The punishment levied by the NCAA against Penn State, which includes a $60 million fine, a sharp reduction in scholarships, a four-year bowl ban, and the stripping of all Nittany Lions’ wins since 1998 are easily the most devastating sanctions ever meted out against any university.
The so-called “Death Penalty”, last handed down against SMU 25 years ago, which shut down that football program for a year and crippled it for many more, would not have been as bad as what NCAA president Mark Emmert announced Monday morning in Indianapolis.
That said, I have to admit I am troubled by the implications of these unprecedented and monumentally harsh penalties, which essentially involve the destruction of a football program, and the ruination of a coaching legacy, but ultimately provide no real justice for the victims of Jerry Sandusky’s heinous crimes and Penn State’s complicity and cover up.
The fact is, punishment whether of an institution or an individual, never really provides an adequate response to, or compensation for, the wrongdoing and damage that has taken place. And the NCAA weighing in, only serves to satisfy the need to hold someone or something responsible without really fixing anything.
I feel the same way about the removal of the Joe Paterno statue at Penn State on Sunday. The statue was a symbol of what Paterno meant to the university and the football program, and taking it down is merely symbolic of his tragic fall from grace, but nothing more.
Of course Joe Paterno who died from complications from lung cancer in January of this year, could have and should have done more to protect the boys that his former assistant, Jerry Sandusky preyed on, often while on the Penn State campus.
Of course Penn State’s president, along with Paterno, the Board of Trustees and other school officials should have intervened as early as 1998 when they first became aware that a pedophile was in their midst. But they essentially did nothing. And for that, the school, and the legacy of the late Joe Paterno must pay a staggering price.
But I nonetheless won’t feel right about any of this until more people everywhere care about the welfare and safety of all children in danger, and not just gawk, gossip about and feel superior to, the perpetrators who committed and enabled the terrible crimes in State College, Pennsylvania.
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