What the Freeh Report Could Mean for Penn State Football

By Michael Collins

Like most, I have followed the story of the Penn State University scandal closely from it’s beginnings.  Despite the story’s unfettered ugliness, it’s hard not to be interested.  It’s compelling.  It’s the train wreck that you simply can’t take your eyes off.

I felt a sense of sadness and non-closure when Joe Paterno died, because I knew the one man who everyone wanted to speak up and finally tell the truth would never have another opportunity to do so.

I felt a slight sense of relief when Jerry Sandusky was convicted, knowing that a man who had committed such heinous crimes would now never be able to do so again.

Today, a 267-page report resulting from an eight-month inquiry by former FBI director Louis Freeh – who was hired by Penn State University trustees – was released.  Any sadness or relief that I once felt quickly moved to shock and disgust as I began reading the findings.  (Complete Report Here)

As I clicked through page after horrifying page, it was clear to me that this was about much more than just the unspeakable crimes of one man, or the refusal of a few men in positions of power to stop those crimes.

If the findings inside this massive and detailed report are indeed true, then this was about the failure of an institution and it’s leadership.  This was now going to be Penn State’s legacy.

There was a time when I could read and hear the defiant and angry comments from those who still support Penn State, and even the late Joe Paterno, and almost justify their feelings.  It’s hard to turn your back on an institution that you have devoted so much of your time, money and heart to during your lifetime.  After today, I see nothing in those people but denial and hypocrisy.

I even tried to put myself in the position of thinking about how I would react if this were my school going through a scandal like this.  Truthfully, as much as I have deep-rooted love for my school and all it stands for, I’m certain I couldn’t stand up and defend it in this situation.

As the words I read in the report caused my stomach to churn, and my forehead to bead with cold sweat, I found my mind turning to a catch-phrase that I have so often used in jest, but now feel may be (sadly) the most clear solution:

“Nuke the site from orbit.  It’s the only way to be sure”

Rarely is the lumping together of the bad with the good the best way to go, as those who have done nothing wrong have no reason to be punished. But in this case, it’s apparent that the football program at Penn State will never be the same, and should be – at least for a time – disbanded and abandoned.

Penn State needs a cooling off period.  There needs to be a stretch of time where there is absolutely no chance of any negative or damning actions taking place in their athletic department.  Cutting out the cancer of this football program is the best way to guard against that.

Remove the offending organ, and let the body heal.

What we should hear about Penn State football for the next 15-20 years is absolutely nothing.  During the fall, there should be no weekly reminder on television of what went on under the watch of these criminals.  There should be no reason to recap the story on a constant basis just because someone has to cover a Nittany Lions football game.  And as sad as it sounds, take down the statue of Joe Paterno and any other reminders of his regime.

Let’s get back to football season being about football.

Let the Penn State football players transfer to whatever school they choose, and allow them to play immediately.  Give the Penn State football scholarships to other deserving athletes at the university.  Let the basketball, baseball and other teams that bear Penn State’s name reap the benefits of the athletic facilities.

But most of all, allow parents with children who live near, or are involved with the university feel safe and secure in the knowledge that their kids will come to no harm as a result of a negligent institution.

There is a reason why prisoners who are convicted of crimes against children are treated with disdain and cruelty by even fellow inmates.  To take advantage of a child’s innocence and naivety is the worst of all possible crimes.  Even the most hardened and unrepentant criminals recognize that fact.

It’s time for the leaders at Penn State University to recognize that fact as well, and take the necessary steps to make sure it never happens again.

Penn State football can heal and recover in time, but only…only if it’s given the appropriate time away from the eyes and ears of the world.

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