'Death penalty' for Penn State football

ARDMORE, Pa. — Indefensible.

A scathing 267-page report released Thursday reveals the depths of the Penn State cover-up that placed a serial child molester and the reputation of a university and its football program above the welfare of defenseless children.

And the only reasonable conclusion that can be drawn from the facts of the internal inquiry on the heels of the horrifying testimony that convicted former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky is that Penn State doesn’t need to be playing any football in the near future.

If the university doesn’t see fit to self impose harsh sanctions to rebuild its reputation, then the NCAA needs to step up and deliver the “death penalty” to the Nittany Lions program.

If this isn’t the worst thing that’s ever happened in a football program and a flagrant abuse of institutional control, I don’t know what is. Southern Methodist’s recruiting scandals were petty compared to what Penn State did – and didn’t – do to protect children.

The late Joe Paterno, who investigation chief and former FBI director Louis Freeh said “was an integral part of this active decision to conceal,” was flat-out wrong and down-right insulting in a statement he made shortly before his death.

“This is not a football scandal and should not be treated as one,” Paterno wrote in the letter that was released this week.

I don’t like to speak ill of the dead, but Paterno doesn’t hold the moral authority to tell anyone what is and isn’t anymore. His
integrity on this issue is null and void.

This is absolutely a football scandal even if none of the players on Penn State’s teams were aware or involved. The current players don’t deserve to be punished, but it’s always active and innocent players who bear the brunt of sanctions imposed for the wrong-doing of others.

Penn State has no business sending a team out to represent the university this fall. Every one of its active players should be released and be free to transfer to any other school for immediate eligibility to finish their collegiate careers.

Penn State needs to take the next year or two to voluntarily erase remnants of the scandal from the landscape – including razing the football building where Sandusky was witnessed raping victims on more than one occasion. How future generations of Penn State students can be expected to shower in the same place where Sandusky prowled is incomprehensible.

This is obviously a great cost for a powerhouse program that for the most part operated on its founding principles of “success with honor.” But this instance of institutional and program failure is too egregious to just ignore and move on.

If the school isn’t willing to do this itself, the NCAA needs to step in and do it for them. Sure, the circumstances aren’t necessarily spelled out in the NCAA manual, but that’s only because nobody could have foreseen such a horrifying abuse of power by an athletics program. An example needs to be made and put on the record that this kind of cover-up can’t be tolerated.

The facts of the report – culled during eight months of pouring over official school documents and e-mails – specifically singled out the football program as being the “currency” that allowed Sandusky to “groom victims.” And the university’s silence on the matter enabled a sexual deviant to stalk and abuse children for more than a decade after the school’s leaders first made the conscious decision to conceal what they knew.

“Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State,” Freeh said. “The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized.”

Freeh called the school’s disregard for the boys Sandusky abused “callous and shocking.” Evidence shows that former athletic director Tim Curley changed his mind about reporting Sandusky’s behavior to authorities after “talking it over” with Paterno.

Former school vice president Gary Schultz worried about “opening a Pandora’s Box” if the allegations against Sandusky were revealed.

Ex-president Graham Spanier noted “the only downside for us is if the message isn’t (heard) and acted upon and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it.”

Do these sound like the actions of men unaware that what they were doing was wrong? No, they knew it and did it anyway to protect their own and the football program.

Paterno’s family said Thursday that the late coach “never interfered with any investigation.”

Excuse me, but interfering would have been a good idea and could have saved some boys from further abuse.

At this point, it isn’t enough that Sandusky spend the rest of his life in jail, that Paterno’s legacy be forever tarnished by his gross inaction and that all the officials key to the cover-up were fired and in some cases indicted for lying to a grand jury.

No, at this point Penn State needs to be punished for what it did and the football program needs to be rebooted and started from scratch.

Only then will justice be served in full and the school be able to move forward.

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