Blame Joe Paterno, Blame Penn State, Just Don't Blame the Players

Jonathan IrwinContributor IIJuly 13, 2012

STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 12: Running back coach Ron Brown of the Nebraska Cornhuskers prays at mid-field with players from Penn State and Nebraska before the start of the game on November 12, 2011 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Let me start this article by saying I am not a Penn State alumni. In fact, I have no connection to the University. I’m just a 20-something kid from Oregon who loves athletics and wants to be a sports writer.

In the wake of the Freeh report, released Thursday morning, we have learned nothing new. Jerry Sandusky is the scum of the Earth who used a faux charity and the Penn State locker room to sexually assault countless numbers of children.

In 2001, an aid to the team caught Sandusky in the act. He reported the incident to then head coach of the University Joe Paterno. The resulting cover up was an intricate web of human malevolence, stretching as high as the University President.

The only thing that the report has changed is now we have the whole tale in a nicely bound story.

Let the punishment reign down.

That’s what I’m here to talk about today. The punishment.

There’s been a lot of debate around this topic. Many are calling for the NCAA to decapitate the program, burn the body and convert the Nittany Lion’s mane to a lampshade.

The opposition to that—as small a contingent as they may be—point to how this is a legal matter and the NCAA has no jurisdiction.

Everyone is talking about Penn State. Everyone is talking about Jerry Sandusky. Everyone is talking about the NCAA. Everyone is talking about Joe Paterno.

No one is talking about the players.

Why the hell not?!

Jerry Sandusky is the epitome of human villainy. Joe Paterno should have done more. Because of them, the reputation of Pennsylvania State University is forever tarnished.

Isn’t that enough?

From every report, story and opinionated column I have read there’s been no talk about the players.

They didn’t see anything in the locker room. They didn’t know about Sandusky's evil. They didn’t know that at some level their beloved coach was an accomplice to that evil.

Why punish them?

I am not talking about the litany of former players who are coming out of the woodwork. Those who can sit comfortably in their homes and tweet to media their thoughts about how Joe Pa isn’t that bad a guy, and so on.

I am talking about the current crop of proud student athletes who every Saturday embody the human spirit. They fight, they grind and they challenge. Not just the opposition, but their bodies, their souls and their hearts.

Those students who—unfairly so— will be forced to wear the shame of their University.

They’re kids, who just want to have fun. Kids who want to play football. Kids who want to learn. Kids who want the perfect college experience that they’ve worked so hard to attain.

Why destroy those dreams over the wicked acts of men?

I implore you, if you want to destroy the University please do it without destroying these young men who deserve so much more.

In every great act of evil there is a voiceless victim. That is the players.

Before you pull out your torches, please let me explain. I understand that the only victims that matter in this case are the kids whose lives were destroyed by Sandusky. I completely understand that, and it breaks my heart that this happened to them.

But, the eruption of dissent that's cascading from this story is taking out as many people as it can.

In the wake of that destruction are the players.

The University’s reputation is forever altered. Unfortunately, these players must now live the rest of their lives knowing they were a part of this.

Their coach betrayed them. Their University betrayed them. I assure you, many of them carry thoughts of “Could I have done more? Could I have seen this coming or prevented it?”

They couldn’t. No one could. The only man who could was Joe Paterno, and he’s already met his maker.

The lives of Jerry Sandusky’s victims have forever been changed. Let’s not allow his wickedness destroy the lives and spirit of any other young men.

Take down the school; just don’t take down the players.


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