Penn State Football Deserves to Get the Death Penalty

Garrett BakerSenior Analyst IJuly 15, 2012

STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 12: A general view during the game between the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Nebraska Cornhuskers on November 12, 2011 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

According to the Freeh Report, "Four of the most powerful people at The Pennsylvania State University -- President Graham B. Spanier, Senior Vice President-Finance and Business Gary C. Schultz, Athletic Director Timothy M. Curley and Head Football Coach Joseph V. Paterno -- failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade."

With that statement, the legacies of Penn State University, its football program and former coach Joe Paterno are forever tarnished.

Paterno, the formerly legendary football coach who defined integrity in college athletics, lied. Paterno used to represent all that was still good in sports. But as it turns out, he was not good. In fact, he was possibly one of the worst.

Per the Freeh Report, Paterno lied to a grand jury about his knowledge of Jerry Sandusky's molestation of a young boy in a football facility shower.

But the worst damage occurred far before he lied to a grand jury. Paterno knew about Sandusky molesting that young boy in 1998. For the next 13 years, Paterno allowed Sandusky to continue molesting boys so he could continue making his pitches to high school football stars.

Paterno helped Spanier, Schultz and Curley cover up Sandusky's serial pedophilia because he wanted to protect his football program. Essentially, he empowered a predator to save his program from being embarrassed.

Paterno's silence and general inability to do the right thing caused young, innocent lives to be destroyed.

The irony of the whole situation is nothing short of tragic. Paterno was lauded for his ability to mold good young men of character, not just good football players.

This is the biggest scandal in the history of college football—and arguably in all of college athletics. For that, the NCAA has no choice other than to hand out its harshest penalty: indefinite termination of the football program. 

Southern Methodist University had its football program terminated in 1987 for recruiting violations that included paying athletes and giving them extravagant gifts. Those violations pale in comparison to what happened at Penn State.

A legitimate argument against the death penalty is that current players had nothing to do with the scandal. While this is true, the NCAA has acted against programs after the fact on many occasions.

Matt Barkley has not played in a bowl game for USC because Reggie Bush received gifts while Barkley was still in high school. Players on Ohio State's football team won't play in a bowl this season even if they had nothing to do with the tattoo/merchandise scandal of last year.   

Penn State's players should be granted the opportunity to transfer without having to sit out a season, which is the usual scenario for student-athletes who are transferring schools.

Paterno, Spanier, Schultz and Curley probably could not have prevented Sandusky from raping the first victim. Their reluctance to report him, however, caused countless other young lives to be forever ruined. Their silence also made it clear that the football program was more important than anything else, and for that, the program must go.