INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA unveiled significant penalties against Penn State and its football program Monday, including a $60 million fine and a four-year post-
season ban, as a result of the child sexual abuse scandal involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
The NCAA stopped short of shutting down Penn State’s program, but officials insisted that the breadth and significance of the penalties were nearly as debilitating. It is expected to be almost a decade before Penn State will be in a position to attempt to regain its place as one of the sport’s elite programs.
The punishment also included the loss of 10 scholarships per year for the next four years, with a limit of 65 total scholarship players on the roster, as opposed to the typical 85, by the 2014 season. The university must also vacate all of its victories from 1998 to 2011, meaning that Joe Paterno is no longer the major college career leader in football wins.
In announcing the penalties, Mark Emmert, the NCAA president, called the case the most painful ‘‘chapter in the history of intercollegiate athletics,’’ and said it could be argued that the punishment was ‘‘greater than any other seen in NCAA history.’’
He said Penn State accepted the penalties when they were presented to the university, and he called its cooperation remarkable.
‘’Football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing, and protecting young people,’’ Emmert said.
The postseason ban and the scholarship restrictions essentially prevent the program from fielding a team that can be competitive in the Big Ten. The NCAA will also allow Penn State players to transfer to and immediately play at other universities, inviting the possibility of a mass exodus. The players can transfer now or after the 2012 season.
Penn State will be able to extend just 15 scholarships per year, as opposed to the normal 25. Perhaps more important is the ban on postseason play, which takes away one of the most attractive aspects of playing for a successful team. The Big Ten will also fine Penn State $13 million over the next four years, which is essentially equivalent to its postseason revenue.
The decision will test the commitment of the players, coaches, and recruits tied to the Penn State program, which is almost certain to enter a period of irrelevancy on the field. Penn State coach Bill O’Brien, the former New England Patriots’ offensive coordinator who is set to enter his first season, pledged his commitment to the program.
‘‘I will do everything in my power to not only comply, but help guide the university forward to become a national leader in ethics, compliance, and operational excellence,’’ O’Brien, a native of Dorchester, said in a statement. ‘‘I knew when I accepted the position that there would be tough times ahead. But I am committed for the long term to Penn State and our student-athletes.’’
The last Penn State victory that will officially count came in 1997. The quarterback of that Nittany Lions team was Mike McQueary, who became an integral part of the investigation into Sandusky after witnessing him sexually assaulting a boy in the showers of the football building.
The NCAA’s penalty is the latest action to stem from the scandal involving Sandusky, convicted last month of being a serial pedophile. The release of a grand jury report detailing Sandusky’s actions in November led to the firing of Paterno; the removal of the university’s president, Graham B. Spanier; and charges against two other top university officials.
Emmert said no punishment the NCAA could impose would change the damage done to those Sandusky abused, but ‘‘the culture, actions, and inactions that allowed them to be victimized will not be tolerated in collegiate athletics.’’
Ed Ray, president of Oregon State and chairman of the NCAA’s executive committee, said the case, and the sanctions imposed, represented a declaration by university presidents and chancellors that this has to stop. By that he meant a win-at-all-costs mentality with respect to intercollegiate sports.
‘’We’ve had enough,’’ he said.
The fine was equal to the average annual gross revenue of the football program. The money will be placed into an endowment for programs that work to prevent child sexual abuse and assist victims. No programs at Penn State can be financed by the money.
While the NCAA opted not to shut down the program for a year, the penalties will essentially prohibit Penn State football from having a full complement of scholarship players until 2020.
Penn State will be limited to 65 scholarship players starting in 2014, making the penalties much more severe than the ones currently imposed on Southern California for its rules violations during the Pete Carroll era. The Trojans are limited to 75 scholarship players and were barred two years from the postseason.
David Berst, an NCAA vice president who was the chairman of the committee that shut down Southern Methodist’s football program for the 1987 season, called the Penn State penalties ‘‘as severe as any that I can recall.’’
The university accepted the punishment.
“We are deeply disappointed that some of our leaders could have turned a blind eye to such abuse, and agree that the culture at Penn State must change,’’ said David Joyner, Penn State’s acting athletic director. “As we move forward, today’s student athletes have a challenging road ahead. But they will do the right thing, as they have always done.’’
The family of Paterno, who died in January, criticized the university for not fighting the penalties, saying it had abdicated its responsibilities. ‘‘The sanctions announced by the NCAA today defame the legacy and contributions of a great coach and educator without any input from our family or those who knew him best,’’ a family statement said. “This is not a fair or thoughtful action; it is a panicked response to the public’s understandable revulsion at what Sandusky did.’’
A report commissioned by Penn State, conducted by a group led by former FBI director Louis J. Freeh, and released this month revealed a series of failures throughout the university’s leadership in its handling of Sandusky going back more than a decade. The report concluded that those failures stemmed from a culture in which football was revered and consequently became too powerful on campus.
Emmert said all universities must now contemplate whether their own athletic programs had become ‘‘too big to fail,’’ or, even more troubling, ‘‘too big to challenge.’’