By the time most of you people read this, the NCAA will have announced the sanctions it plans to invoke against Pennsylvania State University as a consequence of the (in)actions its senior management took when made aware of the vile, disgusting acts committed by the child molesting former coach, Jerry Sandusky.
The NCAA’s possible sanctions range from a simple slap on the wrist to a variant of the “death penalty”. The last (only) football program to be given the “death penalty” was that of Southern Methodist University in the 1980’s. At the time the penalty was issued, SMU was a very high-ranked program and National Championship contender. Twenty years later, SMU is, at best, considered an also-ran, having never regained the stature it once enjoyed.
To be sure, the Penn State issue is of an entirely different nature than that of SMU. SMU was found to have violated many rules against paying or otherwise giving financial benefits to players. Penn State has been found to have looked the other way, at the very best interpretation of events, when confronted with allegations that one of its coaches was a serial child molester.
There are those who say that the current players, coaching staff, student body, and fan base of Penn State had nothing whatsoever to do with the actions of Sandusky, so why should they be penalized?
While all these people and groups and nothing to do with Sandusky’s disgusting activities, they also have no real stake in any penalties. Players are free to seek other programs with no penalty, coaches are free to move to other programs, the student body can root for the basketball or baseball teams or simply spend their time studying, and the fans can find one of the many other football programs to support.
The prime intent of the penalties the NCAA will implement will be to reduce the influence of the Penn State football program. From the report issued by the commission led by former FBI Director Freeh, it is apparent that the Senior Administration of Penn State and it football program either turned a deaf ear toward or actively suppressed the allegations raised regarding Sandusky’s activities. That these individuals felt they had to act the way they did speaks volumes about the undue influence of the Penn State football program and Joe Paterno. It is clear from the Freeh Commissions report that Paterno was deeply involved in the coverup and suppression of Sandusky’s actions.
The question boils down to whether an NCAA “death penalty” is an appropriate sanction.
An NCAA “death penalty” is not only appropriate, but is the minimum penalty appropriate for something of this magnitude. We are not talking about recruiting violations, paying players, inflating grades, or even gunfire in the athletic dorms (thank you, Barry Switzer). We are talking about one of the most singularly heinous crimes, that of sexually molesting the most innocent among us, our children – in particular, children who were experiencing family problems of some sort and were therefore even more vulnerable than others.
The NCAA should impose the “death penalty” in some form, for surely child molestation and its coverup is several orders of magnitude more significant than mundane recruiting violations.