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Penn State’s Vacated Wins Explained [VIDEO]

One of the penalties the NCAA levied against Penn State was forcing the school to vacate all its wins from 1998, the year coach Joe Paterno and other top university officials became aware of an accusation that assistant coach Jerry Sandusky had showered with a young boy, through 2011.

Beaver Stadium
Beaver Stadium (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Penn State lost 112 wins, and Paterno’s major college football record 409 victories were reduced to 298, knocking him down the list.

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In question-and-answer form, here is a look at what it means for victories to be “vacated.”


Q: Does vacating a win mean the opponent won?

A: No. According to the NCAA, opposing teams are not granted wins, as in a forfeit. The penalized school simply can’t claim credit for that victory. For instance, in 2009, Penn State opened the season with a 31-7 rout of Akron. Penn State will lose credit for that win, but Akron cannot claim it as a victory.


Q: What about individual player records? Does it have any implications?

A: The NCAA specifically said that Paterno’s career record will reflect the vacated records. As for players, the NCAA has said nothing, and no players were found at any fault in the case. When the NCAA has punished specific players, it has vacated individual records, and the NCAA bylaws provide for the removal of individual records and performances. No such actions have been taken against in this case.


Q: Are there financial implications? Do fans get their money back for games that, technically, never were? Do coaches lose pay?

A: Probably not. The NCAA has fined Penn State $60 million, roughly equivalent to a year of revenue from the football program. The Big Ten has said Penn State won’t get its cut of bowl revenue for four years, a loss of about $13 million more on top of that. Nothing was said about refunds to fans or coaches returning their salaries from vacated games. Such actions have not been part of previous situations in which schools were forced to vacate wins.


Q: Who is now the winningest coach in major college football?

A: The record for most major college victories has reverted to Bobby Bowden, whose record at Florida State, West Virginia and Samford is officially 377-129-4. He had won 389 games, but 12 of them were — you guessed it — vacated in 2010 following an academic cheating scandal.


Q: When was the last “official” win for Penn State, now that all its wins since 1998 have been vacated?

A: The Nittany Lions lost the last two games of the 1997 season, so Penn State’s last official win now was Nov. 22, 1997, when it beat Wisconsin 35-10. The quarterback that season was Mike McQueary, who later served as a graduate assistant and encountered Sandusky assaulting a boy in the shower at the football facility in 2001. The incident was the second time Penn State officials, including Paterno, had been informed of Sandusky’s questionable dealings with boys and didn’t do anything to stop him, according to the Freeh Report.



(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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