PSU: Shut. It. Down.

PSU: Shut. It. Down.

The hits just keep coming for Penn State University as the fallout over the Jerry Sandusky child sex scandal continues.

The latest blow to the chin for the Nittany Lion football program came today when a much-anticipated report on the Sandusky scandal was released by former FBI director Louis Freeh.

The report didn’t include any new earth-shattering information, but reminded us all of what we already knew: that Penn State shamelessly worked to cover up Sandusky’s sordid misdeeds for over a decade, and the coverup at the university went all the way to the top.

The Freeh report, and the NCAA’s recent revelation that it is entering the fray, has folks once again asking: what will — and should — happen to Penn State and its football program as a result of the coverup scandal?

We know what happened to the individuals involved: Sandusky lost his freedom, the four chief players in the coverup — university president Graham Spanier, vice president Gary Schultz, athletic director Tim Curley and late football coach Joe Paterno — lost their jobs (Schultz and Curley have also been indicted on criminal charges), and Paterno’s legacy as one of football’s greatest coaches ever, once thought tarnished by the Sandusky scandal, will probably wind up destroyed.

But the question of what happens to the university won’t be answered anytime soon. While we await an answer, here’s what should happen: there should be no football in Happy Valley this fall.

Period.

No games. No practice. No recruiting.

Give the Penn State “brand” — which university officials were willing to protect at the expense of innocent children who were being victimized by the monster the university employed for the better part of a half-century — two or three years off. Then let the university rebuild itself from the ground up.

It’s the only outcome that can close to meeting the definition of justice in the aftermath of the most egregious scandal that college sports — sports at any level, for that matter — has ever known. If Penn State wanted to send a clear message that it is building an “iron curtain,” as one former coach put it today, between the future and what we now know to be a sick, ugly past, it would sentence itself to the so-called “death penalty” of its football program.

But that isn’t likely to happen. Nor is it likely to be forced upon the university.

The NCAA has already been criticized for getting involved in what some folks consider to be strictly a legal matter. Sandusky’s actions were non-athletic misconduct, they reason, therefore the NCAA has no business getting involved.

I’m usually the one hollering foul when the NCAA oversteps its bounds. I was critical of the NCAA’s decision to issue a show-cause penalty against former Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl (and, since then, the NCAA show-caused former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel). My reasoning then was that the NCAA should not be allowed to bully a school into firing their coach by threatening heightened sanctions.

But the reality is that the Penn State football program should be severely punished for what happened. The courts can’t make that happen. They can hold those involved criminally liable, and prosecute them accordingly, and they can hold the university liable for civil penalties. But they can’t punish the program itself. The NCAA can.

And that’s makes the NCAA’s involvement a necessary evil.

Here’s the reality: every single top-level administrator with oversight of the football program was implicitly involved in covering up the abuse of children for more than a decade. We know now that the president, vice president, athletic director and head football coach knew that Sandusky was abusing children as early as the late 1990s. The Freeh report even implicates the university’s board of trustees to a certain extent.

Who knows how many children were raped by Sandusky in the years after graduate assistant football coach Michael McQueary discovered Sandusky in the shower with one of his victims because Penn State officials were more concerned with the integrity of their football program than with the safety and welfare of children. These men didn’t just cover up Sandusky’s wrongdoing; they enabled it by continuing to give Sandusky access to university facilities, where some of the abuse took place. And the abuse continued for another decade because nobody — not the university president, not the vice president, not the athletic director, not the head football coach, not an assistant coach, not the head of the university police — was willing to jeopardize the integrity of the program in order to put a stop to a pedophile’s abuse of children.

This coverup is unconscionable. And the program should suffer as a result.

It has been said that punishing the program is a disservice to the student-athletes currently on football scholarship at Penn State, because those players had nothing to do with the scandal and all the key figures in the scandal are no longer associated with the university. Fair enough, but there is always collateral damage in these situations. Did Southern Cal’s players deserve to be punished for Pete Carroll’s actions? Ohio State’s players for Jim Tressel’s?

It has also been said that the NCAA shouldn’t be involved because this is a non-athletic matter. Again, fair enough. But one could make a strong argument that the coverup — and let’s be clear: the coverup, not Sandusky’s abuse of children, sickening as it is, is the real issue here — was the result of Penn State’s efforts to gain a competitive advantage on the football field, which is the key part of any NCAA violation. So, then, the argument could also be made that the legal ramifications of this ordeal and its athletic ramifications are hopelessly intertwined.

The only unfortunate part is that the NCAA likely won’t be able to force Penn State to suspend its football program. The NCAA last issued a death penalty to Southern Methodist University in the 1980s after it was revealed that SMU was paying players. The ruling body’s bylaws state that the death penalty is a response to repeated violations after a program has already been warned and sanctions issued, which would make it difficult to apply in this case, according to college football analysts familiar with NCAA procedures.

