Aug 6, 2012; University Park, PA, USA; A general view of the freshly planted trees that now stand on the site where the statue of former Penn State Nittany Lions head football coach Joe Paterno once stood outside Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-US PRESSWIRE
It turns out that the bowl ban and other sanctions leveled against Penn State by the NCAA in the wake of the Freeh Report are only the beginning of that university's potential problems. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the organization charged with granting accreditation to colleges in Penn State's geographical area, announced yesterday that it would shortly begin its own investigation into the Sandusky scandal to determine whether appropriate actions related to Penn State's accreditation need to be taken.
That would be an extremely big deal, much worse than just about anything the NCAA could hope to do because it would affect the entire university. Federal student aid programs, federal loans, research grants, state support, all are generally conditioned upon a university retaining accreditation from respected organizations. As SBNation's Rodger Sherman points out on the mothership, "[a] degree from a non-accredited college is vastly less valuable than one from an accredited one -- losing accreditation basically means a group of people decided a school isn't fit to hand out degrees -- so the academic reputation would plummet, probably causing many students to leave and a major loss of funding." That would be a catastrophe for Penn State should it come to pass.
The good news for Nittany Lion faithful is that it probably won't. As Sherman notes in the link above, Penn State has made significant changes to its operating structure since news broke about the scandal and basically cleaned house of everyone/thing involved. Bowl bans and football scholarships don't really mean anything if the degrees your school offers have no value, and the Powers that Be at Penn State know that better than anyone. They have a chance now to prove that they are not the same university they once were and can be trusted again. And they probably will be. The fact that this conversation is even taking place, however, is significant. My personal hope is that the specter of losing accreditation will put an end to the constant ridiculousness about appealing the NCAA's sanctions, both from Paterno's family and the BoT at Penn State. Simply put, ladies and gentlemen, you have bigger things to worry about.