I want to say that I'm starting this argument from the perspective that nearly all NCAA sanctions are absurd and pointless, typically punishing behaviors that while technically against NCAA rules are clearly routine working order for at least all major college programs (and if we're being honest, likely every Division I college program). But for all of the inherent stupidity and hypocrisy (you can make literally billions off of the unpaid labor of college kids, but if you give them so much as $5 to do their laundry, that's a horrible ethical violation), there is at least some form of perverted logic they follow.
And while others can explain much more clearly what said weird logic is, basically, it boils down to the rules making no sense, but at least being enforced every time it's obvious they've been broken. And once a rule is broken, the NCAA is usually quick to drop the hammer. Again, many would argue this is because they want to make routine rules violations look like exceptional cases (thereby making the NCAA look like it's running a tight ship), but they are almost always enforced nonetheless.
Take, for example, the Reggie Bush case. Bush was/is a great college athlete/mediocre professional athlete that played for USC. To secure his services, USC apparently paid him a significant chunk of money and paid for an apartment and car for his parents. There was a lot more to the case, but that's essentially what USC was punished for. And they were punished quite thoroughly; Bush had to vacate his Heisman and USC was hit with some major sanctions, including a reductions in scholarships they're allowed to offer for a period and a multi-year postseason ban.
This was done for illegally accepting money. Well, now that Jerry Sandusky has been found guilty on 45 of 48 counts in his child sex abuse trial, it's also become quite clear many people within the Penn State football program actively worked to cover up said sexual abuse. It's not clear who all was involved and to what extent, but it's pretty much impossible to deny there was an intentional cover up. Heck, most legal experts agree Penn State is criminally liable, and many of the abused have retained counsel for civil suits against the university.
So I'm not trying to pile on an obvious target or get sanctimonious about how I would have acted in that situation (because no one actually knows how they would react to such a thing, and what you would actually do would probably surprise you), but just to say that by the NCAA's own logic, they have to sanction Penn State severely, don't they?
Because if you're going to set the precedent that giving money to a poor kid so he'll play football is a grievous sin, it's got to be pretty hard to argue the covering up the repeated sexual assault of children is not an offense worthy of significant reprimand.