Today the NCAA handed down penalties to Penn State, for the Jerry Sandusky scandal and its cover up, and it was harsher than expected. The NCAA has missed opportunities in the past to really flex their muscle and today they wanted to prove a point. They did that and then some. The penalties are a $60 million fine, a four-year postseason ban and all victories from 1998 to 2011 have been vacated. The NCAA is typically known for not being tough enough, soon enough. No one is really terrified of NCAA penalties as evidenced by SMU in the 80s when they took on many penalties before finally receiving the death penalty in 1987 and more recently by the Miami Hurricanes who have once again violated NCAA recruiting rules.
This was was the NCAAs chance and they dropped the hammer on Penn State, hard. Maybe a little too hard. I think most of these penalties are fair, most, not all. The fine is fair and the money is going to outside programs to help prevent child sexual abuse and aid its victims. I think the four-year postseason ban is fair. It’s a reminder that football should never become so big that it matters more than the human beings it affects. A harsh penalty indeed but, it’s absolutely fair. I do think that one punishment has gone too far. The removal of all of Penn State’s victories dating all the way back to 1998.
It’s clear that the NCAA did this to remove Joe Paterno from the top of the record books. This drops Paterno from first in all time head coaching victories to eighth. This is comes off as an unnecessary demonization of Paterno. When Paterno, according to the Freeh report, chose not to do anything about what Sandusky was doing he made a terrible mistake. The only way he could have done any worse is if he was abusing those boys himself. However, to attempt to remove Paterno from the record books is to pretend that Paterno didn’t also accomplish a lot of good during his time coaching. He helped graduate many students by not putting football above academics and was a widely respected mentor on that campus.
The mistakes Paterno made does not automatically cancel out the good he has done. He didn’t cheat, he won those games fair and square. I say leave the last good thing the man has to his name alone. His reputation is already forever tarnished, as it should be, but he was also a good person. Paterno, like all human beings, was capable of good and evil. Can’t we separate the two?