Penn State Scandal: Only Death Penalty Can Save Penn State, Joe Paterno

Adam OdekirkContributor IINovember 10, 2011

UNIVERSITY PARK, PA - NOVEMBER 08:  A statue of  Penn State University head football coach Joe Paterno is seen outside of Beaver Stadium on November 8, 2011 in University Park, Pennsylvania. Amid allegations that former assistant Jerry Sandusky was involved with child sex abuse, Joe 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

The men involved with the Penn State scandal are slowly being dismissed and cast out for their crimes, sins and mistakes. Everyone, even Joe Paterno himself, is being held accountable for the atrocities that were allowed to happen in State College, Pa., and so should they be.

Still, the one thing that is seemingly going to survive this scandal is the very thing that all of these men so foolishly tried to protect: Penn State football.

The glut of information that is sure to come over the next few days and months will shed light on the exact happenings. Those involved may be vindicated or exonerated but more likely vilified for their actions, or lack thereof in most cases.

These firings are nothing more than knee-jerk reactions in an attempt to rehab the school and the program. Clearly, the constituents of Penn State, which include current students, players and alumni, are not satisfied with the firing of Paterno. So, whose best interest is being served by the board of trustees?

The board was quick to act when the public demanded heads to roll, but it was conspicuously absent in 1998 and 2002. Why should it be allowed to make decisions that are seemingly going to save Penn State?

Paterno may have been arrogant and delusional to think that a simple statement would keep his job safe when he urged the board to not spend a minute worrying about him. Still, who is worrying about the board and the program itself that caused these crimes to be covered up?

HARRISBURG, PA - NOVEMBER 7:  Penn State athletic director Tim Curley walks out of the Magisterial District Court  after being arraigned on charges of perjury and failure to report under Pennsylvania's child protective services law on November 7, 2011 in
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The truth is that if Penn State football survives this scandal, Paterno and all involved have achieved their mission and saved the program. Paterno would gladly have laid himself down on the line if an ultimatum had been given to him.

Faced with the choice of being fired or, if he refused, having the program be given the death penalty, Paterno would choose firing every time. That should resonate here in a very big way.

Firing an 84-year-old, while not the way that Paterno wanted to go out, is far less of a punishment than forcing him to see the program he held so dear be led to death at the end of the season.

That is really the only true justice in this situation. For many of Jerry Sandusky's victims, their lives as they knew them died the moment he laid a hand on them. So too should the program that was placed above the children suffer the same fate.

Even with the firing of Paterno and all involved, who can honestly say Penn State was disciplined enough to even come close to the magnitude of what the effect of the crimes committed were on the victims?

Penn State will now forever be associated with this disgrace if the public does not perceive that the proper action was taken in response. The university should not be in charge of deciding its entire fate, and the board of trustees is not going to administer the proper action on itself.

It is time for the NCAA to step in and say, "We may have been wrong to administer the death penalty so many years ago to SMU," but for it to not be used again would be a tragedy for all of collegiate sports.

To continue to let the only school ever to be given the death penalty be given it for such trivial reasons compared the circumstances that exist today would forever devalue the institution of the NCAA.

Furthermore, Paterno should have been allowed to captain his doomed ship all the way to the bottom and walk off the field in the final game, knowing he and all others involved are the reason Penn State will not step foot on the field again next season.

Players can then move on without penalty and Penn State can start to try and rebuild from this devastating catastrophe the has befallen one of the most storied schools in the USA.

Penn State football must be totally reborn and forced to recreate its image from scratch. The only way for rebirth to happen is for death to precede it. Only then can fans look at this program without judgmental eyes because they know that just as the lives of the victims were ruined are being forced to rebuild, so too is the program that caused their suffering to go on so long in silence.

Penn State as it was known for so many years is dead. The legacy of Joe Paterno now reads more like the infamous quote from the movie The Dark Knight:

"You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain."

There is no heroic death for any Nittany Lion, that story has concluded. The only story that people will want to read now is a story of resurrection. One that is completely devoid of anyone or anything about Penn State now.


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