Richard Epstein on the NCAA

Does the NCAA Wear the White Hat?
Richard A. Epstein
July 25, 2012

The Penn State scandal has taken center stage in intercollegiate sports controversies of late. Given what happened at the university, it is clear why Penn State officials should be wearing black hats. There was, and is, no excuse for the conduct that led to the set of institutional abuses that attempted to hide the sexual misconduct of the school's former assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky.

Yet just because Penn State is bad does not mean that the NCAA is good, either in its behavior in this case or more generally. On the former question, Michael McCann asks the right question when he claims that the NCAA acted with undue haste in meting out punishment to Penn State. The gist of the complaint is that disciplinary hearings of the gravity of this one normally require that the organization โ€“ which has a quasi-legal status, to say the least โ€“ give the party targeted for sanctions the opportunity to defend itself. That right is important even if there is no question that the party charged is guilty of some offense. What that offense is, and which individuals or entities should be punished for it, remain live questions, and on these issues quickie judgments issued without a full hearing should be frowned upon.

In this case, the longish process that gives Penn State 90 days to respond was waived. It seems that everyone wanted to get something done on this issue as quickly as possible. But the concentration of all powers in the hands of a single individual, NCAA President Mark Emmert, has real dangers โ€“ and would even if Emmert were the wisest person on the face of the planet.

Richard A. Epstein