The recent publication of the Freeh Report on what exactly took place at Penn State while Jerry Sandusky abused his status in the community to sexually molest at least 10 underage males has left the country in awe. Not only did Joe Paterno and his fellow higher-ups at State College fail to act, they covered up what will go down as the greatest scandal in the history of college sports. And now the football program they fought so hard to protect is going to pay the ultimate price -- the death penalty.
For those unfamiliar with this version of the death penalty, it is a pseudonym for a measure the NCAA has taken in the past where it can exercise the power to ban a school from participating in a particular sport for at least one year.
The most pertinent example of the usage of the death penalty is from the 1980s when the NCAA cancelled Southern Methodist University's football season in 1987 as well as the home half of its 1988 season. The penalty arose as a result of numerous recruiting violations involving thousands of dollars being paid to players, and the NCAA handed down the penalty citing an utter lack of institutional control.
It is for this same utter lack of institutional control that Penn State should and will get the same sort of penalty for what has taken place with Jerry Sandusky, although it should be much more severe than the one handed down to SMU.
How else can you define a system in which the university president (Graham Spanier), vice president (Gary Schultz), and athletic director (Tim Curley) were set to report what Sandusky was up to, but were then overruled by a head football coach in Joe Paterno? That is like President Obama, Congress, and the Cabinet being set to sign a peace treaty only to have General Petraeus order a nuclear launch.
And it only gets worse from there. Curley, Spanier, and Schultz did succeed in getting Sandusky out of the program in 1999, but granted him emeritus status which kept him financially safe and gave him continued access to the university's recreational facilities, where many of his assaults took place in later years.
Then in 2001, graduate assistant Mike McQueary found Sandusky in a Penn State shower raping what he testified was a 10 to 12-year-old boy. McQueary reports what he sees to Curley, Schultz, and Paterno who decide to sweep it under the rug and the police are STILL not alerted. Instead of handling the situation, these men engineer a situation in which McQueary finds himself steadily promoted up the ranks to receivers coach starting in 2003 and Sandusky dodges yet another bullet, keeping Penn State and Paterno clear of any repercussions.
As the years go on, other faculty members that had an inkling of what was going on with Sandusky choose to keep their mouths closed for fear that Paterno would take away their jobs. Even janitors that Paterno would probably never meet in his lifetime.
The fact is, Joe Paterno as a head football coach was more powerful than the president, vice president, and athletic directors combined were at this university. If he wasn't, then his reputation and legacy never would have been considered to be on the same level as the well-being of an innocent, already under-privileged child. And if that does not imply a lack of institutional control, I do not know what does.
In light of what has taken place, the Penn State football program needs to be taken back to square one. Allowing this program to just pick up where it left off after its disgusting display of disrespect for human life would be just as criminal as covering up what took place.
The way to do that is to force the school to realign PSU's priorities by removing football from the equation for at least two years, and four is not unreasonable. It may not be popular with the die-hards that believe this matter should be left in the hands of court, but the NCAA needs to make a statement here and show the rest of the country that human life always comes before money. If the NCAA can do what it did to USC in 2010, a program of much more relevance and worth in today's current college football landscape, then it should have no problem taking down Penn State for what are significantly more egregious transgressions.
Such a measure would not hurt the kids, only the program, as all recruits and players would be allowed to transfer without any sort of repercussions. And it would help both the NCAA's and college football's image as they would be putting a decent money-maker aside for the sake of justice. On the other hand, failure to do anything would forever taint the reputation of both entities for decades.
The best course of action at this point would to get this penalty handed down as quickly as possible so these kids can find new schools to play for, these coaches can find new jobs and the fans can begin to accept the cards they have been dealt. Curley, Schultz, and Spanier will go to prison, Joe Paterno's legacy will be torn down brick by brick by brick and Penn State football will never be the same.
One can only hope that the community accepts this result graciously and considers this punishment a light one compared to the nightmare the victims lived during their formative years. If they can, Penn State will have gotten a head start on their comeback and the NCAA will have prevented such horrible events from ever taking place again.
And just a parting thought for you to consider. If Joe Paterno and Co. were not afraid of what Sandusky knew about them, why would they ever have sacrificed so much to protect him?