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Penn State sanctions fair, necessary

July 24, 2012
By ED PUSKAS - Tribune Chronicle Sports Editor (epuskas@tribtoday.com) , Tribune Chronicle | TribToday.com

Make no mistake about it. NCAA President Mark Emmert brought out the hammer Monday in announcing unprecedented sanctions against the Penn State football program.

But while the once-proud Nittany Lions were a shell of their former selves after Emmert was finished, they weren't put to death.

Some are saying Emmert didn't hit Penn State hard enough, despite a four-year postseason ban, a $60 million fine and the loss of dozens of scholarships over time.

There are those who wanted the death penalty several times over for the failure of the most powerful people in State College to protect children from a man - former Nittany Lions defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky - they knew to be a serial predator.

Football had become too big at Penn State. Once-iconic coach Joe Paterno - the closest thing to a god on Earth in central Pennsylvania - had too much power. Those two factors were chief among the reasons Sandusky was able to roam the region freely in search of victims for so long.

Aside, of course, from Sandusky's own decades of practice. This was a man who led two vastly different lives. Most people never saw his dark side. Most who knew it were either his victims or his enablers.

Paterno was chief among them. The Freeh Report, commissioned and accepted by Penn State itself, verified that grandfatherly coach put his legacy ahead of the safety and security of potential new victims when he conspired with other officials to hide Sandusky in plain sight.

That's called a lack of institutional control. Any one of these men - alone - could have stopped a monster. Instead, they worked together to protect a madman.

That's why Emmert stepped to the podium and knocked Penn State back to its football stone age - to the days before Paterno turned a regional farm school into a national powerhouse.

That's why Emmert had to do it.

Yes, it was arguably too little and certainly too late to save those Sandusky preyed upon, but it was absolutely necessary and - while perhaps most in State College will not agree - it was fair.

The Nittany Lions will play football this fall and in the years to come. They won't win much and they will struggle to keep the best of their current recruits and to attract new classes of players to Happy Valley.

But this football program needed to be torn down before it could be allowed to rebuild. The culture in State College that anointed Paterno and gave his football team - and Sandusky - absolute power for so long had to be changed.

Emmert accomplished this with a power grab like none other in college sports. He made an example of Penn State, but he didn't kill the Nittany Lions.

Penn State football is barely breathing now, but the program already was staggered by the crimes of a pedophile and the coverup that allowed those atrocities to continue.

It was a scandal so revolting it gave almost all of the others an aura of nostalgia.

Along the way, Paterno lost his job, his life, his legacy and 111 victories. If another man has fallen so far in such a rapid, stunning way, I can't imagine who he was. The program he built has now struck bottom, too.

It was only fair, even if it won't bring much comfort to the real victims.

epuskas@tribtoday.com

 
 
 

 

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