A Temporary Setback for Penn State Football?

July 23, 2012, 8:58 pm

Which finger is JoePa holding up? Photo Credit

There goes the statue of JoePa. Bu-bye. Don’t let the door hitcha onna way out.

In the wake of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky’s conviction on child sexual assault charges, and Judge Louis Freeh’s report on the coverup of said actions by the institution, the NCAA has weighed in with penalties designed to punish — but not by any means wreck –the Nittany Lions. Millions of dollars in fines, eliminating Bowl eligibility, reduction of scholarships: what more, you ask, could the ruling body of college sports done?

Lots. They could have prevented Penn State from competing in football at all, forever, which might have delivered the university back into the hands of academics. As it is, the NCAA has probably saved football, and football-related mayhem, for future generations at Penn State. Players recruited under the regime of secrecy and corruption will, of course, transfer to other universities, and coaches will find new jobs. But this is good news if you think about it. The Penn State administration will be “forced” to do something that its romantic fans and alumni/ae have not permitted for several decades. They will have to clean house and completely rebuild the football program under the scrutiny of what we hope will be competent professionals.

Tenured Radical sends all the sympathy at this blog’s command to those who, as children, were harmed by people at Penn State. But has anyone noticed that highlighting these particular crimes has slammed the door on investigating other harms that were perpetrated, and excused, in the name of school spirit and college football?

In 2011, Penn State ranked fourth on the list in felony crimes filed against players on a BCS team, with 16. And last November, Nick Summers of the Daily Beast reported that “In 2006, on the eve of the Orange Bowl, Paterno had this to say about a Florida State linebacker named A. J. Nicholson who had been accused of sexually assaulting a woman: “There’s so many people gravitating to these kids. He may not have even known what he was getting into, Nicholson. They knock on the door; somebody may knock on the door; a cute girl knocks on the door. What do you do?”

We wouldn’t want to compound the damage to college football, at Penn State or anywhere else, by investigating systemic coverups of grown-up women being sexually assaulted, pressure put on instructors to change grades, or anything else. Would we?

I guess I have to agree with Jeff Emmanuel, at the conservative blog RedState, that the collateral damage — to the university’s finances, to undergraduates who are devastated by the scandal, to other athletic programs at Penn State, to scholarship athletes who now have to make other plans — is massively unimportant.  As Emmanuel writes, “it is critical that we acknowledge that dealing with the decades of child rape that took place within the football program is more important than whether sports like men’s track and field or women’s swimming continue to receive funds provided by football revenue.”

Yes indeed: there is so much that is more important than football. Why did it take something as extreme as a child molesting scandal to make this point — and why are other college football programs, whose coaches and administrators cover up and excuse crime and misbehavior, exempt from the scrutiny Penn State has drawn?

Finally: does news footage of weepy Penn State students, mourning the loss of a heroic football program that exists only in their minds, strike anyone else as inappropriate and odd? As Livia Soprano famously said to her son Tony:

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