NCAA Sending Wrong Message to Victims by Repealing Penn State's Sanctions

Greg CouchNational ColumnistSeptember 8, 2014

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

There was no reason to feel sorry for Penn State football. No reason to feel that the punishment was too much. No reason to reward Penn State for doing the things it should have been doing all along.

So it's hard to find any reason, actually, that the NCAA decided to let Penn State out on good behavior or, in this case, on a change from monstrous behavior to decent human behavior.

The NCAA announced Monday that it will lift Penn State's bowl ban and recruiting restrictions immediately, two years earlier than the original punishment for the Penn State scandal.

Meanwhile, the dozens of boys who were sexually assaulted will live with it for the rest of their lives.

The message supposedly is that Penn State is doing all the right things now. Jerry Sandusky is forever in prison, where he can't hurt anyone else. Coaching staffs have changed twice. Joe Paterno is gone too. So why punish the players and coaches on this year's team when they had nothing to do with what happened?

The thing is, everyone there now could have left or didn't have to come at all. They knew what the punishments were.

BELLEFONTE, PA - OCTOBER 09: Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky leaves the Centre County Courthouse after being sentenced in his child sex abuse case on October 9, 2012 in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. The 68-year-old Sandusky was sente
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The real message here is that football is still society's king. That's exactly what caused the problem in the first place. It didn't turn Sandusky into a sexual predator, but it did create a culture—or actually a cult—that allowed Paterno and the university to turn into the great enablers.

Can we just all say this together? In Penn State's case, football doesn't matter. It shouldn't anyway.

Those men who were sexually assaulted as children are more important than football. The punishments placed not only on Sandusky, but also on the school, were meant to send that message.

It was a good message. A just message. And the NCAA just cut it in half. 

The mission of a university is to take care of our kids, to help them to grow. It is not to play bowl games. Penn State didn't do what it was supposed to do.

If it has fixed itself up and is now representing some form of virtue, then good for Penn State. Serve your time, and then go about your future, knowing that everyone will be watching.

The key words: Serve your time.

The school still has to pay a $60 million fine. And 112 of Paterno's wins are still forfeited.

Cliff Owen/Associated Press

The NCAA acted after Sen. George Mitchell's second annual report on Penn State, which said the school was fostering an "ethical culture" and a system that placed oversight of the football team outside the athletic department.

Meanwhile, Paterno's son, Scott, issued a statement saying, via Pennlive.com, "This is one more step in correcting the unjust and irresponsible penalties imposed on the university."

Scott Paterno also said this about his father:

See, this is the problem. It's not just Paterno's family either. It's the cult that still can't grasp what has happened.

That in itself is evidence that it's not time for this team to be celebrating bowl games.

The Paterno family's desire to try to clear Joe's name is understandable. It was a name that stood for all the right things for decades and then turned to mud just before he died. But how cold is it that anyone is talking about Paterno's vacated victories today?

Paul Vathis/Associated Press

Sandusky's victims aren't getting their sentences reduced. Imagine what they must think seeing Penn State's punishments reduced, momentum turning and the Paterno family already calling, on this day, for the victories to be reinstated.

It just seems the actions in this case are always only a response to public pressure, not about what was right for the victims.

The program, the cult, the system let them down in the first place, and Penn State was rightly penalized. Now that the public pressure is off, that doesn't mean it's time to let Penn State off the hook.

Greg Couch covers college football for Bleacher Report. He also writes for The New York Times and was formerly a scribe for FoxSports.com and The Chicago Sun-Times.

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