FOOTBALL POLITICS - As the news streamed in that the NCAA slapped a $60 million fine on Penn State Monday and wiped away its successful football record over the past 14 years, all morning long commentators and others kept saying this: "It's not about football."
In fact, this has everything to do with football and that's exactly why the NCAA had to act -- and act harshly even if it's not within its own policy or using its own investigation.
This is a football story on how a bunch of administrators at Penn State University believed the football program was more important than the lives of a lot of young boys being molested for years by the university's former defensive coach Jerry Sandusky. This often happened in the school's facilities and was something the famous head coach, Joe Paterno, apparently knew about. (Sandusky was found guilty of 45 criminal sex abuse counts last month involving at least eight boys.)
It's also about how the popular and highly regarded Penn State football program racked up so much money, administrators considered it more significant than the fact Sandusky was raping boys in the university's gym showers. They seemed to think it better to hide such a scandal to save its renowned reputation -- and its money.
It's also about how a janitor who cleaned the football stadium and gym witnessed a Sandusky molestation and told his supervisor. The janitors were too terrified to talk to anybody due to the football culture that apparently had an iron-fist rule at the school for decades. In fact, the janitors believed they'd be fired if they brought it up to their administrators, according to an investigation completed by former FBI director Louis Freeh, also a former judge, in a 267 page report.
The NCAA used Freeh's report, released in July that sets the blame squarely on Paterno as well as then president Graham Spanier and other powerful administrators, for failing to protect the children.
After that, the NCAA swooped in with some of the harshest sanctions it's ever imposed and are unprecedented.
"Football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing and protecting young people," Mark Emmert, NCAA president, told the press.
While many denounced the NCAA sanctions, I embrace Emmett's startling announcement Monday despite many sports commentators complaining the board stepped way out of its league.
The heavy restrictions included no bowl or post season games for four years, a $60 million fine that will be used to help child abuse victims and the school will be undergo five years of probation. In addition, 10 new scholarships for football will be eliminated in 2013-2014 along with another 15 the following year, according to news accounts.
The university ‘wins’ from 1998 to 2011 will be erased along with the fact that Paterno will no longer be considered the "winningest" university coach in history. Penn state football players can also leave and go to other school's without any punishment, the NCAA ruled.
Why do I so agree with this NCAA action while others are crying foul for the innocent football players, taking away scholarships for those who need them and ruining the whole atmosphere of a school where students were once proud of its football legends, many of whom were devastated when they learned of the sanctions Monday?
It's simple. We can never, never, never let this happen again. As soon as the Sandusky case broke, we soon discovered there were other college coaches who had molested young victims as well. The NCAA didn't go far enough in fact, and should have gone after each and every administrator involved.
What these sanctions did do is give an extremely clear signal that any college involved with any horrendous molestation scandals like this again will bleed - and bleed badly all over.
As it should.
And something more important about the sanctions:
Penn State has to be thoroughly stripped of this culture, cleaned up and sterilized to show the world that in America this can never happen at any college again or anywhere else for that matter. Children will no longer be treated like snared cattle without any power, raped repeatedly while adults stand around more concerned about their organizations or more worried about injuring the reputation of a Catholic priest, a football coach or a Boy Scout leader.
I am more attuned with ESPN football analyst Desmond Howard who points out that once again people have forgotten the real victims here and are worried about the innocent Penn state football players.
" Penn State football players today have a choice to go elsewhere” Howard said. “The victims did not."
We all need to remember that.
(Diana Chapman is a CityWatch contributor and has been a writer/journalist for nearly thirty years. She has written for magazines, newspapers and the best-seller series, Chicken Soup for the Soul. You can reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org or her website: theunderdogforkids.blogspot.com) –cw
Vol 10 Issue 59
Pub: July 24, 2012