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Penn State Sanctions: Are They Too Much?

The Paterno Statue, apparently in its new “See no evil” pose.

I love college football.  More specifically, I love University of Michigan college football.  I know the starting line-ups.  I know the second string.  I know the incoming freshman and I follow recruiting religiously.  My wife knows not to plan anything on game days, and friends know if they want to see me at an event, don’t schedule it on a Saturday in the Fall.  Simply put, college football consumes my every waking minute from September through January 1 (I refuse to watch after that), and by the end of the season, I am emotionally spent.

I didn’t attend the University of Michigan, and to be honest, I never even considered it.  A large public university wasn’t something I had any interest in.  I was born and raised in the State of Michigan, however, and there wasn’t anyone who didn’t have loyalties to either Michigan, Michigan State, or Notre Dame (plus a smattering of the directional schools).  It’s just something you grew up with.  It’s my love for Michigan football, and a lack thereof for the University itself that, I believe, gives me a somewhat unique perspective of the Penn State disaster.

As you all know, former Penn State Defensive Coordinator Jerry Sandusky molested a lot of boys for a significant period of time, both as Penn State’s Defensive Coordinator and after.  What you also know is that the people in charge of Penn State’s football program, and athletic department, and the University itself, all knew.  And they did nothing.  And by “nothing,” I mean they actively tried to hide it.  The reason: to protect the football program.

Sandusky has been convicted, and will likely never see the free light of day again.  Several higher-ups at Penn State are no longer employed by the University, and legendary head coach, Joe Paterno, is dead.  All of these gentleman got off easy.  The evidence of what took place, and who knew about it, is astonishingly horrible.

This morning, the NCAA handed down sanctions against Penn State for the Sandusky situation.  $60 million fine, no bowl games for 4 years, a loss of up to 60 scholarships, and Paterno’s wins from 1998-2011 were vacated.

Some are claiming the sanctions are too much.  No one seems to be arguing they’re not enough.  It’ll be difficult for anyone to explain to me how the sanctions are too much.  The facts of what happened almost rise to the level of institutionally sanctioned child rape.  Everyone who was in a position to do something knew about it, and instead of doing something useful, they went out of their way to cover it up.  And make no mistake, there wasn’t one person in that athletic department who didn’t know.  In fact, I’d bet $25 and my lunch that coaches from other schools knew.  Sandusky wasn’t just any defensive coordinator; he was one of, if not the, best defensive coordinators in the game at the time.

And all of it was done to protect the football program.  I’m not sure when sports became such a huge to-do in this country.  And as you can see above, I’m as guilty as anyone else.  Sports shouldn’t matter as much as they do.  And they especially shouldn’t matter as much as they do at our universities.  Many scholarship athletes, especially those that play the big sports, wouldn’t be able to get into their respective schools if they didn’t happen to be big or fast.  And do any of them learn anything when they’re there?  Some probably do, but most probably don’t.

The NCAA is the biggest culprit of all, having sold its academic and moral soul for big money a long time ago.  The most glaring example of this is its perpetual failure to adequately punish big-money institutions who are known by everyone to repeatedly cheat.  The NCAA’s failure to act in the past tells you just how big of a deal the Penn State situation is (in case you are stupid and didn’t already know).

Universities are increasingly becoming professional sports, as opposed to centers of “higher learning,” and a football program’s association with the school begins and ends with the name on the uniform.  Are the sanctions handed down by the NCAA too harsh?  Are you kidding?  They’re not enough.  Penn State’s efforts to cover up the molestation were both coordinated and thoughtful.  And to this day, the Board of Trustees and portions of the student body still don’t seem to think what occurred was that big of deal; certainly not big enough to impact the sacred football program and former head coach Paterno; still an almost Jesus-like figure to many Nittany Lions fans.  Hell, it took an overt threat to compel the school to take down the 900 lb. bronze statue of the man.

The school should have done more.  In fact, all schools should do more in terms of shifting their focus from the money, and related corruption, of major college sports to the reason they opened their doors in the first place.  People would still pay to watch football, even without the five different special edition Nike jerseys, which are all ugly anyway.

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  1. Mary
    July 24, 2012 at 1:03 PM

    I’ve heard from many that the NCAA has no jurisdiction. Maybe so. I’m not familiar with how universities are run and with the level of authority afforded the NCAA by the schools. What I’m pretty sure of is that a whole bunch of little kids were horribly abused and a whole lot of adults at Penn State were in a position to stop it ….. and didn’t. And there doesn’t appear to be any organization, other than the NCAA, with the ability to give Penn State the whack upside the head they so richly deserve. The sanctions did not go “too far”. (Oh, and I agree that there is something “off” about Sandusky not being recruited by other schools. Hard to believe those schools knew nothing and just happened to take a pass on one of the best defensive coordinators around.)

  2. July 25, 2012 at 12:19 PM

    I can’t think of any reason why the NCAA wouldn’t have jurisdiction, except maybe over the fine (which will probably be donated by some wealthy alums anyway). I continue to be disturbed at the number of people who think the NCAA went too far. And not just the stupid college students. Brent Musberger was on ESPN radio yesterday and said the only person who did anything wrong was Sandusky. I almost crashed my car when I heard it.

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