Feature

Punishment for Penn State

The NCAA meted out harsh penalties to Penn State for ignoring the child sexual abuse carried out Jerry Sandusky.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association meted out harsh penalties to Pennsylvania State University this week, after the school’s leaders and late football coach Joe Paterno were found to have ignored years of child sexual abuse carried out by former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. The NCAA fined Penn State $60 million, banned it from postseason play for four years, and cut the number of football scholarships it is permitted to offer. 

The decision also stripped Paterno of his legacy as the most successful college football coach in history, canceling all the team’s wins since 1998, when the coach first learned of Sandusky’s behavior. A report commissioned by the university found last month that administrators and coaches had turned a blind eye to the crimes of Sandusky, who was convicted of 45 charges of child sex abuse in June. In a symbolic admission of guilt, a statute of Paterno outside Penn State’s Beaver Stadium was quietly removed this week by university authorities.

The NCAA “did the right thing,” said Michael Tomasky in TheDailyBeast.com. It needed to send a message to other colleges that giving their football programs undue power and influence is unacceptable. “Mission accomplished.” It’s true that Penn State’s football team, whose players are now free to go elsewhere, will be decimated. But “some crimes are so vast that even the innocent have to pay a price before things are set right.”

That price is not high enough, said Geoffrey Rapp in USA Today. Even with a $60 million fine, the Penn State program will no doubt return to profitability in the coming years. Football season will start, and within a few weeks “it will seem as if nothing has happened.” Instead of allowing a wealthy university to write a check, the NCAA should have issued the so-called death penalty, giving Penn State a year off to “reassess the proper role of football in its educational mission.”

Killing Penn State’s program won’t fix the underlying problem with college football, said Bob Ford in The Philadelphia Inquirer. The only way to lessen the outsize influence of athletic programs like Penn State’s would be to limit the amount of money the sport brings into university coffers. Until the NCAA tackles the root of this scandal, the prospect of another school “sliding down an ethical slope” is all too real.

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