The death penalty.
Those three words are enough to send shivers down the spine of any major college football program, especially ones that have dealt with major NCAA violations in the past.
It now seems that any time a scandal hits a big-time football program—whether it be at Miami, USC, Ohio State or anywhere else—there are inevitably those who crawl up from out of the woodwork, get behind their keyboards and scream for the death penalty. That is, the severest and most crippling punishment an athletic program can face.
“Shut ‘em down,” is the cry we often hear from the many wannabe executioners.
It’s a cry we’ve once again been hearing a lot over these last few days in the wake of the Penn State sex abuse scandal, a story that has transcended sports and become national front-page news.
Many are outraged and angered, and understandably so, over the allegations of molestation and sexual abuse against former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. They're equally as outraged at the authority figures who failed to do anything about it.
That’s led some to go so far as to say that Penn State deserves the dreaded death penalty.
The only problem?
That can’t happen.
This is a legal issue, not an NCAA issue.
There were no NCAA violations committed. Therefore, the NCAA has no jurisdiction or authority to levy any type of sanctions against the program.
This is not a situation that can compare to any of the recent scandals (yes, there have been plenty of them in the past few years) that we’ve seen in college football lately.
There were no agents buying houses or dinners for players, there were no players selling memorabilia.
There were no players involved—period.
The NCAA rulebook may be thick, but there is no bylaw in there pertaining to covering up a sexual abuse report.
While many moral and ethical rules may have been broken by the likes of Joe Paterno, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz in their dealings with Sandusky’s reported rampage, there were no NCAA rules broken.
This is not SMU all over again, like some have said. It’s a totally different and separate type of situation.
Penn State was not on NCAA probation when this happened, there were no players being paid or other serious NCAA crimes being committed. You can’t in any way compare it to the SMU case.
I’m sorry to tell the many bloodthirsty college football fans that there will be no death penalty for Penn State.
Could the school offer to voluntarily shut down the program for a year or two to help the recovery process?
Sure, that could probably happen. However, once school officials take a look at their revenue books and see how much money they annually pull in from football, I have a feeling that they’ll quickly bypass that idea.
On the other hand, those seeking some sort of justice for this horrific and tragic scandal should have no worries.
Not only is the school going to be hit with civil lawsuits that will likely cost the university hundreds of millions of dollars, but the football program’s reputation will obviously take a major hit.
Players will transfer, big recruits won't come and the losses will likely pile up over the next few years.
Penn State may not have to suffer the death penalty, but trust me when I say there will surely be some dark days in Happy Valley in the years to come.