Nobody Cares That Penn State Got Railroaded by the NCAA
The world no longer cares whether Penn State University was wronged by the NCAA when, two years ago, the organization imposed crippling sanctions on the Nittany Lions football program.
So what’s come to light this week — that not only did the NCAA bluff Penn State into accepting the sanctions, but the chief “independent” investigator PSU hired to sort out the Jerry Sandusky scandal at the school was actually in bed with the NCAA all along — is almost irrelevant.
Nobody’s talking about it. ESPN.com had the latter item on its home page Wednesday for a little while. By night fall, the item had been moved to the NCAA football page, and buried down the list of items; even below the blockbuster scoop that the University of Michigan president apologized to his lousy football coach for making harsh statements about his team being loaded with lousy students.
Here’s what most people are comfortable in believing: Penn State was a pompous institution that deserved to be sawed off by the NCAA because its glorious football program was harboring and protecting a valuable assistant coach who just happened to be a predator, all for the sake of winning football games.
And what a load of astonishing malarkey.
I don’t have enough time to get into the chapters and verses that define the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Sandusky was a walking sickness, a pedophile who sexually abused children. The profile for that species is that they operate in covert, concealing their abhorrent behavior from everyone, even those who hover closely in their lives. The notion that Penn State officials, the head coach, and all assistant coaches, would all be permissive to Sandusky’s behavior had they known about it, just to win football games, is wholly ridiculous.
If you examine the timeline, rather than falling back on the perception that “Penn State bad,” it doesn’t even measure up. Sandusky was no longer a coach on the Nittany Lions staff when the episodes became actionable. If you want to believe that Penn State officials should have shut down his access to campus as part of his retirement package, you would not be wrong. If you’d like to believe that Joe Paterno should have seen to it that Sandusky was no longer allowed on campus, fine. But open your mind to anything else.
I’m a sports talk host, and also an attorney who teaches a course on Sports Law at St. Joseph’s University. The Penn State case occupies my class for at least three weeks of a term. From the jump, it was my position that the NCAA had no standing to issue the punishment they did — much less the so-called threat of a “death penalty” that would have shut down the football program — because the organization denied Penn State due process, a sacrosanct provision of the United States Constitution. The emails that just became public, revealing that the NCAA was trying to snare Penn State in a bluff, confirm that. Had Penn State decided to fight the NCAA’s punishments in court, they would have prevailed solidly.
So from whom was Penn State getting their legal advice, Saul Goodman from Breaking Bad?
At the time the Penn State scandal broke, the NCAA was reeling. It was being pilloried as a soft and useless organization in the face of academic and cheating scandals. And this was the chance to shoot their big gun.
In accepting the sanctions, maybe PSU president Rodney Erickson figured that any overt action to explore such legal channels would make it look like Penn State sanctioned child abuse. But he hung the school out to dry. And to boot, he brings in Louis Freeh, the former FBI director, with a mandate to find something wrong. Freeh did, to the tune of countless inaccuracies in his report and terribly faulty conclusions.
Sandusky went to jail. But what of Penn State?
The $60 million fine had to tear, at least temporarily, into the quality of education. What about the future students who had to turn away from a Penn State education because of collateral tuition increases? What of team members who had nothing to do with Jerry Sandusky, punished accordingly, and tainted for wearing the colors of “that scandal school.” What about the State College workers who had to be laid off because commerce during football season was down.
I know. You don’t care. You’ve already made up your mind.