We've already delved into why the NCAA should stay out of the Penn State scandal, barring any uncovering of actual NCAA violations. Now, with the release of the Freeh Report, the charge has again been renewed for something drastic to happen to the Penn State football program.
NCAA punishment is again on people's minds, as is the push to tumble the Joe Paterno statue that sits in front of the stadium. Bobby Bowden told Cory Giger of the Altoona Mirror just that when he spoke about the legacy of FBS's all-time winningest coach.
One of the battle cries from around the landscape, fans and media alike, is the idea that Penn State's football program must be punished. The justification in this logic lies squarely in the idea that because the cover-up was largely instituted to protect the image of the program; the punishment should come down upon that very program.
Folks expand upon that by saying that football is the only thing that Penn State understands; thus, they must knock that program down a few pegs in order to truly chastise them; as Colin Dunlap, a Pittsburgh sports radio host at 93.7 The Fan, explains:
When people ask,"What would death pen at PSU accomplish?"..Would take away money,prestige and inflict humilty on program built on falsehood.— Colin Dunlap (@colin_dunlap) July 13, 2012
To say that folks want to knock Penn State, a program built on a lot of holier than thou principles, down a peg is a bit of an understatement. The roar for their football program to crumble in the wake of this scandal has become deafening at times. Fans are angry; they want their pound of flesh cut from Penn State University.
When you view things through this scope it is not about the victims. It is not about the acts. It is not about the cover-up. It is not about the men who perpetrated the cover-up and enabled the acts that created the victims. Through this lens, it is all about the program that the cover-up was enacted to protect.
It is not just that people want their pound of flesh. Jerry Sandusky going to jail, Tim Curley, Graham Spanier and Gary Schultz awaiting trial for jail time, civil suits waiting to be tried and settled and the Department of Education raining down sanctions on Penn State; that's a pound of flesh for the actual scandal. But no, that's not the pound of flesh you want.
For years, you've watched college football. Perhaps you bought Joe Paterno's bill of good about Penn State being better than other "football factories." Perhaps you hated Penn State telling you how much better they were than you.
Perhaps your team suffered through NCAA issues while Penn State fans shook their fingers at you, trumpeting their "Success with Honor" mantra. Perhaps you were a team who caught flack for player arrests as Penn State talked about building better people.
Whatever the reason is, the point is the same, regardless of the punishment to come to the university or the individuals involved; it will not be enough unless the football program gets banged on by the NCAA.
The jail time, the cash settlements, the tarnished legacy, the image issues, the government issued fines and penalties? Those don't matter to you. They don't count. They are not real. The real thing for you is the football team. That's what you watch on Saturdays, and by George, if they are allowed to play football or go to a bowl game after this terrible scandal, then obviously they have not been punished!
They'll never learn their lesson!
It is less about justice and insuring that this doesn't happen again. Rather, this push is about extracting your pound of flesh from the only place that truly matters to Joe Non-Penn State Fan; their football team.
That's a simple-minded, short-sighted view of the gross situation. A view that lacks perspective. A view that is guilty of the exact thing those who perpetrated the cover-up were guilty of; putting football above all else.
The fact that you need their football team to suffer in order to get some sense of satisfaction from the ordeal is sad. Retribution is coming and, Penn State fans, in the words of both Theron and Queen Gorgo, "This will not be over quickly. You will not enjoy this."
As my colleague, Kevin McGuire, points out at Crystal Ball Run, everything Penn Staters have known is already crumbling around them. It has not been easy to stomach, but the fact is, all but the most blind Joe Paterno apologist recognize that the idyllic image they have clung to for so long is just not true. LaVar Arrington, on the Wetzel to Forde show, said as much after being one of the more ardent Paterno supporters.
The fact of the matter is, this shouldn't be about teaching Penn State fans, alumni or football players a lesson to sate an average fans' thirst for blood to be extracted from the football program. This is about a real-life problem, real-life criminals and a punishment that addresses those issues. As Ben Kercheval of College Football Talk points out:
I'll pose 1 more thing & then I have to work: what if NCAA hammers PSU & Curley, Schultz, Spanier go free? Does anyone really feel better?— Ben Kercheval (@CFTBenKercheval) July 13, 2012
Sadly, with the way folks are screaming about the need for football-based punishment, it seems the answer would be yes.