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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Jerry Sandusky and Penn State's Punishment

In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child-abuse scandal, in which head coach Joe Paterno and Penn State officials didn't do enough to put a stop to Sandusky (an investigation conducted by former FBI director Louis Freeh concluded that Paterno played a key role in concealing Sandusky's sexual crimes over at least an eight-year period, going so far as dissuading other university officials from reporting Sandusky to the authorities), the NCAA has come down hard on Penn State football. In particular, it has
  • fined Penn State $60 million,
  • stripped its football program of 40 scholarships,
  • banned it from playing in any bowl games for the next 4 years, and
  • vacated its 112 football victories from 1998 to 2011 (dropping Paterno from first to twelfth in the all-time wins list)
While the NCAA is obviously trying to make an example of Penn State, most of these penalties hurt current and former players more than they do Joe Paterno (who passed away back in January) or Jerry Sandusky. As a good friend and retired college professor put it to me in an email:
It seems to me that these sanctions are misdirected; that the people who committed the crimes in question have been, or are being, punished, and that the players and others who are being punished along with them had no part in them. I see a huge non sequitur in motion here. If I had a blog, this is what I would be writing about this morning. I know a rather sick culture has developed around college sports, but I am not sure this is the way to deal with it.
I agree. It's unclear to me why people who played or currently play for Penn State have to suffer the consequences of someone else's actions. Sandusky has been convicted and is in prison, and Paterno was fired and his statue was removed from in front of the Penn State football stadium. In my opinion, along with the $60 million fine, that's more than enough punishment. It's certainly more than the punishment that has been meted out to the USA Swimming association where dozens of coaches over several decades have been guilty of child-abuse and little or no action has been taken against board members who tried to cover the abuses up. That, however, is another story (and will be the topic of my next post).

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