Why Any NCAA Penalty on Penn State Is Unnecessary

Trent StutzmanContributor IIIJuly 23, 2012

UNIVERSITY PARK, PA - NOVEMBER 08: Penn State University head football coach Joe Paterno leaves the team's football building on November 8, 2011 in University Park, Pennsylvania. Amid allegations that former assistant Jerry Sandusky was involved with child sex abuse, Paterno's weekly news conference was canceled about an hour before it was scheduled to occur. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

What a horrific mess.

Those four words describe the current Penn State football situation better than any others I could possibly think of.

The investigation findings of Jerry Sandusky back in November 2011 were atrocious enough. A full-grown man using a powerful football program and his own charity to take advantage of young boys and force them into performing sexual acts for his own pleasure?

That kind of behavior doesn’t belong anywhere in this world, let alone a college football program in a small Pennsylvanian where anyone can get away with almost anything.

At first it seemed like Sandusky was alone in the cover up of his appalling acts. But then more and more was revealed, leading to the conclusion that Sandusky could have been stopped before more victims fell into his wretched hands.

According to the Freeh report that came out July 12, Joe Paterno, athletic director Tim Curley, president Graham Spanier and vice president Gary Schultz all knew about Sandusky’s crimes but never helped with the situation. They allowed Sandusky to continue his unlimited use of Penn State facilities, they didn’t help the victims and they never even contacted the police. They tried to cover up for that monster for over a decade.

Surely, punishment must be handed down. Such behavior cannot be allowed. But I don’t think harshly punishing the football program is the right way to do it.

Legal justification is the only way to go.

The NCAA has doled out punishments recently to programs like USC and Ohio State, but those are justified. By breaking rules set out by the NCAA, the schools gained unfair advantages. They broke football rules, so the football team was punished.

The guilty parties of Penn State, on the other hand, didn’t break rulesthey broke laws.

Coaches didn’t unfairly recruit. Players didn’t receive improper benefits. According to NCAA rules, Penn State didn’t break any regulations that gave them a competitive advantage over other football programs.

In fact, the collective actions of this horrible mess worked in the opposite way. No five star recruit is going to sign on to a program that just lost multiple high-ranking officials, including the winningest head coach of all time, will be constantly under watch of the authorities now and where he won’t get as much football attention as he would elsewhere now that legal stories dominate the landscape of the team’s news.

The natural fallout from everything that has happened in the past nine months is plenty enough to set back the Penn State football program.

By imposing a loss of scholarships and bowl appearances, the NCAA is only further punishing those who had nothing to do with any of the controversy.

Paterno has passed away,  Mike McQueary, Spanier and Schultz no longer hold jobs at Penn State, Curley is on administrative leave and likely to be fired and Sandusky is spending the remainder of his life behind bars.

Additionally, Schultz and Curley await trial on indictments of perjury. Those two and Spanier will also likely be tried for obstruction of justice after the Freeh Report’s findings.

Legal punishment for all of them and the removal of Paterno’s statue is just enough. By removing the statue, Penn State is putting the whole ordeal behind them and moving forward.

The NCAA should do the same.

Any penalties the NCAA hands down will not bring any more justice to the poor victims of Sandusky. Only the legal courts can do that, and justice is well on its way.

By punishing Penn State’s football program, the NCAA is only hurting the university’s athletes, fans, students, alumni, faculty members and anyone else involved with the school. They had nothing to do with Sandusky’s crimes or the cover ups of them.

Those who committed the crimes either have already paid or are going to pay the legal price.

Don’t drag down the innocent with them.