Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official view of College Spun or its affiliates.
By now everybody in the sports world is aware that the NCAA crushed Penn State with unprecedented sanctions in light of the absolutely terrible Jerry Sandusky scandal. Furthermore, the Big Ten has decided to hand out some more punishment by stripping Penn State of its shared bowl revenues over the next four seasons, along with banning them from the conference championship game over that same span.
Now everybody in their right mind agrees that the crimes committed by Jerry Sandusky were beyond heinous, and that the actions of the higher-ups at PSU were despicable and quite frankly, unforgiveable (yes, even for Joe Paterno). And simply put, handing out a punishment in this scenario is brutally difficult; if anybody tells you they have a perfect solution, they are lying through their teeth. So unquestionably the school needs to be punished, even though the main culprit has already been forced to face justice and will rot in prison for the rest of his life. For while the original acts were the result of one sick man, the university’s lack of integrity allowed those acts to go on for such an extensive period.
That’s what seems to be getting lost a bit in this whole thing. The NCAA is NOT handing out these massive punishments because of the actions of Jerry Sandusky. The NCAA is punishing Penn State for its frightening culture. For deciding that it is better to hide and cover up criminal actions rather than be a recipient of bad press. For deciding that immorality is okay as long as a legendary football coach doesn’t disapprove. Ultimately, for valuing football over humanity. This isn’t to say that Penn State is the only school where this could have happened — that is simply not true — but sadly enough, that’s where it did happen.
With all of that said…I think the NCAA was too harsh on Penn State. It is obviously extremely difficult to find a way to hold the people in charge responsible, but I have to believe that there was a better option than this. First, let me say that taking away 100+ wins from Joe Paterno may be the most admirable part of the whole punishment. While plenty of players and coaches spent years working hard for those accomplishments, nobody else is affected as much as Joe by the stripping of those wins. Throughout his whole career, and this process, Paterno was absolutely deified by the Penn State community. No matter what people thought of him, they could all agree that he was a damn good football coach. In fact, he was the best, and the win totals proved it. However, that is no longer the case.