The NCAA is looking into the Penn State/Jerry Sandusky case to see whether or not Penn State violated any of the NCAA's bylaws in the process of doing whatever it did or didn't do. The NCAA has the right to do this, it claims, largely based on the clauses discussing "institutional control" and "ethical behavior" in its lengthy charter. It turns out this is completely accurate when you read those clauses as they are written.
The problem is that writing. It's bad, deliberately vague writing, the kind contract lawyers only include when they want to make sure the boss end of the deal has godlike powers in an agreement between oversight and the oversought. Article 10.1 is the primary vague ball of God-dust in the letter Mark Emmert sent to the NCAA, and its ambiguity is referenced deliberately in the notice.
Indeed, NCAA Bylaw 10.1 identifies ten types of unethical conduct, but specifically makes clear that the list of 10 is not limited to those delineated.
Indeed! This agreement means member institutions like Penn State are subject to the scrutiny of the NCAA in this matter not only by those specific types of unethical behavior, but also by pretty much whatever else they want to sandwich in under the definition. (Throw in an "honest clause," and their claimstaking is close to boundless.)
So just as an exercise, let's assume this isn't a cynical flexing of bureaucratic muscle to soak up some pageviews and remind everyone that the NCAA, aside from pocketing huge sums from a tournament of unpaid basketball players, does something. (Amateur athletics spirit of competition standards level playing field blah blah blah and so forth.) We'll assume that for an instant, the NCAA legitimately wants to enforce its blathering charter.
Having absolutely no subpoena power, the NCAA will be able to compel no meaningful testimony from anyone. They will instead rely on court transcripts, the existing grand jury testimony, and whatever else they can get from the few people who will say anything to an investigator about this case. Then, having seen the data carefully arranged for them by hardworking people elsewhere, they will issue some kind of judgment regarding their extremely open-ended interpretation of whether any of this violated their deliberately nebulous bylaws.
In other words, the NCAA will come to the scene of this orphanage fire of a scandal three months late, drop some citations on the ground, and boldly announce to no one in particular that they have done something important.
Did you think the NCAA wouldn't take this opportunity to aggrandize its own weak claims at being anything but a for-profit corporation functioning under a tax-exempt non-profit organization? Then you learned nothing from the Penn State case in the first place, and assume organizations won't sacrifice anything for their own sake. In the NCAA's case, it's just sense and taste that are on the chopping block. That's not too bad considering what Penn State sacrificed in the name of their own horrendously defined interests.