The NCAA gave Penn State a harsh penalty but it is the wrong one. Plain and simple the football program should have been shut down for at least a year or two.
There is no logical reason why Penn State should play football come September 1st. A giant fine, loss of scholarships and no bowl appearances is not the point. The problem is this: Allowing Penn State to keep playing sends the message everywhere that football remains king no matter what takes place on campus.
Even the rape of little boys is not enough to keep universities from playing football and making money. That’s why packing more than 106,000 fans—many drunk—in Beaver Stadium in a few weeks to cheer for the football team looks bad, feels wrong and is counterproductive.
The university needs time to heal and think about how the win-at-any-cost culture corrupted the campus leadership. Instead, in a few weeks, fans will be tailgating, painting their faces and cheering “We are Penn State.”
Time away from the game would benefit students, faculty, administrators and alumni and give them time to see that life at Penn State goes on just fine without football. The university doesn’t need football to be an excellent institution for higher learning. Students certainly don’t need to get hammered and stumble out of the Skeller after a game to enjoy a full college experience.
Happy Valley can be plenty happy without football. In fact, playing football this fall is just going to be a sad, regular reminder of the outrageous abuse scandal that university leaders, including Joe Paterno, allowed to take place for more than a decade. Let’s be clear: The only reason Jerry Sandusky was allowed to keep raping boys was because of the warped logic of trying to protect the cash cow that is football.
Don’t let anyone say this was not about football. It was all about football and money. That’s why the NCAA’s penalty is misguided because it doesn’t change the football culture. If anything, down the road, the penalty may put more pressure on the university to find ways to win.
I get the argument about not punishing the players who had nothing to do with allowing a former coach to rape boys repeatedly in the locker. That’s why it would have been better for everyone to shut down the program and let the players transfer to other schools. Or stay and study on scholarship. Fielding lousy teams the next few years doesn’t fix anything for anybody.
The NCAA is also wrong to take away Penn State’s victories since 1998. That makes no sense and is punitive. I can understand wiping out past victories if the team was somehow cheating.
This scandal took place off the field. The games were won on the field. Off the field, Paterno screwed up big time by helping to lead the cover-up of Sandusky’s abuse starting in 1998 and looking the other way. He also lied about it to the grand jury and in his final newspaper interview before dying.
But that doesn’t mitigate Paterno’s many accomplishments on the field. He was an excellent coach, his teams won and most of his players graduated. He built a great program and did many good things for Penn State. In the end, Paterno got carried away with his success and power. And when it came to the biggest crossroad of his life, he made a giant and unforgivable mistake.
That’s why so many are equally divided as to how to strike the right balance in punishing Penn State and Paterno. Ironically, Paterno would have enhanced his legacy by calling the police back in 1998. Instead, he forever tarnished it by trying to sweep Sandusky’s abuse under the rug.
That’s the lesson everyone should take away from this tragic event. In life and sports, winning isn’t the only thing. What matters most is doing the right thing.