Although it’s been just under a month since the Freeh Report was released and over three weeks since the NCAA dropped the hammer on Penn State, incredibly, the fallout from the two events has never seemed to end. From players transferring and staying, recruits reaffirming their commitments or looking elsewhere and the Paterno family keeping their name in the headlines as well, this is a story that simply won’t go away.
Of everyone that had anything to do with the fallout at Penn State though, one of the few groups of people who’ve remained auspiciously quiet throughout this entire process are the ex-players.
To some their silence would make sense; after all virtually none of the ex-players who were there during the school’s cover-up of Jerry Sandusky’s crimes (from 1998 to 2011) are still on campus, and none had anything to do with the actual crimes committed either. In that regard, why would they be involved?
At the same time, that last reason is also why it’s been a bit weird to not see any of the ex-players really speak up on a public platform: None were guilty of crimes committed, yet by banning all the program’s wins from 1998-2011, the NCAA inadvertently lumped them in with the guilty too. That’s not an entirely true statement, but is applicable.
Apparently though, enough was enough, and on late Tuesday night the players took their stance. According to a report by the Centre Daily Times, a group of eight ex-players is appealing the NCAA’s decision to remove the wins from the record book.
The appeal is out, and the biggest gripe the ex-players is the same one the Paterno family had a few weeks ago. In essence, they’re frustrated with the NCAA for relying so heavily on the Freeh report in determining Penn State’s sanctions.
Here’s what the Centre Daily News had to say:
Evidence doesn’t support many of the findings of the Freeh report or the NCAA conclusions that came from it, the players’ letter says, including the “determination that at Penn State the ‘football program was held in higher esteem than the values of the institution, the values of the NCAA, the values of higher education, and most disturbingly the values of human decency.’”
Now in theory, the players do have a little bit of a leg to stand on. Beyond what we discussed earlier (about the players having little to do with the crimes committed), what this boils down to even further is that this is the first time maybe ever (at least that I know of), that the NCAA has removed wins from a school that hasn’t actually broken the NCAA’s own rules. Whether it was North Carolina and Ohio State recently or SMU 25 years ago, the fact remains that those schools committed proverbial crimes by breaking the bylaws of the NCAA. The NCAA handled those accordingly. But at Penn State actual laws were being broken, something that fell under the jurisdiction of Pennsylvania’s courts, not the rule books of the NCAA.
Unfortunately for the players though, it does seem like it’ll tough for them to win here. The crux of their argument- essentially that the NCAA used the Freeh report too heavily in handing down sanctions- is intertwined with the reason they’ll likely be denied the appeal: The report was put together and conducted by the school. Yes, Louis Freeh was an outside entity, but also an outside entity that had the full backing and support of the school. In essence, the findings of the Freeh Report were the findings of Penn State. It also doesn’t help of course that Penn State waived their rights to appeal the NCAA’s findings when they were released back on July 23.
In the end, this is a noble stance by the players, but one that seems like it’ll have trouble getting off the ground.
Still, that won’t stop this from being the latest new twist in the never-ending soap opera that has been going on at Penn State the last couple months.
For all his opinion, analysis and insight on the world of college football and beyond, follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.