The sanctions were the right thing to do

The NCAA lowered the boom on Penn State University Monday, imposing some of the most severe penalties they’ve ever meted out. To many of us, it seems quite SELF-PORTRAIT - Sports Editor John Brewington

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Penn State fan, a rival, or even disinterested in their football program, the coaches and the administration sullied a previous squeaky-clean reputation and in the process destroyed the very reputation they were trying to save.

The penalties were severe: A $60 million fine (to be paid over five years for child sexual abuse prevention and/or for the victims of child sexual abuse); A ban from bowl competition for four years; A loss of 40 scholarships (25 to 15) each of the four years; Vacating all of Penn State’s football wins since 1998 (111).

Joe Paterno had been a coach at Penn State since 1950 and it’s head coach since 1966. He’d had five undefeated seasons and more wins than any other college coach. With the vacation of his wins, he drops to eighth.

He built the program and was very proud of doing the right thing. The school touted their graduation rate for football players and had never been investigated by the NCAA before.

Never sanctioned or penalized.

Sadly, what Paterno and so many at the school got in trouble for was for not doing the right thing. They chose to protect their reputation, rather than stop one of their own for continuing abuse for years after they first learned of it.

If Paterno and others involved had reported to authorities any suspicions years ago it might have only been a minor blip at the time. It would have been reported about, sure, but that would have quickly gone away, the program would have continued, and the consequences probably minimal.

What the perpetrator did to young boys was sickening. I won’t even mention his name here. He showed no remorse and even admits what he has done.

Penn State put itself so high on a pedestal they didn’t think anyone would ever challenge them.

Some students and athletes have expressed feelings that it all seems so unfair. It is unfair in some ways, but in other ways it’s a lesson that must be learned.

Make no mistake, college football is big time business. Billions of dollars are at stake. College football is exciting. I like it more than pro football personally. It’s fun to root for your favorite school. It’s nice to wear the gear. It seems everyone is a Beaver, a Duck, or in some rare cases a Husky. We go to games, we spend tons of money.

But what it really comes down to is that our universities and colleges are places of high learning. Football more than any other sport is a promotional tool for the colleges. The football coach may be paid more than anyone else at the university, but it should never put him in charge. The board of trustees and the president should run every university, and need to keep what the NCAA calls “institutional control” over its programs, including sports.

There have been stories locally about coaches abusing their charges. The story dies after a day or two, revives for a trial or a plea, and then dies again.

That’s probably what would have happened at Penn State if they’d done the right thing. It doesn’t matter how beloved JoePa was or in how high a regard the university was held. Their reputation is damaged for a long time to come.

Back in the 1980s, Southern Methodist University (SMU) was a big college football power. They ran afoul of the NCAA one too many times and got the “death penalty”--a complete suspension of their football program. It took until 2009 for them to win a bowl game. It may be similar for Penn State. The NCAA didn’t give them the death penalty, choosing not to cause problems for other schools and students at Penn State, but in the long run the penalty may be just as severe.

A reputation is a terrible thing to waste, but nothing compared to the damaged lives it might have saved. Penn State didn’t do the right thing, but the NCAA did.

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