Where to begin. Oh, lets run first down with the person who epitomized goodness, fairness and everything right at Penn State University and all of college football: the late Joe Paterno. As head football coach for nearly 46 years, he fashioned a pristine culture of purity and making himself the university.
Remember how he prowled the sidelines on Saturdays in those black-rimmed, Coke-bottle glasses, white or blue shirt, blue stripped tie, cuffs rolled-up khakis, white socks and black coaching shoes? You’re familiar with the famed character in the Peanuts comics: Pigpen. Now the descriptive on Paterno is the latter instead of the former.
Did you know Paterno would be facing jail if he lived? He would have had to trade his patented attire for an orange jumpsuit. We’ll punt that one right now and have a return in a moment.
Paterno’s long-time defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky soiled the university and exposed its upper echelon of loathsome administrators. He committed depravity to the highest degree: pedophilia. He’s been convicted of 45 sex abuse counts involving ten boys over 15 years. Some of those attacks came in university athletic facilities. He’ll spend the rest of his life in prison, and maybe I’ve watched the Shawshank Redemption one too many times, but he’ll have to sleep with one eye open. The incarcerated, even murderers, don’t like this crime. Don’t be surprised if Sandusky really got the death penalty, or, at the very least, he’ll get the favor returned.
Its the worst scandal in sports history, college or professional. When the gates opened completely on the sordid affair the school commissioned an investigation by former FBI Director Louis Freeh. It hasn’t been reported if a HazMat team was also summoned to clean up the foul dirt all over what used to be Paterno’s office.
Freeh’s seven month thorough sleuthing was damning in every way. Some of his words: “Unprecedented failure of institutional integrity leading to a culture in which a football program was held in higher esteem than the values of the institution, the values of the NCAA, the values of higher education and, most disturbingly, the values of human decency.”
State College, Pennsylvania is known as “Happy Valley.” No one is smiling, and probably won’t be for a very long time.
Here’s the part where it’s like sticking your finger down your throat. Paterno, school president Graham Spanier, vice president Gary Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley all knew what Sandusky was doing. And did nothing! For ten years! At one point the three stooges were going to report Sandusky, but Paterno talked Curley out of it.
Now, Schultz and Curley are facing trial and Spanier, honestly I’m not kidding here, is working for a “top secret” agency on national security issues. No leaks of any worries coming out there! Symmetry profound.
Paterno died in January of this year, escaping the disgrace and possible prison time. He perjured himself in 2011 to a Sandusky grand jury, saying he wasn’t aware of a police investigation into his former defensive coordinator. The Freeh report states otherwise.
The coach became Penn State and he fostered his will and dominance. University academic monitoring didn’t include the football program. That was handled by Paterno. In 2004, following two losing seasons, Spanier and Curley went to Paterno’s home and asked him to retire. They left with their tails tucked between their legs. There are countless other examples.
Paterno preached integrity and doing things the right way with his players, all the time dripping slime.
For the first time the National Athletic Collegiate Association (NCAA), which usually moves at the pace of a turtle in mud, acted immediately once the Freeh investigation was released. It loosed the lightening with a terrible swift sword.
NCAA President Mark Emmert, disgusted, forewent an investigation by his own association and used the Freeh results.
The penalties: Sixty million dollar fine to go to serve victims of child abuse, four year postseason ban, beginning in 2013 the loss of ten scholarships annually through the 2016-17 academic year and the vacating of 112 victories over 14 years. Those were the victories Paterno captured during which he and his henchmen knew what Sandusky was doing. Paterno free-fell from number one on the Division I wins list to eighth. The athletic department as a whole was put on five years probation.
The NCAA is allowing current players to transfer to another school if they desire without having to sit out the required one year. Also, recruits can look elsewhere. When this news was released, other schools’ coaches lined up outside Penn State’s athletic facilities like a job fair.
The Big Ten, on the NCAA’s coattails, will withhold $13 million in revenue for four years with the money directed toward abuse.
The “Death Penalty” in college football is shutting down a program for a certain amount of time. It happened to Southern Methodist University (SMU) in 1987 and when it was allowed to take the field again it was forever before the team didn’t resemble a Pop Warner outfit. If Penn State hadn’t accepted the NCAA punishment, it was looking at an empty Beaver Stadium for four years, other sanctions and a fine sky-rocketing above the $60 million. In fact a core group of NCAA school presidents wanted to euthanize the Nittany Lions.
School president Rodney Erickson shuddered at the thought of a deceased program. The economic impact of no football for four years was unacceptable. He quickly signed a decree accepting the NCAA penalties. The university Board of Trustees was kept in the dark and wanted to pile cut-block Erickson. Some even threatened to go to court to challenge his decision. Look up Stupid in the dictionary and you’ll see a picture of the board. Bruised pride over common sense.
Penn State is doing all the right things now. It accepted its punishment, is ready and willing to settle what is sure to be a host of lawsuits and is distancing itself from the former coach. A statue of Paterno was taken down and placed in the bowels of the stadium. Now it has been moved to parts unknown and hopefully won’t appear again. The Paterno name remains on the school library as the family provided $4 million toward its construction. Students should go read under a shady tree.
It’s still hard to believe for close followers of college football. Joe Paterno! Penn State! A first grader would supplant New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning before this would happen. Paterno still has his followers, mostly loud and angry students, who shout from the highest mountain that what has transpired is unfair. It’s fair, and aren’t students supposed to go to college for an education and not to sit in stands on Saturdays to watch football. That’s a pleasure and treat.
What’s in the future for Penn State football? It didn’t get the “Death Penalty,” but an agonizingly slow, painful hurt. The loss of scholarships is the dagger. Ten years to recover is the number being floated.
Here’s wishing Penn State well and a healthy return. Let the Nittany Lions roar. Most of all, God bless the victims of Jerry Sandusky and hope they have recovered or are recovering. You can’t say much about Sandusky, except he’ll experience eternal warmth. And finally, rest in peace Joe Paterno. Your legacy and reverence is in tatters.