Penn State Scandal: Paterno Family Appeal Creates Truly Mixed, Uneasy Feeling

Michael Felder@InTheBleachersNational CFB Lead WriterAugust 6, 2012

STATE COLLEGE, PA - JULY 20:  Rain falls on the statue of former Penn State University football coach Joe Paterno outside Beaver Stadium July 20, 2012 in State College, Pennsylvania. Penn State's Board of Trustees is debating whether or not to remove the statue in the wake of the child sex scandal of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky and Paterno's roll in not reporting it.  (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Friday, the Penn State Saga that started just under a year ago took another turn in a very odd direction. The family of Joe Paterno, folks who have made several missteps publicly in dealing with the fallout, decided that they would file an appeal on behalf of the now-deceased head coach. The folks at Onward State have the letter of appeal in its entirety.

The NCAA quickly responded. Bob Williams, the NCAA Vice President of Communications, let folks know that the Paterno family wouldn't get far in their efforts. 

Penn State sanctions are not subject to appeal.

— BOB WILLIAMS (@NCAABob) August 3, 2012

Many folks are OK with that. The iron-fisted NCAA has spoken, and Rodney Erickson, through his consent, had effectively given up the right to appeal in order to get the lesser penalty.

As we discussed here at Your Best 11 previously, the Board of Trustees had an opportunity to bring Erickson and the NCAA to task, except they elected to take the path of least resistance. It made sense; the school didn't need the firestorm that would come with vetoing Erickson and challenging the NCAA.

In that same vein, the Paterno family appeal makes some compelling statements:

Both the University leadership and the NCAA have said that they had to take extreme and immediate measures to demonstrate respect for the victims and minimize the chance of any similar misconduct from occurring again. These goals are the right ones, and they embody objectives we fully endorse. But those objectives cannot be achieved by a truncated process that wrongly assigns blame by substituting opinion for fact.

If there is culpabability in this case, a hearing will help expose it. Due process will not hide the truth and will only illuminate the facts and allow for thoughtful, substantiated conclusions, not extreme and unfounded opinions, such as those offered in the Freeh Report and relied upon by the NCAA.

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That makes sense. It is the same argument for due process that we've made here at Your Best 11. If getting it right was so important, why rush? With the Paterno family making such a compelling argument, surely credence should be given to their point.

Except it is not, because that compelling argument is linked to rhetoric like this:

To severely punish a University and its community and to condemn a great educator, philanthropist and coach without any public review or hearing is unfair on its face and a violation of NCAA guidelines.

Sure, they say "University" and "community," but ultimately, this is about the "condemnation" of the great Joe Paterno. 

When your appeal is in the name of the deceased you want to protect and your previous statements have been about saving his legacy, the public is not apt to believe the sincerity of the measure. This isn't about due process or finding out the truth or fixing the punishment. Under due process, the truth and the punishment means that Joe Paterno is exonerated of all wrongdoing postmortem and the wins are restored to make him FBS's all-time winningest coach again.

So, while there are good points in the appeal, they do, and should, fall on deaf ears. This is another bad play for the Paterno family; their search to "find the truth" is a poor veil for the goal of securing a legacy.