But the NCAA can still slap the university with some pretty harsh penalties for its football program. The actions of Penn State’s officials appear to meet the NCAA’s standard for “lack of institutional control,” a serious violation that carries the harshest penalties (aside from the death penalty). The NCAA can ban cut enough scholarships to ensure that Penn State has difficulty competing on the field, it can ban the university from conference championship or bowl games, and it can prohibit any of the university’s football games from being televised.

And that’s exactly what should happen. Not what is likely to happen, but what should happen. And although it’s almost certainly not going to happen, there would be true justice in the NCAA forcing Penn State to vacate wins during the period of lack of institutional control so that Paterno — a coach who I always admired more than any other in the game — is no longer the winningest coach in college football history. Too harsh? Not if the Freeh report is accurate. Freeh’s report says — or at least heavily insinuates — that university officials intended to report Sandusky in 2001, but that Paterno talked them out of it.

If the egregiousness of this university’s efforts to protect its football program at any cost isn’t enough to justify the NCAA’s involvement, as well as potential penalties for the program, there’s always the message that needs to be sent. Because here’s the reality: college football is — for better or worse; mostly worse — a big business. Millions upon millions of dollars are made off the game of football at some of the top universities, such as Penn State (which had the nation’s second-richest college football program, according to estimates, before this scandal broke). And, as such, universities will go to great lengths to protect their cash cow.

It’s a scary thought, but what happened at Penn State could happen at any number of universities throughout the country.

So, let’s make no mistake: the NCAA’s involvement in this will set a bad precedent; it will inevitably expand the NCAA’s power by default, and start college athletics down an even more slippery slope when it comes to the NCAA’s involvement in school affairs. But, sometimes, the end justifies the means.


13 Reviews

    A little harsh don’t you think? The guys playing football, wearing those uniforms and getting there education there at this school had nothing to do with the scandal. It was coaches, presidents, athletic directors and staff, not the players and not the fans that had anything to do with the scandal. Fire those in charge and clean house with the administration in charge of the athletic department. Have a fresh start with the whole football program by cleaning house and rehiring new people. The NCAA has no business in this affair because it is a legal matter and not a football matter. Don’t take it out on those who are going to school there and had nothing to do with this.

    Again, if we apply that standard, then no school should ever be put on probation or penalized – ever. Because in doing so you’re penalizing the fans and players.

    I just can’t agree with that. If there had only been one or two people involved in the PSU scandal, I could agree with you that going after the individuals would suffice. But this culture of denial and coverup involved the entire top-level administration at Penn State, who did what they did explicitly because they wanted to protect the program, and a number of kids had their worlds turned upside down as a result. There’s nothing that the NCAA could do to the program that would be too harsh.

    But it’s not the NCAA problem…they have no right to do anything about it…this isn’t a football matter…i understand people are mad, i understand people were hurt cover ups and all, it’s ludacris to shut down the football program over the administration….like i said fire the entire top level administration and start new, don’t cancel football, those players have lives…i understand what happened is horrible, and those people should be punished and do jail time but basically you’re saying if a group of people that have something to do with a university do something bad then the university as a whole should be punished and that’s not right, you know it and i know it….the students shouldn’t suffer because bad choices and mistakes by those in the athletic department.

    No, I’m not saying that if a group of people have something to do with a university then everyone should be punished. But this wasn’t just a group of people associated with the university. This was a group of people associated with the football program. Their coverup was to benefit the football program. Their actions were to gain a competitive advantage on the football field, which is exactly why this IS an NCAA matter. Every time the NCAA gets involved, it’s because a university is guilty of wrongdoing to gain a competitive advantage on the field. And the actions of the PSU brass clearly demonstrates a lack of institutional control, which is an NCAA violation. There are very clear reasons why the NCAA is, and should be, involved in this.

    Anytime university officials turn their backs on something that’s happening so they can gain a competitive advantage on the field, the program is penalized. Whether you like it or not, that’s the way it works. That’s why USC’s on probation right now, why Ohio State’s on probation right now, why UNC will be on probation soon and why Miami will be on probation soon. You think those players aren’t suffering because of a bowl ban, loss of scholarships, etc.? Sure they are. But that’s the way it works. If it worked as you’re saying it should, teams could cheat and win countless games and national championships because they cheated, and if they ever got caught, the only thing that would happen would be their coach would have to be fired. If that’s the way it worked, teams would never be discouraged from cheating…cheating would be rampant in college football. The very reason the NCAA punishes the program instead of the people involved is to discourage further wrongdoing. If school officials knew the only ones culpable were the coaches and others involved, compliance departments would be useless because no school would self-report anything to the NCAA.

    As for the players, if PSU were to receive the death penalty (isn’t going to happen, but if), those players could go to another school on scholarship and play right away, so that really isn’t even a consideration.

    If every single official at PSU who had any say-so in this matter hadn’t turned their backs because they didn’t want the football program to suffer, then we wouldn’t even be having this discussion.

