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Monday, July 23, 2012

The Price of Cowardice

"Any single man must judge for himself whether circumstances warrant obedience or resistance to the commands of the civil magistrate; we are all qualified, entitled, and morally obliged to evaluate the conduct of our rulers." — John Locke

A few days ago I wrote about cowards and Glenn Beck’s book on that subject. Today the NCAA brought sanctions against Penn State University that were the price of the cowardice on the Penn State athletic department, the universities leadership and Joe Paterno.

I watched as NCAA President Mark Emmert delivered the results of their investigation resulting from the sex abuse scandal that rocked the university last year. Here are the sanctions the NCAA imposed on Penn State according to a Fox News report:

“The NCAA slammed Penn State with an unprecedented series of penalties Monday, including a $60 million fine and the loss of all coach Joe Paterno's victories from 1998-2011, in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

Other sanctions include a four-year ban on bowl games, the loss of 20 scholarships per year over four years and five years' probation. The NCAA also said that any current or incoming football players are free to immediately transfer and compete at another school.

NCAA President Mark Emmert announced the staggering sanctions at a news conference in Indianapolis. Though the NCAA stopped short of imposing the "death penalty" -- shutting down the Nittany Lions' program completely -- the punishment is still crippling for a team that is trying to start over with a new coach and a new outlook.”


Emmert fast-tracked penalties rather than go through the usual circuitous24emmert-articleLarge series of investigations and hearings. The NCAA said the $60 million is equivalent to the annual gross revenue of the football program. The money must be paid into an endowment for external programs preventing child sexual abuse or assisting victims and may not be used to fund such programs at Penn State.

"Football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing and protecting young people," Emmert said.

Emmert had earlier said he had "never seen anything as egregious" as the horrific crimes of Sandusky and the cover-up by Paterno and others at the university, including former Penn State President Graham Spanier and athletic director Tim Curley.

The investigation headed by former FBI Director Louis Freeh said that Penn State officials kept what they knew from police and other authorities for years, enabling the abuse to go on.”

A report just issued by the New York Times states;

“The postseason ban and the scholarship restrictions essentially prevent the program from fielding a team that can be competitive in the Big Ten. The N.C.A.A. will also allow Penn State players to transfer to another university, where they can play immediately, inviting the possibility of a mass exodus. Penn State will lose 10 initial scholarships and 20 total scholarships each year for a four-year period.

In announcing the penalties, Mark Emmert, the N.C.A.A. president, called the case the most painful “chapter in the history of intercollegiate athletics,” and said it could be argued that the punishment was “greater than any other seen in N.C.A.A. history.” He said Penn State accepted the penalties when they were presented to the university.

The N.C.A.A.'s penalty is the latest action to stem from the scandal involving Sandusky, who was convicted last month of being a serial pedophile. The release of a grand jury report detailing Sandusky’s actions last November led to the firing of the head coach, Joe Paterno; the removal of the university’s president, Graham B. Spanier; and charges against two other top university officials.

Emmert said that no punishment the N.C.A.A. could impose would change the damage done by Sandusky’s acts, but “the culture, actions and inactions that allowed them to be victimized will not be tolerated in collegiate athletics.”

Ed Ray, the president of Oregon State and chairman of the N.C.A.A.'s executive committee, said the case, and the sanctions imposed, represented a declaration by university presidents and chancellors that “this has to stop.” By that he meant a win at all costs mentality with respect to intercollegiate sports.”

On November 15, 2011 I posted a blog reversing a previous blog on situation at Penn State and Joe Paterno (A Reversal on Happy Valley). This post reversed my opinions on the Penn State scandals as more information became available. In that post I stated:

The Penn State scandal is so disturbing that it’s hard to even write about. When I first heard Joe Paterno had been fired, I thought and wrote that perhaps it was an overreaction on the part of Penn State’s board of trustees. But as I read more about some of the details of the case, I quickly realized I was wrong. As it turns out, Paterno is a split legal hair away from being guilty of covering up a heinous crime spree that staggers the moral imagination of the average American.”

I have no problems with the imposition of the $60 million dollar fine (one year’s revenue from the football program), the suspension from Bowl games for four years, the reduction of football scholarships, and the removal of Paterno’s statue. I do, however, have a problem with the removal of the football team’s wins from the record book from 1998 to 2011. To me this is an assault on the players who won the games on the field — in essence a reversal of the truth. I realize they did this to knock Paterno down from the most successful coach in college football (409 wins) to number 12.

By vacating 112 Penn State victories over a 14-year period, the sanctions cost Paterno 111 wins. Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden will now hold the top spot in the NCAA record book with 377. Paterno, who was fired days after Sandusky was charged, will be credited with 298 wins.

The scholarship reductions mean that Penn State's roster will be capped at 65 scholarship players within a couple of seasons. The normal scholarship limit for major college football programs is 85. Playing with 20 less is crippling to a program that tries to compete at the highest level of the sport.

I would have rather have seen a much heavier fine – say $500 million- and an asterisk placed after Paterno’s name in the record book. The players won the games on the field and to take away the wins is to punish the innocents.

The Penn State scandal is not so much about sexual abuse as it is about denial and cowardice. The person responsible for the sex abuse, JerryPenn State Abuse Statue Sandusky, has been tried and convicted and will no doubt be sentenced to prison for the remainder of his life. The cowardice and the denial of Paterno and the University is a much larger issue. In the case of the University of Southern California the athletic director and coach, Pete Carroll, knew what was going on with the illegal pay-offs to Reggie Bush and did nothing about it as they wanted to win. Once again the players who won the games were sanctioned while Carroll bailed out of the university and took the head coach job with the NFL’s Seattle Sea Hawks and a multi-million dollar contract. It should have been the athletic director, Carroll, and any other university official who should have been sanctioned not the players who sweated on the practice field and took the hits during the game.

The bigger issue is the denial, cover-up and cowardice of the university officials. Paterno had an obligation to take the claims of Mike McQueary to the athletic director and if he did not act then to the president of the university. The athletic director or president had an obligation to act. Instead they brushed the allegations under the rug with no thought to the victims. Then they lied to investigators. This was the cowardice in their actions.

This situation is not unique to Penn State or USC. It is prevalent at many of our colleges and university. Just look what happened to the Duke Lacrosse players when the president of the university threw then under the bus in an effort to “protect” the reputation of the university.

Today our colleges and universities are so focused on money for their bloated programs it appears as though nothing else matters. This is why I would have imposed a much larger monetary penalty and let the players, who won those games, alone. They did nothing wrong — the masterminds in charge of the university did.

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