Harsh Punishment Handed To Penn State and Joe Paterno
July 23, 2012 2 Comments
Over the weekend a statute of Joe Paterno was removed from outside of Penn State’s football stadium. Initially I opposed the move, largely because it felt like it was pressured out of Penn State by the national media, including nitwits at ESPN like Jeremy Shapp. On one hand Paterno had a 40+ year record of graduating football players and on field success. On the other hand he failed to protect children by conspiring with the athletic director and university president to protect Jerry Sandusky, a now convicted child molester. Worse, Paterno likely perjured himself when he said denied knowing about Sandusky’s allegations prior to 2001 when it is clear he knew as late as 1998. Ultimately, the statute had to go if for no other reason then Paterno’s likely perjury which shows he actively protected Sandusky at the expense of children
So now the Paterno statue is gone but that hasn’t stopped the NCAA from levying penalties. Today they announced they were fining Penn State $60 million, banning the football team from bowl games for four years, reducing scholarships by 10 initially and 20 total over four years and vacating all wins since 1998. The first question is whether or not the NCAA even has authority to issue penalties in a case like this. Generally the NCAA only has authority to issue penalties in cases that involve rules violations. No NCAA rules were broken, which makes the NCAA’s claim to have the ability to punish dubious at best. Penn State apparently agreed to these penalties, so that makes this point moot until it comes up again in the future at another school.
The fine is right and proper as a punishment. A fund is being set up to compensate victims of Jerry Sandusky with an endowment also set up to fund external (read: not at Penn State) child abuse prevention programs. If there was ever a good punishment for this sort of situation it is this. Vacating wins is absolutely pointless as the games already happened, we all know the results and as such it’s almost like the Soviet Union pretending that people knocked off by Stalin never existed. The bowl ban and scholarship reductions only hurt current Penn State students and football players and their coaches, none of whom are responsible for anything associated with Jerry Sandusky.
This to me is a key point. Joe Paterno is dead, the former athletic director and President are no longer working for Penn State and are awaiting trial on charges relating to this matter. Sandusky is in jail, never to get out. What exactly is the point of punishing student athletes who had nothing to do with anything associated with this horrible cover up? One could make that argument with any of the NCAA’s penalties handed down over the years. Sure, it’s a school punishment but the brunt of the punishment falls on the next crop of kids who had nothing to do with any rule violations.
As a general rule, if I were running the NCAA I would rather fine schools than ban them from bowl games. (ex: allow schools to go to bowl games but prevent them from receiving a bowl payout) If scholarships are going to be taken away and bowl bans are going to be in place, then I would say allow all current scholarship players to transfer to another school without penalty. This happened at USC a few years ago, it isn’t clear if current Penn State scholarship athletes will be afforded the same opportunity to transfer. Hopefully they are.
The Jerry Sandusky saga at Penn State is going to destroy their football program for a generation. I would love nothing more than to see the Big Ten kick these eastern interlopers out of the conference. But what I don’t want to see is current student athletes unjustly punished for something that happened long before they set foot on campus. In that, perhaps the NCAA needs to rethink their penalties and move to a monetary based system of punishment. For all the positive things Paterno did at Penn State, his reputation is forever destroyed by his failure to protect children from a child molester. Everything he worked for in his life has been destroyed, sadly he’s getting exactly what he deserved.
Update: Apparently NCAA rules will allow all Penn State football players on scholarship to transfer without having to sit out. If I were such a player, I would jump ship as soon as possible.