Watching the completely ludicrous questions and tone of the PSU press conference last night and the ensuing riot take shape in State College, I found myself doing a final gut-check: is it possible the PSU BOT acted in the wrong and without the facts they needed? I like to think I’m pretty leery of the court of public opinion. Was I missing something?
But the answer was a resounding “no.” What Joe Paterno has already admitted to and expressed remorse for is a fireable offense, compounded by the fact that Jerry Sandusky was allowed in the PSU football facilities as recently as two weeks ago.
We all have lines that we would cross to protect people close to us. Fortunately, for most of us, “wanton child abuse” is not one of those lines. Make no mistake, Paterno – even if he somehow avoided taking active steps to assure authorities knew about Sandusky – could have cast him out of State College forever, depriving him of his carefully constructed system that allowed maximum access to potential victims. That’s still helping a child predator evade justice, but it is at least helping the children of the community Paterno claims to have held so dear. That would have been an ugly course of action that is still ultimately reprehensible, but JoePa couldn’t even do that.
So back to the title of this post, should the NCAA take action against PSU? I believe they should, for a few reasons:
1) If you read the grand jury report (and don’t – I only read it to write this post and by the end of it I came to the realization that I was unwittingly, painfully grinding my teeth; I’m not even going to link it), you’ll note that access to Penn State games, players and camps was step one for Sandusky when it came to starting a relationship with victims. Nittany Lion football was bait. Starting in the ’90s, when incidents started to come to light (even though they were officially kept under the rug), thoughts like “wait, that kid is just going to stay in a room with Coach Sandusky on our bowl trip?” should have given every person at the higher levels of PSU athletics not just pause, but reason to act. The program essentially became a front that allowed this to continue. If the “this” in the preceding sentence referred to a drug or PED ring, the NCAA would act without question.
2) What appears to be PSU bending over backwards to keep Sandusky around the program even after he retired in 1999. Why? Not only were there run-ins with local authorities before this time, but Sandusky’s actions likely played a role in his semi-forced retirement. Given that, they allowed him access to the facilities, camps, and road and bowl games? At some point, you have to wonder if Sandusky had some leverage over Paterno and the athletic department, as well.
3) This sounds petty, but the events in State College last night would seem to warrant it – apparently the only thing that can get people to pay attention there is the football program. This looks like a system that is broken and should be dismantled and restarted, and the players should be allowed to leave without sacrificing eligibility. They didn’t sign up for this.