In a severe rebuke of the university, NCAA President Mark Emmert said Penn State had put "hero worship and winning at all costs" ahead of integrity, honesty and responsibility.
"One of the dangers in our love of sports is that sports themselves can become too big to fail, too big to challenge" he said.
"In the Penn State case, the results were perverse and unconscionable. No price the NCAA can levy will repair the grievous damage inflicted by Jerry Sandusky on his victims. However, we can make clear that the culture, actions and inactions that allowed them to be victimized will not be tolerated in collegiate athletics."
He said college sports needed a "gut check" to ensure a balance between winning and academic values. Emmert said Penn State had agreed not to appeal the penalties.
Experts said that the sanctions were not enough to alter the big-money culture of college sports that allowed the abuse and cover-up to take place without closer scrutiny. Some questioned the NCAA's own role in the Penn State scandal and called for an independent body to oversee college sports.
Ellen Staurowsky, a professor of sports management at Drexel University in Philadelphia, said that the sanctions would provide a "significant impairment" to the football program now and in the future.
She said the sanctions were "after the fact", and questioned whether the goals of integrity, honesty and responsibility could be achieved without an independent watchdog.
Staurowsky said: "It did not acknowledge that the NCAA was itself an enabler of Penn State. The NCAA was on campus at Penn State in 1998 and 1999 to give certification in what was intended to be a checks and balance system.
"I have no doubt that the sincerity of those involved. Mark Emmert is deeply troubled by the abuse. But will it achieve the goals? What complicates the NCAA's role in all of this is that the NCAA has so many conflicts of interest. The NCAA still brokers television deals."
Staurowsky called for an independent watchdog. "It has been increasingly difficult of to maintain a true north in terms of a moral compass. The NCAA has not been able to regulate in this case. There needs to be an independent body to regulate college sports."
David Ridpath, assistant professor of sports management at Ohio University and former assistant athletic director for compliance and student services at Marshall University, said that the "hero-worship culture" that exists in college football will continue as long as big money is involved.
"When you pay a coach millions of dollars more than the president, that sends a big message. I truly believe some of these big-name coaches could murder somebody and people would defend them," he said. "People defended Jerry Sandusky at his trial. The level of this ingrained culture will have to be chipped away at. I just wonder if it will trickle down to other institutions."
Nevertheless, said Ridpath, the sanctions would hit Penn State hard, and there would be "collateral damage" in that those not involved in the scandal are being punished.
"I don't think we will see Penn State play football to the same level for many, many years."
Geoffrey Rapp, a sports law professor at the University of Toledo in Ohio, told Reuters that the so-called "death penalty" would have been the only punishment that fits Penn State's crime.
"The failure here was at the highest levels of Penn State's leadership, and as the Freeh report indicates, the only solution involves a major change in institutional culture," said Rapp. "Anything less than a break from football would not address the fundamental cultural shift needed."
The $60 million fine, which amounts to one year's gross revenue from the football program, will be used to endow a fund for victims of abuse and to prevent future abuse, Emmert said. Athletes will be free to transfer and retain immediate eligibility.
Intellpuke: You can read this article by Guardian Senior Reporter Karen McVeigh, reporting from New York City, New York, in context here: www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/23/penn-state-60m-fine-hero-worship