Under duress, the school accepted the findings and sanctions and the athletes on the football team received a public flogging of the worst kind, even though the players weren’t involved in any part of the sordid mess. They were being penalized for a crime no team member committed.
The university, through its leaders, had committed serious sins and in this case was deserving of punishment. Nothing could be done to save Penn State’s from ridicule and shame. A $60 million fine against the university was staggering, but justifiable given the seriousness of the crime and the lack of proper response by PSU officials.
But penalizing the team with a loss of scholarships and a four-year ban on postseason play seemed like a serious hit on those who couldn’t stand up in court and plead “not guilty” to the horrible deeds. Emmert’s actions were a case of penalizing everyone on the Penn State campus regardless of what they knew or when they knew it.
The NCAA originally had cut the number of yearly football scholarships Penn State could award incoming players from 25 to 15. Beginning with the 2014-15 season, five will be restored. That still leaves Penn State at a major competitive disadvantage. Also, the postseason ban remains intact. But that too could be reviewed if attempts to improve “athletic integrity” are documented.
No one is trying to minimize the seriousness of the scandal at Penn State. But in this rush to judgment, the whole episode took on the appearance of mob mentality. People were going to pay whether they were part of the conspiracy or not.
In time, matters pending in the criminal justice system will be adjudicated, hopefully, in a fair and honest way. Sandusky has been convicted and will be imprisoned until the day he dies. Former legendary coach Joe Paterno has left this earth, less the last 111 victories of his career. Innocent young boys will forever carry the scars inflicted on them by a madman. Few will ever understand the suffering they have endured.
Regardless of how court dealings and NCAA sanctions play out, one wonders if happiness will ever return to Happy Valley. At Penn State, these remain sad times in a sad place.
Tom Lindley is a sports columnist for the CNHI News Service. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.