Sports

Palladino: First Paterno’s Statue Goes, Then His Program

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

‘From the Pressbox’
By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns

Joe Paterno’s statue went Sunday morning.

On Monday, the NCAA took the rest of Penn State’s tainted football program.

From here on out, the reaction among football alum, students, boosters, the Paterno family, and anyone else who ever set foot inside Beaver Stadium should be one of silence.

Dead, complacent silence. The kind which recognizes egregious that harsh consequences should follow egregious actions.

Enough now of the foolish mourning over the legacy of a coach who knew all the time that young children were being hurt, yet squelched any thoughts of stopping it for the sake of his program. Those 111 wins, two Big Ten titles, and six bowl triumphs from the start of Jerry Sandusky’s proven abuses in 1998 until now have been wiped from Paterno’s 409 career victories.

It’s just bookkeeping, really, but the symbolism of knocking college football’s winningest coach back to No. 12 drips with appropriate symbolism. Just like the removal of his statue Sunday morning as 150 still-deluded supporters watched workers carry it off under a blue tarp. Those who still cling to the old, dead coach’s memory can still have their hero’s image. Perhaps someday, Penn State can place it in some non-descript basement corner of an athletic building, hidden to all but his family and those who persist in the belief that Penn State is football above all else.

What the NCAA did to his program is much more severe, deservedly so. Falling just short of the death penalty, the Association turned the Nittany Lions into toothless cats. The football team will now be comprised of a bunch of strays who will serve as Big Ten meat. The loss of 20 scholarships for the next four years means Penn State will operate at a Division 1-AA limit. With its returners and incoming freshmen free to flee elsewhere and play right away, the country’s best programs will be swooping in any minute to lure every drop of big-time talent away from Happy Valley.

Not that anyone who remains will have the talent to raise Penn State to bowl-eligible status, but that won’t be an issue for the next four years. And the loss of $60 million they’ll have to divert from football to outside child sex abuse victims assistance and prevention programs will sap it of monetary resources.

The Athletics Integrity Monitor the NCAA will appoint will keep a hawk’s eye on anything that remotely looks like personal misconduct. The five-year probation period will force the school to adhere strictly to the NCAA’s voluminous bible of conduct, with one slip triggering further penalties. And this time, the death penalty — a total shutdown of the program — will come into play.

Unless head coach Bill O’Brien is some sort of magician, Penn State football will not be heard from again for at least five years, probably longer. Without killing it entirely, the NCAA turned it into a dead program with a few keystrokes.

Voices of anger rang out almost immediately. Some former players took to Twitter and sarcastically questioned the vacating of the records they helped build.

They are wrong.

Undoubtedly, the more rabid fans will turn up on TV or social media to voice their outrage over the destruction of a beloved program.

They, too, will be wrong.

Penn State had this coming. Nothing less, and probably more.

The only appropriate reaction now is mute acceptance.

Sandusky’s victims, the kids Paterno and the leaders of Penn State remained silent about, deserve at least that much.