Surrounding the darkest and ugliest scandal to ever occur in college football lies the controversial question as to whether or not the NCAA should step in and sanction the Penn State football program for its part in the massive child abuse scandal involving Jerry Sandusky‘s crimes and the decision by Joe Paterno and other Penn State officials to cover them up rather than alerting the proper authorities.
Some feel that this is a legal issue; the NCAA should therefore not get involved. Others believe that what happened at Happy Valley is the definition of the “lack of institutional control,” and that the NCAA has every right to pass out whatever sanctions it deems necessary.
Others wonder, if the NCAA does get involved, to what extent should they sanction the program?
Recently, NCAA president Mark Emmert spoke out about the case in a PBS interview, and though not a lot is clear about the NCAA‘s intentions, Emmert did make it clear that no punishment, including the death penalty, is off the table:
“This is completely different than an impermissible benefits scandal like [what] happened at SMU, or anything else we’ve dealt with. This is as systemic a cultural problem as it is a football problem. There have been people that said this wasn’t a football scandal. Well, it was more than a football scandal, much more than a football scandal. It was that but much more. And we’ll have to figure out exactly what the right penalties are. I don’t know that past precedent makes particularly good sense in this case, because it’s really an unprecedented problem.”
Emmert’s reference to SMU, the only school to have received the death penalty, indicates that this is still certainly an option, but is this the proper way to handle the situation?
Personally, I am torn on the issue.
In my anger, I say shut it down. They ruined the lives of young kids to protect a football program; therefore, they no longer deserve a football program. It just makes sense to take away the root of the problem, right?
But football wasn’t the root of the problem; it was the men who ran the program.
Additionally, if Penn State was given the “death penalty,” who exactly would that punish?
Current players? Former players? Fans?
They aren’t the ones who are guilty, so why should they pay the price?
As Emmert said, what happened at Penn State was a “systemic a cultural problem.” Therefore, it makes sense that, in order to move past these heinous crimes, they need to tear down and rebuild the entire culture, no matter how difficult that feat may be.
If I were in charge at Penn State (and thank the good Lord that I am not) I would self-impose a temporary ban on the football program for one-to-two years, assuming that the NCAA would allow current players to play elsewhere without penalty or to “freeze” their eligibility so that they do not lose a year.
Sure, a self-imposed ban is drastic, some may call it crazy, football isn’t what is important right now.
What is important is purging themselves of all the things and people who were involved in this terrible scandal and most importantly, helping the victims get their own lives back.
They need to do whatever it takes to start over and rebuild from the outside in, and if that means not playing the game of football for a year, then so be it.
Sure it may take years to rebuild the program, but it’s going to take years anyway.
By being proactive, the school would be showing they world that they are no longer a part of the culture that has oppressed them for so long.
Additionally, tear down the Joe Paterno statue. They need to distance themselves from their once-believed-to-be-a-saint-hero. Wipe away every trace of JoePa, Sandusky, and everyone else involved.
Sure, it sounds harsh, considering Paterno was the face of Penn State football for well over a half a century, but rebuilding the culture is going to take extreme measures.
Yes, there will be ramifications. Alumni will be angry. Fans will be angry. The economy would take a beating. No one said it would be easy, and perhaps it shouldn’t be.
After all, there is a strong chance that the Penn State family could emerge from this stronger than ever, but they must first focus on what is right.
I am not saying they need to forget any of this ever happened, but they certainly need to make sure that it doesn’t happen again, and the only way to do that is to destroy the remnants of what was and build it in to what will be the future of the Nittany Lions.
Sure, I believe the NCAA certainly has jurisdiction here, but I think it’s crucial that Penn State does what is right themselves in this case. It’s important that they are the ones to figure it out themselves, without NCAA involvement. It is only then that they will begin to heal.