I just want to give a disclaimer that this topic is highly personal to me. The views expressed in this article do in no way shape, form or fashion necessarily represent the views of other writers here at this site nor the official stance of FWDNation. These are the expressed and unmoved views of the author—and the author alone.
My thoughts on the NCAA ruling surrounding Penn State are summed up in two words: not enough.
I remember watching the news break about Jerry Sandusky and the allegations of him being a child abuser when it came to some young boys that participated in a program with the Penn State athletic department. The reason why I remember it is not because of the subsequent media fiasco it turned into nor the final outcome being NCAA sanctions against Penn State nor the ultimate conviction of Sandusky. The reason I remember is because I received the weirdest Facebook message from a very close friend of mine who seemingly out-of-the-blue acknowledged that he himself had been abused as a child.
As the news was playing I read the message over a few times and then the phone rang, it was him. I didn’t know whether I should have called him or what, I was just stunned and we talked for a little while and he said he was currently in counseling for it. He recounted some of the details to me—he actually remembered it, and of course, it was when he was in the care of someone else: a daycare. He finished by telling me that seeing the news of this with Sandusky was a latent trigger and that he was dealing with flashbacks suddenly.
We all remember Jerry Sandusky fumbling through a phone interview with Bob Costas on NBC’s Rock Center when Costas asked the direct and highly uncomfortable question that required a “yes” or “no” response and a nation was stunned when the immediate answer was not “no.” We mourned with a campus that was torn between loyalties to Joe Paterno yet having to come to grips with the fact that Joe Pa was a silent witness to this. We all knew Joe Pa knew about this before his quick demise following these revelations and prior to the FBI report that no doubt prompted the NCAA to make sanctions against the university.
By the time the trial came this spring into summer and we were hearing witness testimony one after the other about anal rapes and all types of lewd and lascivious acts on behalf of Sandusky, we all knew he was guilty and we all thanked a jury for a quick deliberation to end this once and for all. We watched a seemingly stunned Sandusky hauled off in handcuffs as if he was genuinely shocked he was found guilty.
Fast forward to July 23.
The NCAA levied sanctions against Penn State on the grounds of the FBI investigation that essentially says key personnel, including Joe Paterno, knew about the child abuse at the behest of Sandusky and said and did nothing—on purpose. For that, there’s a $60 million fine, the suspension of post-season appearances and they won’t be able to access a certain amount of scholarship funding and players are able to transfer if need be without penalties.
And I still say it’s not enough.
Paterno’s family, as well as others, say it’s not fair to punish the innocent students and staff who had absolutely nothing to do with this. Which, of course is a fair and legitimate argument, however, now I’m interested in knowing what is an offense worthy of the NCAA’s ominous “death penalty” that would result in the full suspension of an athletic program. There’s only been a handful, the most notable being Southern Methodist’s football department and only 25 years later has seen the recovery. While yes, the sanctions will no doubt cripple the team, I still ask, what will it take for the NCAA to impose their “death penalty” sanction.
The suspension of athletic programs from schools in the past were due to recruitment irregularities and the gross misuse of money thereto. The case here was that adults turned their backs on innocent children as a serial child abuser had his way—for years. No one said anything. No janitor called it in and reported it to the police—nothing. For years. What does it take to justify this type of behavior to living victims? For me, it takes the suspension of the program.
The reason why is so that a real punishment is felt. The NCAA “death penalty,” unlike the real capital punishment in our justice system, is a real deterrent to offenses and crimes. Universities are deathly afraid of it being imposed. However, whenever talks of its use arise, the counter-argument always falls to the logistical nightmare it would cause to the completely confusing manner in which collegiate football is organized here in this country. So, it appears, out of convenience, the NCAA never imposes the “death penalty.”
Who cares? Some little boy got his innocence taken away and we stand by for the sake of the almighty dollar; trust me, a school like Penn State can afford to take a $60 million hit, they’ll recover that in under 5 years from alumni giving. The culture change that needs to happen can easily be avoided without the “death penalty.” An empty football stadium for a whole year would send the message that this…is…unacceptable—period! Penn State squeaks by. Moreover, it does nothing to address the demagoguery that the Penn State culture had around Paterno and subsequently Sandusky. As one writer blogged at the AJC, if Sandusky had been a chemistry professor, do you think he would have had the same protection? Of course not.
I have no sympathy for child abusers and probably never will. I equally have no sympathy for those who knew it was happening and couldn’t even dial 9-1-1 to report it—who does that? I say this because my friend had flashbacks unexpectedly while watching this back last winter. My friend, who didn’t even know Joe Pa or Sandusky and never attended a Penn State was affected by this. All this tells my friend and the hundreds of child abuse victims is that if you make enough money, the power structure will protect their own interests before justifying the crime against the innocent.
I stand back and look and I still say the sanctions imposed weren’t enough, but maybe it can never be enough.