competing in the Olympics! The biggest contingent is from the UGA Swimming team! We must have one HELL of a swimming team!

  13. Skeptic Dawg

    While it is an unpopular view (and comes from a none lawyer), this is and has been my issue with this Penn State mess…“The NCAA’s job is to investigate whether Penn State broke its rules and whether it gained a competitive advantage in doing so.”. Everyone agrees that Sandusky’s actions were reprehensible and the man should be stoned to death.