In N.C.A.A. parlance, “lack of institutional control” is a hazy, almost undefinable term. It is also the organization’s ultimate admonishment, the phrase it utters before handing down its most severe penalties.
Now, in light of the child sexual abuse scandal at Penn State, there is some question about whether those nebulous words will be used by the N.C.A.A. to impose serious penalties on the Nittany Lions football program, perhaps even to force the team to shut down for a time, the so-called death penalty.
Anticipating what will happen is difficult; the N.C.A.A. can be unpredictable in even the most conventional enforcement cases. And when it might proceed is unknown, because pending criminal and civil cases could lead to the emergence of more information.
If the organization were to hand down serious sanctions against Penn State, “I believe that it would be unprecedented,” said Michael S. Glazier, of the law firm Bond, Schoeneck & King, which often deals in N.C.A.A. matters but is not involved with the Penn State case.