Sports

Silverman: Harsh Penn State Penalties Simply Not Enough

Penn State player leaves team meeting (credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images) after sanctions are handed down by NCAA President Mark Emmert. (credit: Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Penn State player leaves team meeting (credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images) after sanctions are handed down by NCAA President Mark Emmert. (credit: Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

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By Steve Silverman
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The NCAA has hit Penn State with harsh penalties for the sickening behavior that the institution — according to the Freeh report — allowed child rapist Jerry Sandusky to get away with for years at the university.

NCAA president Mark Emmert seemed logical and well-intentioned in announcing that Penn State was socked with $60 million in fines, ordered it out of the postseason for four years, and knocked off 20 scholarships per year.

They also hit Penn State on with five years’ probation, and the NCAA also said that any current or incoming football players are free to immediately transfer and compete at another school. They also erased 14 years of Joe Paterno victories.

Those are harsh penalties that will hurt Penn State badly. But it was not enough.

Here’s one of the reasons that it’s not good enough: Many people are not devout football or sports fans. They are not going to understand all the nuances of scholarship reductions, bowl bans and removing victories from Paterno’s career record.

The only thing they will see is that Penn State will be playing football this season. They will see huge crowds at Beaver Stadium and fans shouting “We Are … Penn State.”

Those people will realize from news reports that something punitive has been done to the program but they will see 100,000-plus fans per home game and they will think that college football is turning its back on child rape.

That may be extreme, but that’s what the majority of non-college football fans will think.

Shutting down the program would cause all kind of ancillary damage. Other college football teams – particularly those in the Big Ten – would be hurt badly. The local hotel owners and business owners in Creepy Valley would be hurt badly. The other athletic programs at Penn State would also be damaged by shutting down Penn State football.

Those would be awful developments that shouldn’t stop the NCAA from shutting the football program down.

The protection of Sandusky was a university-wide issue. Paterno had become so big at Penn State that he had basically taken over as the leader of that university. What Paterno wanted, Paterno got.

Paterno’s legacy was tied to a thriving football program. He was all about being this so-called humble guy who liked to go for ice cream at The Creamery and he made sure that the whole world new how much he donated to build a library, but he had his own kingdom tied up with the football team and the other benefits that came his way.

He may have started out as a humanitarian who was interested in helping his players, but eventually he lost sight of humanity.

The first time he had an inkling of what Sandusky may have been doing and he turned his back is the instant he turned Penn State into a cesspool of horror.

That’s not melodramatic. Anyone who is in a position of authority in any business has a responsibility to protect the weakest members of society. You can’t just turn your back on horror because it may impact your kingdom.

All university presidents have to be vigilant to keep football coaches from becoming lords of their program. There’s no reason that college football coaches need to be paid millions of dollars and given the freedom to do whatever they see fit.

For example, Alabama head coach Nick Saban may be the best coach in college football. He is a brilliant recruiter and an excellent strategist and motivator. Alabama sells out every game with Saban as head coach.

Alabama sold out every game well before Saban got there. While there is more interest and more money in that program now that the school is contending for the national championship every year, is it worth giving him control of the university?

If Saban left Alabama, the Crimson Tide would still draw fans and eyes to the television sets.

That’s just a look at it from the business perspective.

That has nothing to do with the concept of right and wrong that was obviously ignored at Penn State.

The NCAA did not give Penn State a wrap on the knuckles with a ruler. They hit the Nittany Lions hard.

But it wasn’t enough considering the horror that played itself out at The Second Mile and in the shower area of the Penn State locker room.

The program needed to be shuttered for at least two years for the message to be heard. The NCAA did not do enough.

Were you satisfied with the sanctions or was anything less than the “death penalty” not enough? Be heard in the comments below…