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NCAA Football

What would be the Point of a ‘Death Penalty’ Against Penn State Football?

Let’s get this disclaimer out right off the bat: There is no defense for what the power-mongers at Penn State football, including late head coach Joe Paterno, have done. Whatever punishments that can be levied against them should be, swiftly and without remorse or hesitation.

We don’t need to get into the details. We all know what happened: former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was molesting children and most of the higher-ups knew about it yet decided to cover it all up for the sake of saving the vaunted, holy Penn State University football program.

Again, there is no defense and the intent of this column is not make you think that there is.

Instead, after reading the NCAA statement on the Freeh Report, the possibility of a so-called “death penalty” against the program has flared. Effectively, such a punishment would shut the Penn State football program down for a period of time and then limit such sources of revenue as television appearances and post-season bowl games.

This happened once before, to Southern Methodist University, once a powerhouse college program that has still yet to fully recover from the 1987 “death penalty” that was given them by the NCAA after the Mustangs program after an investigation revealed improper booster donations and a slush fund that paid players, among other violations.

The NCAA can do this, regardless of recent rules limiting the level of penalty. It can do it if this is deemed above and beyond normal violations. The NCAA will make its own decision.

Okay, here it is: What would be the point of a “death penalty?” In fact, what would anything more than a two-year ban and loss of scholarships do that hasn’t already been done?

Nearly everyone involved in the scandal is gone and anyone, anyone left should be booted and face the legal system instead of cheering on the Nittany Lions from a luxury box on Saturday afternoons.

Sweep the entire staff and anyone in the athletic department who knew what was going on. Ransack the top-tier administration if you will, then tear down statues and remove names from the historical records.

A lengthy ban, especially a “death penalty” would do no good and, honestly, only harm the kids currently on the team and the ones who still dream of playing at Penn State in the future. They had nothing to do with this tragedy. They just want to play football with honor.

Men like Sandusky, Paterno, ex-President Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz, the men who “repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse,” according to the investigation, committed the crimes, the oversights, the cover-ups and the lies.

The players just play football. Unlike the SMU “death penalty” no players were paid for performance and asked to keep quiet. And while you could say that protecting the program meant protecting income, this had nothing to do with money and even less about football.

So much damage has been done, to the victims and their families, along with the school’s reputation.

Does the NCAA really need to extend that damage to the present and future players and their families?