Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Penn State football must be suspended

In the wake of the firing of Joe Paterno, Jerry Sandusky’s convictions and the independent report from Judge Louis Freeh, what should happen to Penn State’s football program?

What does decency demand? What’s best in the long run? Beyond what the justice system hands out in the way of punishments, what role should atonement play in trying to facilitate a proper healing of all the wounds Sandusky (depicted above right) has created? 

Paul Woody’s opinions on sports are always worth considering. More often than not I agree with Woody, but in his column on Sunday, “Penn State has much to do but disbanding football isn't one of them,” he wrote that he thinks the Nittany Lions’ football program should not be suspended.
We are judged by how we treat the most vulnerable among us. That is where Paterno, Spanier, Schultz and Curley failed. They gave scant thought to the victims they knew about and no thought to the victims they created by their inaction.

These men face punishment for that shortcoming. Punishing everyone now involved in the Penn State football program only creates more innocent victims.

There already are enough of those.
This time I disagree with Paul. You see, I can’t hear the cries of the indirect “innocent victims” he’s worried about, because the cries of Sandusky’s many direct victims are still ringing too loudly in my ears.

No, it’s too soon to go back to football, as usual, in Happy Valley. 

Saying that Penn State football generates too much money for the university and the community surrounding it is sort of the same argument that was made for banks that were said to be “too big to fail.”

With that argument it seems we’re supposed to let feeling sorry for hot dog and T-shirt vendors who will be out of a job outweigh cleaning up thoroughly after the worst scandal in college sports history. In this case it’s also saying money is more important than properly looking over the safety of children, when we send our kids off to a sports camp, or enroll them in a school. 

In this unprecedented case money concerns simply have to wait, while other concerns are given their just due. This week there were yet more men coming out of the woodwork, to say Sandusky abused them, this time from 30 years ago. There will be more. 

As far as Penn State’s football players are concerned, the NCAA could grant them waivers to let them transfer immediately to other schools, if those student-athletes want to put football over matriculating at Penn State.

Speaking of the NCAA, it is not ruling out the so-called “death penalty” in this case. However, my hope is that the powers that be at Penn State will quickly realize that they have to voluntarily shut down the program, themselves.

In 1982 Rev. John Lo Schiavo, the president of University of San Francisco, disbanded his school’s men’s basketball program. For some good reasons, including crimes, he decided the corruption had gotten so bad it was the only thing to do. After a thorough house-cleaning the hoops program was resurrected three years later. (For in-depth background on that episode, go here.)  

If Penn State doesn’t fall on its sword, then the NCAA should compel the university to do it. This is the perfect time for the money-chasing hypocrites who run the NCAA to get something right. How many years will it take to get things mended at Penn State?

Maybe one year would be enough, maybe it will take longer.

Woody and I agree about cleansing Paterno’s name from the campus. And, I honestly do feel sorry for all the people who loved Paterno who are suffering. Still, some of them haven't really faced up to what was wrong with making Paterno a god. That's going to take time.

And, I also know from having played sports over a lifetime that Sandusky isn’t the only mean and twisted coach in this country who ought not to be around children. 

Remember this: This scandal isn't about kinky sex. It's about raping children. Violence that ruins lives.

Little kids by the millions are watching this story. Some portion of them have been abused. They will learn lessons from how this all plays out. An example has to be made of what went wrong at Penn State. A year without football may cost some money, but it will also allow for some soul searching.

Maybe even some atonement.

-- 30 --

No comments: