First of all let me say that I was wrong. I believed in Joe Paterno. I believed that we would ultimately learn that Joe Paterno had done what he was supposed to do. That we would find that this was covered up from him as much as it was covered up from the police and everyone else. It is now clear that this was not the case.
I was not one who blindly believed in Joe Paterno. I accepted and understood that it was entirely possible that when all of the facts came out, it would paint Paterno in a very bad light. I just sincerely hoped that would not be the case and gave him the benefit of the doubt. However, it is clear that if he was in fact, not directly in charge of the cover up, he was aware of it and that makes him as guilty as Spanier, Curley and Schultz. While I do not believe that this undoes all of the good that Paterno did in his life, it will permanently stain his legacy and it should.
The question now is: What should happen to Penn State? Perhaps more specifically: What should the NCAA do about this? My answer is….. virtually nothing. The NCAA should perform an investigation, however that investigation should only look into what Penn St. has done to ensure that this never happens again, ensure that there is no one left at the university who was involved in this and whether or not there were NCAA violations committed. They should not involve themselves in any legal aspect of this.
Many are calling for the “death penalty”. I have even heard it suggested that the NCAA should levy a 10 year death penalty on Penn St. The question is, what exactly would that accomplish? It’s not going to work as a deterrent. This is an anomaly that will not happen at another university. Giving Penn St. the death penalty would do nothing more than create more victims of Jerry Sandusky. The evildoers at Penn St., to our knowledge, are gone. Those who deserve criminal charges are either already tried and convicted (Sandusky) or will be soon enough (Spanier, Curley and Schultz). Mike McQueary is gone and will be lucky to get a job as a janitor at McDonalds and Joe Paterno is dead.
Many who are calling for the NCAA to take action against Penn St. even though everyone involved is gone, like to use USC and the fact that USC was sanctioned 5 years after everyone was gone to justify the NCAA sanctioning Penn St. This is not only not a comparable situation, but for the NCAA to act would set a precedent that those who want them to act will eventually regret.
The NCAA did not punish USC because they loved the idea of punishing innocent players who were in elementary school or middle school when the Bush family committed their violations. They did not punish USC because they wanted to hammer one of their “cash cows” to prove a point. They punished USC because it is all they have in their bag of tricks to use as a deterrent for both USC and other programs.
The Bush family violations were NCAA violations not criminal acts. Therefore, the NCAA could not count on the legal system to punish them. So, the only recourse that the NCAA had was to punish USC. The Penn St. situation involved criminal acts, therefore, the NCAA can allow the legal system to mete out the necessary punishment.
If the NCAA punishes Penn St. for this, they set a precedent that many who will initially be happy about, will soon come to regret. If the NCAA steps in and punishes Penn St. How long before they punish a program because players got arrested or the coach or athletic director got a DUI? Those same people calling for Penn St. to be punished will be complaining that the NCAA should let the legal system and school handle it as they’ve always done. The NCAA will then simply cite “The Penn St. Precedent” to justify their actions.
Perhaps a situation that matches the Penn St. scandal much more closely and shows how the NCAA should (and likely will) act, is the Baylor basketball murder. The NCAA conducted an investigation (as they should and will at Penn St.) and punished Baylor for NCAA violations only. They did not address the murder itself because that is what the legal system is for. The legal system does not handle NCAA violations and the NCAA should not handle legal matters.
Make no mistake, Penn St. is being punished and they will be punished for years to come. Their reputation is destroyed and lawsuits are lining up that will be in the 100′s of millions (some even suggest a billion) dollars. To shut down the football program would do nothing but punish the students, alumni, current players and staff who had nothing to do with any of this. To take away scholarships, just means young men who may not go to college.
So, what should happen? What should Penn St. do? The NCAA should go in and investigate. If they find any NCAA violations, they should punish Penn St. for those. They should look into what Penn St. has done to ensure that nothing like this happens again. If they discover NCAA violations and they want to punish them with stronger sanctions than they normally would to make a point, that would be fine too. To dismantle the football program potentially punishes thousands of innocent people because Penn St. football is a huge part of the local and even state economy. In other words, people will lose their jobs.
As for what Penn St. should do? A couple of things are obvious. First, the statue needs to come down and Paterno’s name should be removed from the library. Anything that has been named after Joe Paterno should be re-named. Secondly, Penn St. should offer no resistance when the lawsuits start rolling in. Just pay the money and offer any further assistance that any of the victims need.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Penn St. should dedicate their university in general and their football program specifically to the fight against child abuse. They should establish a foundation in which they pour a large chunk of their football profits in order to assist organizations that fight child abuse. In short, Penn St. should pour their hearts and souls even more into the fight against and prevention of child abuse than they did into their football program. By doing this, Penn St. can truly honor the victims of these horrible crimes and once again proudly say: We Are…Penn State!!