July 24, 2012 by kujhawk
November 22, 1997.
That is the last time the Penn State Nittany Lions won a football game. The starting QB? Mike McQueary. The defensive coordinator? Jerry Sandusky. The horrific things Sandusky was doing had not yet come to light within the Penn State athletics department, and all was good in Happy Valley.
Now, with the removal of the Joe Paterno statue and the sanctions from the NCAA that weren’t the “death penalty” but have left the PSU football program on life support, the legacy of football at Penn State is all but gone. The penalties? A $60 million fine for the school that will start an endowment for child sexual-abuse prevention around the country, the vacation of every win from 1998-2011 (111 to be exact), a four-year post-season ban including conference championship games, the loss of 40 scholarships over the next four years and all current players on the roster can freely transfer without having to sit out a year to play football again.
When I first saw the penalties that were being levied against Penn State, I was tempted to blog about it right then and there. But, I went against my gut and decided to let it marinate in a mind for a while. I’m glad I did this, because I probably would have said some things that would have offended people and some things I did not really mean.
The conclusion that I have come to about the NCAA’s actions on the Penn State scandal is this: they should have kept their noses out of it. Did Penn State break any NCAA rules? No, the members of the athletic department and higher officials broke laws. They broke their own moral codes. What we are looking at here with the tragedy at Penn State is not recruiting violations or improper benefits to players. There were no free tattoos involved. No money exchanged hands. The fact-of-the-matter is that no players even knew this was going on. Not in 1998, not in 2011 or any time in between. The players who are currently at Penn State were in middle school when this was happening. Some former players are speaking out against these sanctions, including former quarterback Matt Senneca:
“Jerry should sit in jail the rest of his life for what he did,” Senneca said. “He had his time in court, he was found guilty and that’s it. He’s done. Everybody else in power that had decisions to make and didn’t do anything, they deserve to be punished. But those kids (the current players) were in grade school when it happened.”
I could not agree more with that statement. I understand that everything the Penn State athletics department did was misguided and wrong, (see my other blog Joe Paterno: The Legacy of a Legend Tarnished) but that does not mean that the 18 to 22-year-olds on the football team at Penn State need to suffer because of the actions of others. In an interview with ESPN, former Penn State D-lineman from 1993-96 Brandon Noble made some great points about these sanctions from the NCAA,
“I think they are punishing people that really had nothing to do with it,” Noble said. “The NCAA has got it backwards, they are doing it wrong. This is outside the bounds of football, this is a legal issue. I think they have opened up a can of worms here.”
It is those last two sentences that stuck with me most when I was listening to his interview. The more I thought about what he said, the more I realized that he had hit the nail on the head: the NCAA has reached way beyond their boundaries and are out of their jurisdiction. It is a legal issue. Sandusky is going to rot in a jail cell for the rest of his life. The Graham Spanier, the president of the university, is gone, and he left Penn State in disgrace. The other people who covered it all up? They will have their day in court. Joe Paterno passed away so we will never know what he would have said about everything that has transpired, but his statue is gone from Beaver stadium, as his legacy.
So what is the real point of everything the NCAA did? Well, what Mark Emmert wanted to show was that the NCAA was relevant. That it could lay down the hammer and impose its will when need be. All it showed me is that now the NCAA can punish programs and schools for things that aren’t even IN the rule book! What if a player gets behind the wheel of a car drunk and kills someone? Will his or her school be penalized? What if a member of the athletic department embezzled money? Will teams lose scholarships and be vacated wins? This is just absurd to me. I want to see those RESPONSIBLE punished. I want them in a courtroom, in a jail cell. I don’t want to see a kid who grew up loving Penn State be banned from bowl games. I don’t want to see a kid lose all of the games he won through hard work and determination. Every guy who played football at Penn State between 1998 and 2011 is now a loser. They never won a game at Penn State all because of the actions of their coaches and their coaches bosses. Did the NCAA ever stop to think about how that would make those kids feel? Of course not. All NCAA president Mark Emmert thought about was making the NCAA look powerful.
But that’s just it, the NCAA is not powerful. The NCAA is always a step behind. You never see the NCAA finding violations happening in real-time. The things they investigate are old news – they have been going on for years. SMU in the 80’s, Miami in the 90’s and 00’s, USC during the Reggie Bush era of ’04-’06. What do these have in common? They were over and done with before the NCAA caught on and the NCAA punished the schools for what they had done when the people involved in the violations were not even at the schools any more. This just baffles me. What are we doing here? What is college athletics coming to? Why even have this committee if they don’t actually do what they are supposed to? Make the matters criminal because technically, they are.
This is no longer a child sex-abuse issue. I hate to break it to you, but that ended when the man who did the abusing WAS CONVICTED AND SENT TO PRISON. Hello? Justice was done. I know that is hard to believe, but it was. There is bitterness towards Penn State, and rightfully so, but the Sandusky sex-abuse scandal was the act of a few twisted people, not everyone who was at the school during those years. When will people wake up and see that? I may be coming off as a heartless bastard with what I am saying right now, but I’m not. This is the probably the most serious thing to happen in the sports world maybe ever, and I agree with the $60 million fine. I agree with the endowment and the education on child sex-abuse. But denying student athletes the dream of playing in bowl games? Denying 18-year-old boys scholarships to play football and get an education? I can’t agree with that when what happened had nothing to do with those kids or actual NCAA rules.
September 1, 2012. Remember this date.
It’s the first game of the football season. The first game with Joe Paterno gone. The first time the players on the Penn State football team will take the field at Beaver Stadium. The first time Penn State can win again.
And I really hope they do.
If you would like to email me about anything I’ve written, you can do so by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me on twitter @Ev_Dunbar. I would love feedback and advice on what I can do better or what I should be doing more or less of!