What is the appropriate punishment for the Penn State Nittany Lions football program? It's no easy task creating a punishment for a crime with no precedence.
The Penn State child-abuse scandal is perhaps the most uncomfortable story I've ever covered as writer. Sports is where I go to get away from the most despicable realities of this world, but in this instance, the filth has followed me to athletics.
The Freeh report has served as some level of validation to the program's involvement, and now the time is upon us for the NCAA to levy its punishment.
Some may be expecting the most severe and unprecedented penalties for an athletic program in history. Though I can't say that I am expecting that, I am surely hoping for it.
Removing the Joe Paterno statue was appropriate, but it shouldn't have taken nearly a week to snatch it down.
Per ESPN's Don Van Natta Jr., Penn State president Rodney Erickson said that "the Paterno name will remain on the university's library." The fact that Paterno's name will remain on any building reeks of the deplorable, arrogant and self-salvaging attitude some associated with the program have.
ESPN has reported that NCAA president Mark Emmert will not impose "the death penalty" on the program, but he plans to issue "severe penalties." According to the ESPN article, the punishment could be so severe that "the death penalty may have been preferable."
What does that really mean?
The article states that the sanctions could include less scholarships and the loss of bowl berths. While sanctions of that magnitude can impact the program significantly on a financial level, the intangible penalty is not significant enough.
When the SMU football program received the "death penalty" for rules violations, including a private fund used to pay players, the program's entire 1987 schedule was cancelled.
All of their home games were cancelled in 1988, and there were substantial restrictions levied on recruiting and the hiring of coaches as well. Ultimately, school officials canceled the 1988 season.
This penalty also impacted the now-dissolved Southwest Conference and ultimately cost more than just the SMU program money. Because of that, it's unlikely Penn State or any other program will receive that level of penalty.
This is wrong.
First and foremost, there is a huge difference between Penn State and SMU, the Southwest Conference and the Big Ten. Michigan and Ohio State aren't going anywhere because of any sanctions.
No damage or removal of the Penn State program would kill the conference. The Nittany Lions only began playing in the Big Ten in 1993. The conference prospered long before they arrived, and it would prosper if they were removed for a year or more.
Secondly, and most importantly, it takes only a second to recognize that paying players and aiding a pedophile in his abuse of children are two different things.
If Penn State is spared any level of punishment because of what the penalties will do to its future or the future of any other program, then the NCAA is indirectly doing what the Penn State program is being punished for.
At some point, the men in charge must stop trying to salvage their reputations and the institution's cash flow. The death penalty, while harsh, makes a statement.
I would argue the Penn State penalty should be worse. The season should be cancelled for at least one year, and unprecedented penalties should follow.
Some may say, "What about the student-athletes who are already there?"
"Why should they have to suffer for transgressions that are not their own?"
"What about the jobs and revenue the program brings into the community?"
I ask, how is their plight any different from those of other institutions like USC last year? Sure, the crimes weren't as reprehensible, but the bottom line is that their collegiate careers had a lowered ceiling because of the penalties.
The revenue the program brings to the community can't be placed above the message. This situation involves and affects so many people, and because of that, I'm not optimistic about a penalty that is harsh enough for the crime.
We should expect a harsh punishment, but I'm not sure there is one in existence that would ever suffice.
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