By Jonathan Labib
Following the release of the damning Freeh Report Penn State was slammed with sanctions by the NCAA. The Penn State football program will be decimated for the next four years by a $60 million fine, a postseason ban, the loss of 10 scholarships per year, and the vacation of all victories from 1998 to 2011.
The penalties that the NCAA levied are some of the harshest in the history of college athletics, but they could have and should have done more. It would have been beneficial for the NCAA to have given Penn State the “death penalty”, shutting down the college football program for at least one year, to allow it to reorganize its priorities.
The Freeh report demonstrated that to Head Football Coach Joe Paterno and the Penn State administration winning had become everything, even more important than the welfare of innocent children, and that is unacceptable. Unfortunately I believe that the sanctions the NCAA are imposing don’t go far enough to try and change the winning above all else culture that corrupted Penn State.
When Joe Paterno was first alerted to the despicable activities of Jerry Sandusky on the Penn State campus he had a moral and legal responsibility to see that Sandusky was stopped. Instead, Paterno chose to pass the buck to his superiors, and not pursue the issue further once they failed to alert the proper authorities.
There’s only logical reason as to why Paterno would not expose a witnessed child molester, a futile attempt to protect himself and his legacy. The failure of Paterno to uphold the law and basic decency is endemic of the rotten culture of modern college athletics. The primary goal of colleges is to provide an education for its students, but at some schools the athletics have superseded the academics as their sports programs have turned into major cash cows. The best way for the NCAA to try and enact change from the top down is to make an example of Penn State, via the “death penalty”, and show that no program is “too big to fail”.
Besides the issue of NCAA punishment there questions as to what to do about the statue of Joe Paterno and the library named after him on campus. After a few days of debate, and an inexplicable desire by a portion of the Penn State student body for the statue to remain, it was eventually removed. The statue served as a reminded of a man who failed to protect children that he knew were being abused, and getting rid of it was absolutely the right thing to do.
On the other hand, Paterno’s name still remains on a library on campus, which I find to be unacceptable. Paterno’s moral failings make him unfit to be lionized in any manner. Hopefully Penn State does the right thing and removes all traces of Paterno and the rest of the administration that participated in a massive cover up of over a decade of vile crime.
The larger implication of this scandal is that the NCAA needs to regain control over college athletics. A culture has developed in which it’s viewed as acceptable to do whatever is needed to win, whether that entails illegal recruiting, illicit benefits, or covering up scandals. There are myriad examples of both college football and basketball programs brazenly violating the rules; Ohio State football, UNC football, USC football, and Kentucky basketball to name a few. College athletics has become so popular, and as a result so profitable, that coaches and administrators are incentivized to do anything to win. Each of the athletic programs previously mentioned were disciplined, but apparently the message wasn’t clear enough, as scandals continue to occur every year.
If the NCAA had given Penn State the “death penalty” it would have served as a message to other schools that the era of winning is everything is officially over. There’s no question that the sanctions on Penn State are severe, the program will be devastates for years to come, the real question is do they go far enough to enact real change in an entrenched culture?