I get it. Everyone wants a stab at the monster, the five-headed beast of Jerry Sandusky, Joe Paterno, Graham Spanier, Gary Schultz and Tim Curley. Their heads, Sandusky’s the most evil of them all, are attached to the slimy, scaly body that is Penn State University, which now, apparently, includes professors, administrators, trustees and students, most notably former, current and potentially future football players.
What I’m getting at is that the sanctions handed down by the NCAA against Penn State in the wake of the Sandusky child abuse scandal and alleged cover-up are ridiculous, absurdly over the top and smack of a false self-righteousness. The $60 million fine that will go toward a fund for victims of child abuse is the only measure in the punishment that seems justifiable and reasonable, although it should include more millions, possibly even a running percentage of future game day ticket sales. But the NCAA should have no involvement in any punishment beyond a monetary value sanction. Sandusky stole the innocence from young boys. He’s been convicted in a court of law and will remain in jail for the rest of his life. Schultz, the former Penn State vice president and Curley, the former athletic director, have been fired and will stand trial for perjury. Joe Paterno is dead, his name and his legacy tarnished forever. The NCAA is only penalizing the innocent.
Past, current and future Penn State football players and the student fans who help fill the 100,000-plus seat stadium in Happy Valley are being punished for the child abuse that occurred at the hands of Sandusky and allegedly was covered up by Paterno and others. How does banning bowl appearances and Big Ten conference title games for the next four years help child abuse victims? Wiping out Penn State’s victories from 1998 through 2011 is unequivocally irrelevant. I’m not wiping out my memory of the 2006 Nittany Lions gutting out a 26-23 triple-overtime victory over Bobby Bowden’s Florida State Seminoles. Those players earned that victory, that memory, that glory. It was not achieved by breaking any NCAA violations.
“The gut-check message is, ‘Do we have the right balance in our culture?'” NCAA President Mark Emmert told reporters in a news conference on Monday morning. “Or are we in a position where hero worship and winning at all costs has subordinated our core values?”
We’re all to blame then, Emmert, including the NCAA, which has helped cultivate such hero worship with multimillion-dollar television deals, Sports Illustrated covers, full-ride scholarships, to name a few examples. If you’re going to take away a number of Penn State’s football scholarships, then you’d better do the same for all Division I football programs.
The university conducted its own independent investigation into the abuse and the potential of a cover-up, and then revealed those results publicly. The school should be allowed to hand down its own severe punishment. I’m sure Emmert, and Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney, don’t want to be looked upon as heroes. That’s the basis of their sanctions in the first place.
A culture of change has already begun at Penn State. This monster has been slayed. For the NCAA and the Big Ten, the future should be about prevention, not punishment.