The NCAA handed down its sentence against Pennsylvania State University Monday. It’s just about the most severe sentence possible short of actually suspending the football program.
$60 million in fines, most of which will go to causes that help victims of child abuse. A four-year ban from postseason play. Forty fewer scholarships over the next four years.
And every win the Nittany Lions recorded between 1998 and 2011. All because of Penn State’s complicity regarding Jerry Sandusky’s pedophilia.
Is it a harsh sentence? Yes.
Does it punish some people — former players, most notably — who honestly had no knowledge this was going on? Yes.
But is the sentence more than Penn State deserves? No. Not in the slightest. This crime is far too heinous to merit anything less.
Had Jerry Sandusky’s crimes remained unhidden until 2011, perhaps the school would’ve deserved more leniency. But the Freeh Report found that these horrors extended far beyond just serial rapist Sandusky — a man who will spend the rest of his life rottng in jail, at the conclusion of which he will immediately begin spending eternity rotting in hell.
School administrators, trustees and football coaches alike knew about Sandusky, yet they allowed it to continue. Why? Because Sandusky helped PSU earn money, and he did so by helping the Nittany Lions win football games.
That’s the ultimate reason all of this continued for over a dozen years, and it explains the NCAA’s punishment. Penn State made money on the backs of molested children, so they had to forfeit a lot of money. And Joe Paterno became the winningest coach in college football history knowing it came at the cost of molested children, so he had to lose 114 wins.
Some — in particular Paterno’s family — have argued that the NCAA’s decision “defames” Paterno’s legacy. They say the NCAA has smeared a good man’s name in an effort to save its own skin.
They’re wrong, though not in the idea that the NCAA played its part in lionizing Paterno, and now they have to distance themselves. Rather, they’re wrong in characterizing Paterno as a “good man.”
A “good man” does not let children be raped to win football games. It’s as simple as that.
Paterno knew what Sandusky was doing, and he knew that firing Sandusky or revealing the abuse would hurt his team’s on-the-field success. Paterno was right about that, by the way: the Nittany Lions went 1-3 in their four 2011 games post-Sandusky, getting out-scored 106-55.
Everything Paterno has ever done, it’s now clear that he did it with the primary goal of winning football games. All the “boys” he’s turned into “men,” all the “values” he’s instilled, every bullshit cliche that’s ever been written about “the great and powerful Joe Paterno,” it was always just about football. And football, just like everything else, isn’t a justification for serial statutory rape.
A good man’s name hasn’t been tarnished – a bad man’s true nature has finally been revealed.
Did the NCAA try to cover its ass with this punishment? Yes. And yes, they sent a statement, but it’s not the self-preservational statement most people seem to think. It’s not, “We don’t want anything to do with Penn State, at least until every last trace of Paterno and Sandusky has been washed away.”
Instead, the statement is, “We won’t let our sports be used as an excuse for something this disgusting.”
It’s, “This can’t happen ever again.”
It’s, “This won’t happen ever again.”
The NCAA crippled Penn State for the next four years, and possibly a lot longer, because of a few men’s crimes. But the entire school — all of State College, Penn., really — helped create a culture where football meant so much that any wrongdoing, no matter how terrible, became o.k., as long as the Nittany Lions put up W’s.
The entire culture had to be destroyed in order to prevent another demigod, another Kurtz, from arising. To do that, the NCAA had to attack on all fronts: PSU’s operating budget, its recruiting capacity, its television revenue, even its history.
And its legacy. Penn State’s biggest draw has always been its legacy as “Joe Paterno’s School.” Until the school can carve out an identity separate from that legacy, it will remain complicit in Paterno’s crimes.
And for that, no punishment is too severe.