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Friday, July 20, 2012

Penn State & the NCAA Death Penalty

I hate blogging about sports.  I just hate it, and as evidence I can point to about a dozen or fewer posts in this blog about sports.  I like playing sports, but watching them, reading about them or blogging about them?  No thanks.  If the sport in question doesn't involve sweat on my part, then I'm not interested.  This noted, I am going to venture in this abysmal territory to talk for a moment about the National Collegiate Atheletic Association (NCAA) potentially invoking the "death penalty" against Penn State.

For the unitiated, the "death penalty" refers to the ability of the NCAA to suspend a college/university's athletic program(s) for at least a year.

Let me say up front that I am adamately opposed the the NCAA imposting the death penalty against Penn State's football program.  I say this as someone who has been extremely critical of the Univesity...MY prior postings.  In no uncertain terms I have stated that Joe Paterno was morally and ethically bound to act at the first hint of wrong-doing on the part of serial pedophile Jerry Sandusky.  He didn't act, a FACT that was spelled out in painful levels of detail in the Freeh Report. Joe Paterno a man who many, including myself, considered to be a role model for how big-time college sports should be conducted, put the interests of his own ego, his football program and the reputation of a university before the physical and emotional well being of children.  It doesn't get much worst than that, and while I could continue this rant, I think the point is made.  Also culpable are the other individuals named in the Freeh Report, including former president Spanier, a man who claimed to be in charge of a major university but now all of a sudden wants to claim he actually wasn't in charge of a major university.

Want to know who is NOT culpable in all of this mess?  It's the student athletes who currently play on the Penn State football team.  Unless someone has some evidence that any of them participated in this horrible business, they should be considered by-standers.  In fact, they, as much as anyone else, can play a role in beginning the process of redeeming the name of Penn State football.  They can't do that though if the program tactically doesn't exist.  In fact, for many of them, playing football at Penn State is the culmination of years of practice and study.  Denying them the ability to aspire to achieving their dreams seems to me to a punishment where none should exist. 

Yes, there are structual problems with how Penn State is governed.  Yes, the WORSHIP of football at Penn State at least contributed to a culture where institutional reputation became more important the lives of children and that MUST change.  Yes, specific individuals need to be held accountable for their actions over the past 14+ years.  All of these problems though can be addressed without punishing the innocent by-standers that comprise the current Penn State football team. 

Children were harmed at Penn State and that is unforgivable, but let's target the punishment at the right people, namely the leadership of Penn State.  Punishing football players does nothing to heal the very real wounds that were created by Jerry Sandusky and enabled by Spanier, Paterno and others.

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