State College, PA - Centre County - Central Pennsylvania - Home of Penn State University

Reduction Of Sanctions The Right Move, But Not Because They Were Always Wrong

by on September 08, 2014 3:30 PM

Penn State's 2011 recruiting class has had four head coaches.

They have had four defensive coordinators.

They have had three different coaching staffs.

They've been told that the school they picked was one focused only on athletics. That the hundreds of academic All-Americans were simply by chance. That Penn State had been built on the idea that football was the only important thing. Forget the football player who teaches a math class or the one with a 4.0. Forget the fact the NCAA's own academic standards are dwarfed by the performance of a school whose academic achievements come in well above average. Those things must have been decades long bouts of luck.

There will never be a moment when society feels that Penn State can now forget the horrible things that Jerry Sandusky did. And because people value history and the importance of learning from it there never should be a moment where that is simply a footnote in the program's history.

There will never be a moment when Penn State's ability to play in a bowl game is more important than the lives that Jerry Sandusky ruined. 

But as you meet and talk with all of the players who are in the Penn State program and have gone through the program, you have a hard time finding the one who should be blamed for what Sandusky did.

Certainly, there is an argument to be made that Penn State football had to pay somehow. Even though Sandusky's crimes were far, far removed from any NCAA rule or regulation, simply letting Penn State walk away would be nearly as egregious as those crimes.

The $60 million in fines will help pay that debt in some tangible fashion. The bowl ban and scholarship restrictions helped knock the program down a peg. Sanctions helped appease a pitchfork armed crowd, and give the NCAA a sense that it could control the situation. The Freeh Report's general assumptions overshadowed legitimate and positive improvements that have impacted schools beyond just Penn State. But through it all there was no real feeling of justice beyond the sight of a horrible man being sent away to live out the rest of his life in jail.

The news that the NCAA will allow Penn State to become bowl eligible again this year and reinstate scholarships next season is a step in the right direction.

Not because Penn State didn't deserve to be punished but because 100 or so young men have been serving out the sentence of another and have carried that burden long enough. They are the face of a man they never knew and problems born into the world at nearly the same time that they were.

There is no catharsis for Penn State today. The program and the university will forever be linked to horrible acts and horrible judgements that followed. Nothing can erase that, and nothing should.

But the Jerry Sandusky scandal has brought with it a sanction that the NCAA could never hand down. A story that will never leave a town that never asked for it. Families and children hurt, dreams shattered. 

Penn State football doesn't deserve to go to a bowl game because it never deserved to be punished. The university shouldn't get more scholarships simply because it has "been long enough" since the scandal happened.

But the 2014 Penn State football team has been punished long enough. For a story that has done nothing but dish out heartbreak and unhappiness, Monday's news was a chance to bring the light of hope into a place that has seen so little of it.

A time to heal, a time to remember and a time to move forward.

And while this is so infrequently said, today, the NCAA got it right.



Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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NCAA Lifts Penn State Bowl Ban, Restores Scholarships Based on Mitchell Report Recommendations
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by Jennifer Miller
NCAA Lifts Penn State Bowl Ban, Restores Scholarships Based on Mitchell Report Recommendations
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