By Josh Kramer
409 victories. 61 years. 24 bowl wins. Three Big Ten Championships. Two National Championships. And one massive mistake. How many times have each of us been told, “The reputation of a thousand years may be determined by the conduct of one hour (or something similar)?” Joe Paterno was a man who seemingly did everything right. He was larger than life in Happy Valley. With the release of the 267-page Freeh report, the truth has been set free. Paterno’s legacy will forever be tarnished, and deservedly so. The former God-Like figure in Happy Valley will now be forever associated with victims, and not wins.
I by no means am a Penn State fan or critic. Nor “was” I a fan or critic of Paterno. I always respected the coach who was known as the “embodiment of integrity.” Now I have no respect for Paterno, the Penn State football program, and all involved in this horrific cover-up. Happy Valley by no means is a “Happy” place these days.
Paterno was quoted as saying, “You did what you had to do. It’s my job now to figure out what we want to do.” Joe obviously didn’t “want” to do the right thing. So what happens next? We already know that Jerry Sandusky will be spending the rest of his life in prison. But what happens to the Penn State football program? Sure Paterno’s statue should be taken down immediately. Could we see the first football death penalty in over 25 years though?
Initially I thought Penn State receiving the “Death Penalty” would not be fair. But not stepping up to Sandusky over the course of at least a 14-year period was not fair to the kids and their families. The lives of at least ten boys and their respective families/friends have been forever altered.
Many naturally think if Ohio State has to miss a bowl game this year, then how can Penn State not receive a harsher punishment? Well this is entirely different from the situation in Columbus. All of the culprits were disciplined. Jim Tressel was punished in a way (forced resignation). Players involved in the “Tattoo Five” were punished via suspensions. Then others bring up the current situation with North Carolina’s football program. Players received improper benefits from agents and embarked in academic fraud. North Carolina is not eligible for postseason play this year. In terms of Penn State’s situation though, Sandusky is going to prison. Joe Paterno was fired and has since passed away. Former school President Graham Spanier was forced into resigning. The former athletic director Timothy Curley is currently suspended and has been indicted for perjury. Here is where things get extra sticky though. The current football players had nothing to do with this awful situation. 85 players are on scholarship to play football at Penn State in the Fall plus numerous walk-ons. So can you really punish the current football program, and if so, how severely?
This is a much more difficult question than one would think. A cover-up of a monster’s horrific acts on children. Is that a major NCAA violation? One would think. We know it is a massive criminal offense. But how do you punish the current team? What should the actions of the NCAA be moving forward? Happy Valley was once one of the happiest places in all the land. That is no longer the case. When arriving at Beaver Stadium, brace yourself.
Welcome to heartbreak.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.