Thursday, July 12, 2012

On the Freeh report

This is what I wrote in November of 2011.

About 99 percent of this jives with everything we found out today when former FBI Director Louis Freeh released his findings in a 260-something-page report that should make Joe Paterno apologists feel lucky the coach isn't still alive.

If he was, he'd be the target of a criminal investigation -- at the least, for lying to the grand jury about what he knew and when he knew it, and at the most for enabling, if not tacitly allowing a predatory pedophile to use access to the football program as a means to abuse children for over a decade.

In November, I wrote that everyone was dirty and nobody was clean with regard to this scandal, and that Penn State needs to completely start over. The university's board of trustees appears to have taken these developments with the appropriate degree of seriousness, but has not by any means begun to earn anything resembling the benefit of doubt.

During the board's press conference this afternoon, Penn State President Rod Erickson mentioned student athletics as a separate, enriching compliment to academic goals and achievements. That's true, they certainly can be. But nowhere in any of the university administrators' or trustees' statements did anyone say anything about the future of Penn State's football program. And that stands to reason -- they want to keep football. 

They shouldn't be allowed to. 

Now, the NCAA is waiting for Penn State's answers to a series of questions that will likely serve as the framework of the investigation that will determine what if any athletic penalties Penn State should incur for such gross institutional corruption.

This could really only go one of two ways:

1. The NCAA does nothing, or almost nothing. 
This is the argument being championed by pseudo-intellectuals like the PG's Ron Cook and CBS's Gregg Doyel says that the NCAA can't impose any penalty on Penn State because it has no jurisdiction over criminal matters, and that the judicial system will play out accordingly with regard to former PSU President Graham Spanier and officials Tim Curley and Gary Schultz.

2. The NCAA revokes Penn State's right to field a football team for at least one full year, after which the school may begin to rebuild its program under the close, watchful eye of outside authority, without scholarships and without post-season eligibility -- at least for five years. One of the only crimes for which the NCAA will impose the so-called "death penalty" on a program is lack of institutional control. If the board of trustees was as ignorant of what Spanier, Paterno, Curley and Schultz were covering up as Freeh's report says they were, is there any doubt that Penn State is an institution that completely lost control of its football program? Has a tail ever so blatantly wagged its dog?

"Whoa," cry the apologists, "this is an isolated incident, and Penn State is a first-time offender!"

The NCAA imposed the death penalty on both Morehouse College's soccer team and MacMurray College's men's tennis team, even though both schools were first-time offenders. Are ineligible players, recruiting violations and illegal scholarships worse crimes for athletic program administrators to commit than covering up years of systematic child rape?

Even more mind-numbing and offensive are the apologists who say, "This has nothing to do with football," and "It's not fair to punish the current students and student-athletes for these wrongdoings."

Sure, if you count backwards, divide by pi and set up the mirrors at just the right angles, that's what it looks like the NCAA would be doing by imposing effectively killing Penn State football. But students can go to school wherever they want, and athletes can transfer -- which I bet many of them would be allowed to do without sitting out for the year the NCAA typically requires. Anyone who says this has nothing to do with football should be hospitalized. Freeh's findings display concrete evidence that Paterno, the football coach, knew as far back as 1998 that Sandusky was engaging in criminal behavior, and using the football program to do it. Paterno could have stomped this out back then. If he'd gone against Spanier, Curley and Schultz and turned Sandusky in, he'd have been hailed as a hero, and the program would be even stronger for it. But he didn't do that. He ducked and covered to preserve power, to save face. The only just punishment in this instance is to burn this program to the ground and force Penn State to rebuild it from scratch. 

I don't think the NCAA will do anything. In fact, I'll be shocked if Penn State incurs any discipline or penalties as a result of this scandal, and they'll point to the aforementioned jurisdiction argument. That's unequivocally the wrong path. The NCAA has the clear evidence of the kind of misconduct for which it hands out the death penalty, and it has the ability to doll it out. Everything they need  to begin to help right a wrong is there, and Penn State is never going to penalize itself. But the NCAA probably won't pull the trigger. They should.

For years, Penn State has preached "success with honor." Let's give them a chance to finally make good on that.

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