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Ask sports: Can the losing teams claim victories for all those wins that Penn State football vacated?

  • Published Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012, at 12 a.m.

Can the losing teams claim victories for all those wins that Penn State football vacated?

When the NCAA handed down its unprecedented sanctions against Penn State football in the wake of the child sex abuse scandal, the Nittany Lions were forced to vacate all 112 wins from 1998 to 2011.

That eliminated 111 victories from Joe Paterno’s record, as well as two Big Ten titles.

But that didn’t mean Penn State’s collective opponents suddenly inherited 112 victories retroactively.

NCAA policies and guidelines state that vacancies “for regular season contests, the wins and ties, but not the losses, of the penalized team are dropped from its overall record.” Meaning that Penn State officially went 0-62 for that 14-year stretch.

The guidelines continue to say “the won-lost records for each of the opposing teams are not changed when games are vacated.”

The only action that changes records for all parties is a forfeit:

“To record a forfeit, the wins of the penalized team must be changed to losses, and the losses of its opponents must be changed to wins,” the guidelines say.

Vacated wins lead to messy accounting for universities and their sports information directors.

Usually two sets of records are kept, with asterisks and notes indicating what the original and modified results were. Southern California football and the previous stops of John Calipari (Memphis and Massachusetts basketball) are some examples.

This particular note from the Indiana football media guide does not yet need to be altered. At least not until the Hoosiers have a chance to improve upon it after their Nov. 17game against Penn State: “Penn State leads series 15-0.”

Joshua Wood

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