    You’re not getting what i’m saying….you said it yourself in the last post…..everyone else has been punished because they tried to gain a competitive edge on their competition by cheating…that didn’t happen here, what happen here was a legal matter and was a cover up, yes everyone involved had something to do with the football team…but everyone involved were not trying to gain a competitive edge, it’s a legal matter, not a NCAA matter, fire everyone involved in the football program and start new….like it or not, and argue all you want this is different than cheating, and i wasn’t saying anyone can cheat and get away with it, you’re twisting my words to fit your argument.

    That’s exactly what I said in the last comment: “Their actions were to gain a competitive advantage on the football field.” That’s one of the reasons why the NCAA is involved in this. Did Penn State cover up Sandusky’s actions as a favor to Sandusky? Or did they do it to protect their program. I think you’ll find that almost everyone agrees they did it to protect their program. Because if it was found out that a long-time coach had been abusing kids inside football facilities, it would have damaged the reputation of the program, which would have caused the program to suffer. It could’ve cost them recruits, endorsements, etc. Remember, PSU was going to go to officials with this, and the FOOTBALL COACH apparently asked them not to…to protect the program.

    It was all about the competitive advantage on the field.

    Cover it up? See who already knew in 98. They let him stay at second mile but who cares about that
    Guilty before proving anything.

    Who is:
    Centre County Children and Youth Services, Centre County DA office, John
    Miller ,Assistant DA Karen Arnold, Jerry Lauro ,Investigator Wayne Weaver,
    Alycia A Chambers, John Seasock, Ralph Ralston, Office of Children Youth and
    Families

    THEY ARE WHO YOU WOULD REPORT IT TO. DON’T LOOK AS THOUGH IT WAS COVERED UP
    TO WELL. THEY ALL KNEW IN 1998.

    What are the sanctions for them.

    SHEEP NEED HERDING

    Baa-aaa-d news: It doesn’t matter what you and I think now. The NCAA has spoken. Penn State will be irrelevant in football for at least 10 years.

    It may not matter what we all say or think…but it don’t make it right.

    I think they got it right. The vast majority of Americans think they got it right. There’s no way this cover-up wasn’t an indictment of the football program as a whole. Even since this post was written and we last discussed this, more damning evidence has come out. Now there are allegations that at least one top-level football booster was involved in the abuse of kids.

    I am no fan of the NCAA. But this time they got it right.

    Again, until someone can somehow explain how a man raping little boys gave penn state a competitive advantage, it will continue to be NCAA bullying people because they can, nothing more. People need to be punished, not the institution, and not student athletes and students who were not involved. Just because the NCAA has layed down the law doesn’t make it right.

    That’s a little disingenuous, though. Of course a man raping kids doesn’t give Penn State a competitive advantage. But this has nothing to do with what Sandusky did. This is about the cover-up that followed, and it absolutely was about a competitive advantage. Sandusky (and perhaps a major booster) were using the allure of the football program to lure victims into his grasp. And when PSU officials were alerted, they covered it up. They covered it up because they couldn’t risk the university’s reputation being tarnished by the public’s knowledge that a long-time coach had been molesting kids by using the football program as bait. If that had gone public, it would have harmed the football program, which would have given PSU a disadvantage on and off the field. So to avoid the program being negatively impacted, Sandusky’s criminal offenses were kept a secret by university officials — including the president, athletic director, head football coach and others — for more than a decade, during which time additional kids fell victim to Sandusky. When the university did decide that they would go to authorities with the information they had about Sandusky, Paterno told them not to and they obliged. That’s a classic example of lack of institutional control, which is another NCAA violation.

    Bottom line: Because PSU didn’t want its reputation and the reputation of its football program tarnished, it covered up a serial rapist’s repugnant crimes. And, as a result, more innocent kids were scarred for life. By themselves, these men who made these decisions were individuals. Collectively, they were the football program. Anyone and everyone who had any major decision-making authority within the football program was involved in the coverup. Absolutely Penn State did what it did for a competitive advantage.

    The NCAA’s punishment does nothing to hurt the students of Penn State. And it also does nothing to hurt the student-athletes. If anything, it helps them. Because they were going to be playing under a dark cloud anyway. When the NCAA handed down its punishment, that allowed the players who wanted to leave the school to immediately transfer to other programs and play. And players who wanted to leave the team but stay enrolled in school at PSU still have their scholarships, thanks to the NCAA’s decision.

    if you want to get technical they werent gaining a competetive advantage over other schools by the cover up, they were trying not to lose players and boosters…so if you really want to get technical, they were trying to stay where they where…which means they were at no advantage. When someone says competetive advantage, i think of something to help you be better than your opponent, cheating, paying players to go to school there, changing grades so a player is eligible. Those are things to gain a competitive advantage. It does hurt the students of Penn State, their football team, something held in high regard there has basically been gutted and it does hurt the student athletes because if they choose to stay for whatever reasons, pride in their school love for their alma mater, relationships with other students they don’t get to compete.Id say ask some student athletes and students if it hurts them and i bet you would get a different answer than yours, what the NCAA did helped the student athletes but it doesn’t make everything all better.

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