This morning the Freeh Report was released, bringing with it some semblance of closure to the nightmare that has been the Jerry Sandusky Case. Both SportsBronco and I reacted to this story when it first broke. Our reaction was fairly consistent with what you’d expect. I believe my words were, “If this had happened to my kids I would have beaten Sandusky with my fists until he ceased to live.” So moving forward, know that I am in no way defending the crimes that occurred under Penn State’s watch, (he was convicted so we can drop the “alleged” tag).
That being said, we need to draw a proverbial line in the sand here. On one side is the court system, on the other is the NCAA. A very similar line had to be drawn between the court system and the NFL in regards to the bounty scandal. Just because something was against NFL policy didn’t make it a crime. In a similar sense, just because crimes occurred at Penn State doesn’t mean they are NCAA violations. Now I’m sure we’re about five minutes away from a picture of Jerry Sandusky going viral on Facebook with a caption that reads, “Death Penalty for Penn State Football, think of the kids. Like if you agree. Ignore if you’re a heartless bastard who doesn’t care about the broken lives of the children.” What the creator of that picture will failed to have realized is that the NCAA has two main concerns as it relates to any scandal:
- Improper (extra) benefits for players
- Lack of institutional control
The question then becomes, did either of these occur at Penn State? At no point throughout this investigation has anyone alleged an improper benefit for a player. As far as I can tell no player has been involved in the scandal in any way. That leaves only the potential offense of lack of institutional control. The Freeh Report alleges that University President Graham Spanier, Vice President Gary Schultz, and Athletic Director Tim Curley all knew about the incidents and took steps to conceal them. That is the diametric opposite of lack of institutional control.
So, my advice to you, slacktivist who is about to unleash your fury upon the world, if you want to advocate for the statue of Joe Paterno to be taken down, go ahead. I’ve never been big on statues of coaches anyhow. I can think of three I’d like to have taken down tomorrow.
But asking for the death penalty is wrong for a couple of reasons. First, you’d be asking the NCAA to step way outside of its bounds. In a way, this is akin to asking your homeowners association to take your neighbor’s home away because he got a DUI. Secondly, it’s misguided in that it will only punish people who had nothing to do with what happened. The vast majority of people who had anything to do with the cover up are terminated, dead, or incarcerated. They are no longer a part of Penn State. You’d quite literally be punishing 19-year olds for the sins of a dead man.
Also lost in all of the anger surrounding this story and the cries for the Death Penalty is precedent. It was not quite a year ago that Yahoo! Sports broke the story that Nevin Shapiro had provided cash, drugs, prostitutes, and other illicit benefits to 72 University of Miami football players over the course of nine years, with at least some university knowledge of these activities. That was the very definition of both extra benefits and lack of institutional control. Miami got nothing approaching the death penalty for a far reaching, years long systematic flaunting of the rules. So why would/should Penn State get it for something that is outside the NCAA’s reach?
Is this a horrible story? Of course. Sandusky is in jail. Outside of hell I can’t think of a place more deserving of his presence. Joe Paterno is dead and his legacy is being shredded postmortem with today’s report detailing his knowledge of and failure to stop the crimes Sandusky committed. Penn State has cleaned house in their executive and athletic offices. But these details have nothing to do with NCAA violations and should not lead to NCAA penalties against the school.