Penn State's Football Future: Tough Choices for a Once-Proud Program

Dan SmithCorrespondent IDecember 20, 2011

STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 11: People walk past the mural 'Inspiration' by artist Michael Pilato, which features faces of notable Penn Staters including Joe Paterno, in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal on November 11, 2011 in State College, Pennsylvania. Sandusky was featured in the mural but was painted over this week by the artist. Head football coach Joe Paterno was fired amid allegations that former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was involved with child sex abuse. Penn State plays their final home football game against Nebraska tomorrow at Beaver Stadium.  (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Mario Tama/Getty Images

Remember the good old days of college football scandals?

It was cute when Ohio State had "Tattogate." Jim Tressel lost his job and a ton of credibility. Terrelle Pryor had to leave school as a poster child for spoiled athletes.

Miami had a sexier scandal that did not get the team any significant victories, but it did hearken back to the renegade 1980s Hurricanes. Of course, those 'Canes were champs back when big Luther Campbell was on board. Little Luther had the off-the-field stuff handled, but the team could not produce on the field.

Oregon had a cute little story about possible recruiting violations. It was so cute and so little that it really went nowhere.

Then there were all of those conference realignments that seem so quaint now. Nebraska went to the Big Ten, Utah to the Pac-12.

The Big 12 wanted West Virginia, then did not want them and then they doubled back again. And it seems that the Big East all transferred to the ACC, and now the Big East is nationwide.

They were all fun stories.

A wink and a nod toward recruiting violations. A wave of the finger to paying players and paying for other stuff. A deep sigh as the conferences shifted all over the place.

Then the season started and this debate was a cute one too: Who is number two?

LSU is the best team in the country, and they are going to stomp all over Alabama. It would be nice to see them stomp all over Oklahoma State. I still think that Boise State would not get stomped by LSU but would actually beat them.

Then the tragedy at Penn State happened, and suddenly these cute little stories vanished as real life tragedy grabbed the headlines.

Joe Paterno was forced to resign his post as the Penn State football coach. Only he will ever know the full extent of what he knew about his longtime friend who will not be named here. Joe Pa did concede that he could have done more, and we will always be left to wonder why he did not.

The Penn State tragedy is running its course through the legal system. For the first time in months, we can talk about Penn State as a sports story and not as a tragedy of epic proportions.

The sports story here is how does Penn State rebuild their program, and to that I ask a very simple question.


Is the game of football so important that Penn State should even try to rebuild? My answer is no.

There is no point to continue the Penn State football program. The children were not protected, and too many adults were involved in this tragedy that did not help the kids.

Even rehashing this tragedy must be difficult for the adults those children grew to be, as they are reminded of demons that they had worked to forget.

Penn State has much more to rebuild than a football program.