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Penn State football is facing suspension or perhaps even the "death penalty" as the NCAA considers a range of sanctions in the wake of news that top university officials shielded serial child abuser and assistant coach Jerry Sandusky from investigation for years to preserve the football program's image.
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The NCAA has only punished one college football program with the so-called "death penalty," which is a ban from competing in the sport for at least one year. Southern Methodist University received the NCAA's harshest punishment in 1987 when it was caught paying its "student athletes" to play, after having already been punished several times for recruiting violations. The SMU Mustangs, historically a strong football program, have never recovered.
Penn State football is now accused of much worse. A report conducted by former FBI director Louis Freeh found that a slew of top-ranking Penn State officials, including revered coach Joe Paterno, blocked investigations of allegations starting in the 1990s that then-assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was sexually assaulting children. Instead, Sandusky was given a generous pension and perks including emeritus status, an office on campus and tickets to football games. And Sandusky continued to sexually assault children.
Sandusky was recently convicted on 45 counts of child sex abuse charges and awaits sentencing. The NCAA must decide how to punish Penn State. Will it give Penn State the death penalty, or are the Nittany Lions too large of a beast for the NCAA to take down?