By now, most people are aware of the sanctions levied against Penn State University in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal: $60 million fine, a four year postseason ban, 5 year probationary period for the entire athletic department, the loss of 40 football scholarships over 4 years and all wins from 1998-2011 will be vacated (111 wins total). As an aside, that will move Joe Paterno from 1st to 8th on the list of career coaching wins with a new total of 298. In addition, the last quarterback to record a win under Joe Paterno is now Mike McQueary, who beat Wisconsin at the end of the 1997 season. For those of you thinking that Penn State will appeal these penalties, they have signed a “consent decree” stating that they agree to the fact-finding as well as the penalties. The question that is being asked now is whether or not the punishment is fair? With such a complicated situation, this is going to be debated for a very long time.
First, I must say that the loss of 10 scholarships a year for 4 years and the 4 year bowl ban are not fair to the current student-athletes at Penn State, as they had no part in this debacle and many of them didn’t even know who Jerry Sandusky was before this ordeal began. People will say that it is fair to the players because they are allowed to transfer immediately without sitting out a year. The only issue with that is the college football season begins in about 6 weeks; far from enough time to decide where to transfer, complete the transfer, learn a new playbook and get ready to play in a new system. Not to mention the fact that the majority of schools have already filled their 85 scholarship spots, so anyone transferring from Penn State would have to find a school they can afford to attend or get funding in a very short period of time.
Part of me feels that it may have been too harsh, especially considering the fact that only a few select people, who are all gone now, had anything to do with the situation. At the same time, however, it was the fear of ruining the reputation of Penn State’s storied football program that allowed this situation to fester and grow in the first place. Too much of the school was built around the football program and too much authority and power was given to the leadership of that program. To that extent, the sanctions imposed on the Nittany Lions are justified; it was necessary to shock the core in order to begin to provide some semblance of justice.
In the end, it is unfortunate that innocent student-athletes have to suffer…but at least they were provided with options. What is not unfortunate, however, is the fact that the university is being forced to reap what they sowed over the last 13 years. None of this is likely to provide any solace to those whose lives have been irreparably damaged by the actions that were ignored by Penn State for over a decade, but many of those on the outside looking in feel that the sanctions were well deserved. While Penn State was not technically given the “death penalty”, I would argue that the football program has been put on life support and it is going to be close to a decade before they will be competitive again.