"One of the grave dangers stemming from our love of sports is that the sports themselves can become too big to fail, indeed, too big to even challenge," Emmert said. "The result can be an erosion of academic values that are replaced by the value of hero worship and winning at all cost."
The postseason ban, which is also unprecedented, could damage the school's prestige in the eyes of potential recruits and will affect the program's bottom line through the loss of potential millions from the conference title and bowl games. The penalties also deal an emotional blow to the Penn State community, one fan said.
"By essentially taking away the main pillar of the university, you are almost pulling the university down," former student Ujas Patel told CNN. He complained of media coverage that fails to point out the good that Paterno, known affectionately by fans as "JoePa," achieved through requiring his players to also succeed academically.
"Anybody who's gone to Penn State, that's something that really is going to bother people," he said.
Former Penn State running back Matt Hahn said that football will return to the school, "but I think that there are some things that are bigger priorities than that right now."
Hahn, who played for the Nittany Lions from 2004 through 2007, said his relationship with Paterno was "excellent," and "he never lied to me."
"That being said, I don't really know what went on behind closed doors. I don't know how much information he did or did not know," he said.
Former Florida State University football coach Bobby Bowden, who now becomes the winningest coach in major college football history, said Monday that he is "not rejoicing."
"I really don't think anybody can until this thing is settled, until those young men have their say so. ... Until then, nobody can be joyful about it," he told CNN's Brooke Baldwin. "What happened, happened."
A lawyer for one of Sandusky's victims said the NCAA should have heard from his client and others who were abused.
"Throughout the past several weeks, PSU and the NCAA have imposed sanctions and taken what they perceive to be corrective measures," said Ben Andreozzi, attorney for the person identified as Victim No. 4 in the Sandusky case. "I am disappointed that no effort was made to consult the victims in this case to ensure that their voices were heard in this process. After all, they are the ones who were victimized, not the NCAA or PSU. "
Emmert said current players will be allowed to transfer to other schools without having to sit out a year, as is normally required, or they can stay and keep their grants, even if they don't play football. The restrictions mean that starting in 2014, the school cannot have more than 65 players on scholarship, and it can offer only 15 new scholarships each year for four years, beginning with next year's incoming recruits.
"I knew when I accepted the position that there would be tough times ahead," new coach Bill O'Brien said in a written statement. "But I am committed for the long term to Penn State and our student athletes."
On social media, some players wrote they would return next season as a team with a mission.
"PSU vs The World - Day 1 - ," tweeted tight end Garry Gilliam.
On Sunday, a 900-pound bronze statue of Paterno was removed from its place outside the 107,000-seat football stadium. Erickson issued a statement saying the statue is being stored in a "secure location." Another tribute to Paterno -- the university library that bears his name -- will remain as it is, Erickson said.
The statue was removed exactly six months after Paterno died of lung cancer. He died less than three months after he coached his last game. Under Paterno's tenure as head coach, the Nittany Lions went undefeated five times and finished in the Top 25 national rankings 35 times.
The Freeh report found that several Penn State officials concealed evidence that Sandusky had sexually abused minors. Freeh concluded that Paterno could have prevented further sexual abuse had he taken action.
Sandusky is expected to be sentenced in September. His legal team has said it will appeal the convictions.
Two former university administrators are awaiting trial for their role in the scandal, and more charges are possible as the state's attorney general investigates what Penn State may have known about Sandusky's behavior.