July 12, 2012
Death Penalty for Penn State
Posted by Gordon Smith

After he was fired as the head coach of Penn State's football team, Joe Paterno wrote a column about the Sandusky scandal in which he stated "in no uncertain terms, that this is not a football scandal."

Today, a reporter asked Louis Freeh, "was this a football problem?" Freeh's response:

The rapes of these boys occurred in the Lasch Building. Mr. Paterno had his office in the Lasch Building, steps away from Mr. Sandusky. Mr. Sandusky was one of his chief defense coaches.... ][W]e don't have the benefit of having spoken to Mr. Paterno ... however, we have a statement that he made [about his conversation with former assistant coach Mike McQueary when the then-graduate assistant coach reported the February 2001 shower incident] and Mr. Paterno’s quote was: "You did what you had to do. Now it’s up to me to decide what we want to do." I think that’s a very important, critical and telling statement.

Over the past few months, people have debated Joe Paterno's legacy, but with the issuance of the Freeh Report today, public sentiment has taken a dramatic turn against Paterno, and the question of consequences for Penn State's football program is taking center stage. Mark Schlabach captures the views of many today: 

During the previous seven months in which the Sandusky nightmare unfolded, I wasn't sure the NCAA should get involved. In fact, I didn't know if I even wanted the NCAA involved because the unimaginable scandal seemed so far out of its league.

But after Freeh's report revealed Paterno and others failed to notify the police about Sandusky's assaults of young boys in three separate incidents from 1998 to 2001, I think the NCAA should punish Penn State.

And the Nittany Lions should get hammered more than any other school in NCAA history.

Agreed. If you Google "penn state death penalty," you will find that this view is fairly widespread. Schlabach makes the case rather concisely:

Protecting Paterno's legacy and the reputation of his once-unsullied football program was paramount at Penn State, so much so that university officials ignored the well-being of children, the least protected among us.

"Taking into account the available witness statements and evidence, it is more reasonable to conclude that, in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at Penn State University repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky's child abuse from the authorities, the Board of Trustees, Penn State community, and the public at large," Freeh said.

The Nittany Lions need a hard lesson to remind them of what really matters.

Amen.

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