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Penn State Scandal: Paterno Family Appeals to NCAA, Keeps Fighting Old Battles

STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 23:  Head coach Joe Paterno and the Penn State Nittany Lions look on before facing the Iowa Hawkeyes at Beaver Stadium on October 23, 2004 in State College, Pennsylvania.  The Hawkeyes defeated the Nittany Lions 6-4.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Adam JacobiBig Ten Football Lead WriterAugust 3, 2012

On Friday afternoon, the family of Joe Paterno released an appeal of the NCAA's consent decree with Penn State, claiming the "NCAA acted hastily and without any regard for due process." They're filing it on behalf of Paterno as an "involved individual," as he's named in both the Freeh report and the consent decree itself. 

The full statement is here, via Onward State. It's lengthy, and it doesn't exactly have a whole lot of good things to say about the Freeh report or the NCAA. You wouldn't really expect it to.

Its hard to say at this point how much the appeal can accomplish or if the NCAA Infractions Appeal Committee will even hear it. Part of the consent decree (in fact, the crucial part aside from the accounting of the sanctions) was Penn State's waiver of its right to appeal the sanctions.

As a matter of fact, NCAA compliance expert John Infante took a dim view of the appeal on Twitter after the release:

 

This is as much an appeal as an email demanding satisfaction when your luggage is lost is an appeal.

— John Infante (@John_Infante) August 3, 2012

 

So while the idea that the consent decree doesn't bar somebody other than Penn State from appealing the sanctions is at the very least appealing from a legal creativity standpoint, it's probably not going to stand up to scrutiny.

Or, as NCAA spokesperson Bob Williams bluntly put it on Twitter shortly after the release:

 

Penn State sanctions are not subject to appeal.

— BOB WILLIAMS (@NCAABob) August 3, 2012

 

More broadly, though, the reputation fight is one that's already lost. The existing evidence, based off the released emails from the Freeh report, suggests that Paterno lied about not having knowledge of the 1998 investigation of Jerry Sandusky. So it's imperative that the Paterno family provide stronger evidence that that's not the case. And if that evidence exists and they have it, why wasn't it part of the Freeh report? 

Moreover, mere appeals to Paterno's good deeds aren't sufficient. Was Paterno "a great educator, philanthropist and coach" as the Paterno family's letter states? Sure. But that absolutely does not disqualify him from having committed misdeeds; after all, Jerry Sandusky was a universally respected charity founder and coach in his own right, and he committed far, far graver sins than what Paterno is suspected of.

ESPN.com's Brian Bennett crushed the Paterno family in his post on this topic, saying from the get-go that it "reeks of desperation" (and he doesn't get kinder from there). We're not going to go down that road, because there's no sense in injecting further venom into all of this. It's toxic enough as it is.

It's just extremely difficult to figure out the Paternos' motivation for this continuing, public push back against all the involved parties in the wake of everything that has gone on since November. It's certainly not financial; Paterno's estate was awarded a normal pension and retirement package as if Paterno had retired at the end of the 2011 season, as he had offered before being terminated.

If it's the record they're seeking to restore, that's fine, but what would they do with it? We've argued here that the NCAA shouldn't have taken away Paterno's wins, but seriously: What good is restoring those wins now? If it's a restoration of Penn State football to its pre-sanction status, that's noble, but they've been issuing statements since long before the NCAA even decided to hand out penalties.

And if it's simply the restoration of Paterno's public reputation that his family's after—which is also an admirable goal in and of itself—this just can't be the right way to go about it. It hasn't worked yet and it's impossible to see how it ever will. And that's sad.

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