At a little after nine o’clock this morning, the penalties earned Joe Paterno his firing, and the monster that is Jerry Sandusky over were brought down on Pennsylvania State University by NCAA president Mark Emmert.
And with a thud heard ‘round the world, the legacy of the late head coach, worshipped by tens of thousands of people who watched the Nittany Lions, played on the team, or worked with Paterno as part of his staff, fell to its very deserved end.
Sixty million dollars, the equivalent to one season’s worth of revenue, gone.
Fourteen seasons of wins, from 1998-2011, stricken from the record books, thereby rendering Paterno’s record of being the winningest college football coach of all time as simply a fond memory to those involved.
The chance for football players to represent Penn State in the postseason? Dead until 2016.
Want to play for Penn State on scholarship? Better hope you make it; the team lost 40 spots over a 4-year period. And if you’re already on the team and disgusted by the fact that Jerry Sandusky had sex with ten-year-old boys in the very same shower you’ll be using every home game, take heart; in that same four-year span, you can get out immediately, transfer to another school in plenty of time for the season to start. Or, should you not want to play football but stay at the school, you will be allowed to retain your scholarship pending eligibility.
And throughout all of this, Penn State will serve a five-year probationary period, overseen directly by the NCAA. Every move will be watched, every action scrutinized from the beginning.
So ends the darkest, most reprehensible scandal in sports history to ever take place. The petty, esoteric arguments about steroids in baseball, players putting bounties on opposing teams’ players, or doping in cycling mean absolutely nothing anymore. A sexual predator was allowed to roam free on Penn State’s campus and on their staff, preying on little boys that looked up to that man as a role model and leader. And while there can be no comparison to the magnitude of the level of heinousness of this scandal to the others, there is one very glaring, very clear similarity to these other scandals: The level to which people will go to protect, or create, their legacies.
The Louis Freeh report spoke of this in its summary:
Four of the most powerful people at the Pennsylvania State University-President Graham B. Spanier, Senior Vice President-Finance and Business Gary C. Schultz, Athletic Director Timothy M. Curley and Head Football Coach Joseph V. Paterno-failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade. These men concealed Sandusky’s activities from the Board of Trustees, the University community and authorities. They exhibited a striking lack of empathy for Sandusky’s victims by failing to inquire about their safety and well-being, especially by not attempting to determine the identity of the child who Sandusky assaulted in the Lasch Building in 2001. Further, they exposed this child to additional harm by alerting Sandusky, who was the only one who knew the child’s identity, of what McQueary saw in the shower on the night of February 9, 2001.
Joe Paterno will no longer be remembered the way he and so many others wanted to be. Instead of the honor of being the patron saint of Happy Valley so many wanted him to be, or being the legendary coach held in the same regard as Vince Lombardi, Tom Landry and others, Paterno lies in his grave now as one of many that were complicit in the sacrifice of the lives, psyches, and bodies of hundreds of children in the name of a contact sport. The example of the insecurity that a long, unchallenged, uninterrupted reign can bring will forever live on, even as Joe Paterno’s husk lies rotting in his casket. In death, Paterno would bring deserved shame, disgust, and ultimately, the hammer down on the university he spent an entire lifetime coaching.
While there are some at this moment that call for the death of the football program at Penn State, the fact is that this was the most humane way to punish the school without endangering the futures of the young men neither involved in, or if possible, aware of the horrors in Happy Valley. An out-and-out execution of Penn State’s football program would have been both unnecessary and overkill. For those with talent and potential enough to earn a spot at this prestigious yet infamous school, the opportunity to don another uniform upon further education of the events that will forever cast a pallor of shock and disgust upon the school whose colors they would represent is beyond benevolent. To take away the opportunities of the innocent would have been unjust.
Throughout the day, and for the foreseeable future, the discussion will rage on about the fairness or otherwise of what took place this morning. But thankfully, no more children will suffer at the hands of Jerry Sandusky, Joe Paterno, or anyone else at Pennsylvania State University.