Emmert hopes Penn State penalties send message

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Too much so, according to some Penn State alumni.

“It’s ludicrous. It’s punishing all the wrong people,” said Brad Benson, a former Penn State and New York Giants player. “”The NCAA is way out of line with this. It’s an overreaction. It’s a knee-jerk reaction. I think the statue should have come down. I’m for it. They can take the games, take the wins away. That’s fine. There’s no future in the past anyway. But to punish the university now? How does this work for the new coach? What’s fair about this for him? It’s absolutely crazy.”

He added: “This is the problem when the NCAA tries to become part of the judicial system. This should have been handled by the courts.”

Emmert said the NCAA executive committee has taken action on its own previously when it decided it wouldn’t award predetermined championships such as basketball regionals to South Carolina because of an NAACP boycott over a Confederate flag on the statehouse grounds and when it decided it would ban schools with American Indian mascots and images it considered “hostile and abusive” from postseason play pending name changes.

Emmert said in an interview with The Associated Press that he doesn’t think any comparisons can be made between the penalties Penn State received and what any other schools might face in the future. Yet he said he hopes the case will serve as a warning to other NCAA members.

“One of the grave dangers stemming from our love of sports is that the sports themselves can become too big to fail, indeed, too big to even challenge,” Emmert said. “The result can be an erosion of academic values that are replaced by the value of hero worship and winning at all costs. All involved in intercollegiate athletics must be watchful that programs and individuals do not overwhelm the values of higher education.”

Ed Ray, the executive committee chair and Oregon State president, said university presidents and chancellors let the NCAA know at a meeting a year ago that a change in the culture of college athletics is needed.

“They said, `We’ve had enough. This has to stop. We have to reassert our responsibilities and charge to oversee intercollegiate athletics,’” Ray said. “So the first question you asked is, `Does this send a message?’ The message is, the presidents and the chancellors are in charge.”

David Berst, the NCAA’s vice president for Division I, said the Penn State penalties conjured up memories of 1987, when he was the organization’s enforcement director and SMU was banned from playing football for a season _ the so-called death penalty.

Berst believes the penalties handed down show the NCAA is re-emphasizing stronger punishment, particularly in the area of institutional control.

“If you find yourself in a situation where the athletic culture is taking precedence over the academic culture,” Emmert added, “then a variety of bad things can occur.”

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AP Sports Writers Joedy McCreary, Dan Gelston and Stephen Hawkins contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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