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Football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing and protecting young people,” Emmert said.

By vacating 112 Penn State victories from 1998-2011, the sanctions cost Paterno 111 wins. Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden will now hold the top spot in the NCAA record book with 377 major-college wins. Paterno, who was fired days after Sandusky was charged, will be credited with 298 wins. Vacated wins are not the same as forfeits _ they don’t count as losses or wins for either school.

“I didn’t want it to happen like this,” Bowden told the AP. “Wish I could have earned it, but that’s the way it is.”

The scholarship reductions mean Penn State’s roster will be capped at 65 scholarship players beginning in 2014. The normal scholarship limit for major college football programs is 85. Playing with 20 less is devastating to a program that tries to compete at the highest level of the sport.

In comparison, the harsh NCAA sanctions placed upon USC several years ago left the Trojans with only 75 scholarships per year over a three-year period.

The postseason ban is the longest handed out by the NCAA since it gave a four-year ban to Indiana football in 1960.

Bill O’Brien, who was hired to replace Paterno, now faces the daunting task of building future teams with severe limitations, and trying to keep current players from fleeing to other schools. Star players such as tailback Silas Redd and linebacker Gerald Hodges are now essentially free agents.

“I knew when I accepted the position that there would be tough times ahead,” O’Brien said. “But I am committed for the long term to Penn State and our student athletes.”

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said that players will likely be allowed to transfer within the conference, something that is usually restricted. The possible exodus isn’t confined to just the next few months. Penn State players currently on the roster are free to transfer without restrictions for the length of their careers.

Penn State players left a team meeting on campus in State College, Pa., without talking to reporters. Penn State’s season starts Sept. 1 at home against Ohio University.

The sanctions came a day after the school took down a statue of Paterno that stood outside Beaver Stadium and was a rallying point for the coaches’ supporters throughout the scandal.

At a student union on campus, several dozen alumni and students gasped, groaned and whistled as they watched Emmert’s news conference.

“It was kind of just like a head shaker,” said Matt Bray, an 18-year-old freshman from West Chester, Pa. “You knew it was coming, but it was hard to hear.”

Emmert had earlier said he had “never seen anything as egregious” as the horrific crimes of Sandusky and the cover-up by Paterno and others at the university, including former Penn State President Graham Spanier and athletic director Tim Curley.

The Penn State investigation headed by former FBI Director Louis Freeh said school officials kept what they knew from police and other authorities for years, enabling the abuse to go on.

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