The NCAA has spoken and now Penn State gets to deal with another part of the rebuilding process after the Sandusky Affair. A $60 million fine. A four-year bowl ban. The loss of ten scholarships per year for four years. And vacating all wins from 1998 to 2011.
That fine is not insignificant. Neither is the loss of bowl games in four straight years, nor the longer term effects reducing scholarships will carry. Taking away the wins is purely symbolic and does nothing to either punish the school or help the victims of Jerry Sandusky. And Penn State will still be playing football in the Big 10, appearing on TV often, and despite the scandal, operate under one of the most historic names in the game.
Penn State got hammered, but in many respects, they got off easy. They can and will rebuild from this. They may never be the same as they were in the Paterno era, but they’re not going to turn into New Mexico State, either.
I’ve not read a ton of reaction to the punishment, but I hope the NCAA doesn’t get too much credit for their decision. They didn’t have much of a choice. They weren’t about to appear to be supporting an athletic department going out-of-its way to harbor a child molester. It was a no-brainer, dead simple, with-a-doubt decision.
Perhaps this will usher in a new era of NCAA oversight of programs, where rules are simplified but expected to be followed to the letter. Maybe the organization will be serious about putting the needs of the “student athletes” first and not be more worried about protecting the bottom line of the organization as a whole or its members. But until a major program gets more than a slap on the wrist for violating recruiting and/or academic guidelines, I’m not going to give the suits in downtown Indy too much credit.
Finally, I’ve had this conversation with several friends and family members and thought I would share it here.
Over the last nine months, as the scandal poured forth, I’ve tried to think how I would feel had this happened at KU. I’ve also tried to think of it happening when I was a student rather than a rational, well-adjusted adult. I did this only to try to find some understanding for the actions of the Penn State students who have defiantly defended the school, Joe Paterno, and the football program.
It’s easy, from afar, to look at these kids and shake your head, wondering how they can defend someone who defended a serial child rapist. But we’re not always rational in those years that surround our 20th birthdays, and don’t always quietly accept criticism of something dear to us during that time in our lives. I would hope that I would be as disgusted as I am now had this happened to my school, when I was a student. But I’m at least willing to cut the Penn State kids a little slack. It’s the adults that operate the school and support the football program who have remained steadfast in their support of Joe Paterno that upset me.
There are a lot of negatives about college sports and it’s easy to let them overwhelm the beauty of the games if you let them. But what happened at Penn State, as with the murder scandal at Baylor nearly a decade ago, is the worst possible thing that can happen to college sports.
Cheating we kind of expect, and tacitly support. Academic fraud? Well it’s fine as long as you don’t get caught and, hey, everyone else is doing it. Shoveling more-and-more money into athletic programs while academic programs are cut, professors struggle to make a decent living, and students get nailed with tuition increases far greater than the rate of inflation each year? We’d rather not hear about that, so shut up and watch the game, would you?
I think we’ve come to an uncomfortable acceptance of all that. But when a coach is so powerful he can cover up the evil of Jerry Sandusky, it’s hard to find anything good enough in college sports to outweigh it.