Unprecedented. That’s the word that keeps popping up anytime a word is spoken or written regarding the fiasco at Penn State. Yesterday, the NCAA declared its judgment against the University for the multiple levels of failings in the Jerry Sandusky child abuse case, and although it fell short of imposing the so-called death penalty against the school’s football program (i.e. closing it down completely), it has effectively killed it in a litany of sanctions and penalties.
Further, the NCAA has gone beyond common sense in its witch hunt by aiming its crosshairs squarely on the lead “warlock”: late head football coach, Joe Paterno. In his omniscience, FBI director Louis Freeh determined that Paterno had concealed allegations of child abuse against Jerry Sandusky. Maybe he did; but it’s pretty difficult to interrogate a man who’s been dead for more than half a year. It’s also much easier to pin everything on Paterno, now that he’s dead, rather than seek the real individuals responsible for the cover-up, if there really is one.
Do not get me wrong, I am all for getting to the bottom of the failings and the closet skeletons and exposing the gutless swine who allowed Sandusky’s horrific pedophilic fantasies to become reality. As a Penn State grad, I am more devastated by this whole ordeal than most. In fact, as much as I think Louis Freeh is pinning too much responsibility on Paterno, it is appropriate that Freeh is involved. This is proper and makes a lot of sense. But why the NCAA has to stick its head into the investigation and puff its chest and make all sorts of blustering and grandstanding about moral failings and violations is akin to necrophilia (which is apparently less unconscionable than child molestation). Seeing an opportunity to make its public image equal its own sense of self-importance, the NCAA has proven that it couldn’t care less about the student athletes whose interests it purports to be protecting.
Rodney Erickson, current university president at Penn State said: “The tragedy of child sexual abuse that occurred at our university altered the lives of innocent children. Today, as every day, our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the victims of Mr. Sandusky and all other victims of child abuse.” Exactly, great reality check, Mr. Erickson. Unfortunately, the NCAA seems to think that punishing past, present, and future players, coaches, and assistants in the Penn State football program is the proper way to help “the victims of Mr. Sandusky.” Does altering history by removing visible traces of Joe Paterno and negating 112 on-field wins (I suppose we get to keep the losses) and two conference championships (the Big Ten Conference apparently has a similar attraction to corpses) since 1998 really help the victims in any way, shape, or form? And even though NCAA president Mark Emmert admitted that, “No price the NCAA can levy will repair the grievous damage inflicted by Jerry Sandusky on his victims;” it didn’t stop them from levying a price: $60 million. This fine will be put into an endowment to help prevent child abuse, but it is completely unclear how this money will aid Sandusky’s actual victims. But no matter, the NCAA isn’t concerned with the details; they are only interested in making themselves look concerned.
The Paterno family released a statement that effectively addressed the whole sad situation:
“The sanctions announced by the NCAA today defame the legacy and contributions of a great coach and educator without any input from our family or those who knew him best. That the president, the athletic director and the board of trustees accepted this unprecedented action by the NCAA without requiring a full due process hearing before the Committee on Infractions is an abdication of their responsibilities.”
An unnamed Division I committee member made it even clearer: “This is unique and this kind of power [being put forth by the NCAA] has never been tested or tried. It’s unprecedented to have this extensive power. This has nothing to do with the purpose of the infractions process. Nevertheless, somehow (the NCAA president and executive board) have taken it on themselves to be a commissioner and to penalize a school for improper conduct.”
This is the real travesty of the whole ordeal: Penn State is so willing to make itself look contrite (as it should be), that it is willing to take any punishment short of killing the football program. The NCAA has taken advantage of the situation in order to inflate its own ego and self-existence. Sadly, the only people who are really being punished are the players, the victims, and a dead football coach. It is all completely bogus and nothing but an elementary playground show of force. The NCAA should be ashamed… but it won’t be.