Death Penalty Warranted In Penn State Case

I wanted to wait awhile before commenting on the Freeh Report which exposed an apparent cover-up at Penn State with regard to former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky and his sexual abuse of young boys that may have begun as early as the 1970s.

Still mindful of the scorched-earth policy most pundits chose last year when Ohio State found itself squarely in the crosshairs of a particularly nasty chain of events that cost the university arguably the best football coach it has ever had and subsequently wrecked the 2011 season, I found myself strangely reluctant to pull the trigger on criticism of Penn State officials, particularly former head coach Joe Paterno.

I have tried to balance the information emanating from the Freeh Report with testimonials from the Paterno family as well as a feeling of genuine compassion for Sandusky’s victims from Penn State alumni and State College residents.

Unfortunately, no measure of loyalty or compassion can erase the fact that crimes were committed – egregious, heinous crimes against defenseless young children – and that those crimes were systematically (and some would say ruthlessly) covered up by a Penn State administration that included president Graham Spanier, vice president Gary Schultz, athletic director Tim Curley and Paterno.

For that reason, I believe the NCAA has no choice but to suspend the Penn State football program for a period of at least one year.

The NCAA has implemented its so-called death penalty only five times before and just once to a major college football program. Southern Methodist University, which had boasted the nation’s highest winning percentage during the five-year period from 1980-84, saw its program shut down in 1987 amid a pay-for-play scandal. SMU resumed playing football in 1989 but didn’t enjoy another winning season until 1997. Additionally, the Mustangs, who made four bowl trips in five seasons in the early 1980s, didn’t make another postseason appearance until 2009.

Because it effectively left the SMU program in ruins for the better part of two decades, the NCAA has been exceedingly reluctant to use the death penalty option again, and there is no doubt that shutting down a multimillion-dollar program such as Penn State would have far-reaching effects.

Arguments have been made that such a punitive measure would do more harm than good. For example, benching the Nittany Lions would punish the program’s current coaches and players, none of whom had anything whatsoever to do with the Sandusky case or its cover-up. Likewise, the team’s opposition – eight Big Ten rivals and four nonconference opponents – would be left with a gaping hole on their schedules, creating a financial burden that could threaten their own respective programs and athletic department budgets.

In 2012, Penn State has seven home games on its schedule and expects more than 100,000 people to jam their way into Beaver Stadium on those Saturday afternoons. Canceling those games also cancels the millions of dollars of revenue that pours into Happy Valley during each home game weekend.

The argument has also been made that lives have already been ruined by the Sandusky scandal, so ruining more lives by shutting down the Penn State football program is not the answer.

I have additionally heard the debate from Penn State alumni who contend that because they had nothing to do with the scandal, they should not be ridiculed and their alma mater should not be sanctioned. “We love our school because it’s a community of good people,” one alum wrote to USA Today. “We’re not defined by Jerry Sandusky … and we never will be.”

That is the precisely the kind of rationalization that brought Penn State to where it is today. When a university harbors a serial sexual predator of young children and unapologetically covers it up for decades, the cold, hard truth is that the university is and should be defined by its actions.

Likewise, the disturbing acts of stubbornness and defiance from the Paterno family continues to display an astounding lack of understanding with regard to the gravity of the situation. The hiring of lawyers to comb through the 267-page Freeh report and perform a “comprehensive review” of the findings smacks only of a bald-faced attempt to protect Paterno’s legacy as well as the family fortune.

I know what the NCAA death penalty would mean to Penn State football. It would cease to exist as most of us have known it for all our lives. It would deal a serious blow not only to the university and the Big Ten, but to the college football brand itself.

Then again, it would also hopefully serve as a deterrent to any university official, any coach, or anyone connected with college football that crimes the severity of those committed by Sandusky – and the subsequent cover-up engineered by his superiors – cannot and will not be tolerated.



  1. Outside the Domain of Pennsylvania, there ISN’T an Area of The Country where EVERYONE doesn’t feel the Same. The legacy of Joe paterno needs to be Rewritten. The ENTIRE PSU Mantra of of “Success with Honor” comes into question with HOW Much Tweaking and Twisting of Facts, How much Cover-up Took place over the Years in Happy Valley. They were Happy alright……back in the Day when The Machine Could MANIPULATE the Facts, The Information and Deceive the Rest of Us. I personally N-E-V-E-R believed for One Iota that Penn State was the ‘Lily White Bastion of Academia’ and I lived in The Commonwealth for 14 years. Time will Show that Penn state Is/Was as DIRTY as they come. The Entire University needs to Pay A Price that Maybe only a few Committed, but that “Holier than Thou” Portrayal needs to be Buried along with that Over Inflated, Godlike Reverance to Joe Paterno. And I’ll Give them “We Are…..!” (We KNOW what You Are. ENABLERS and Liars)

  2. Food afternoon Mark, first of all I Do Not believe this Terrible Situation that was ongoing at Penn State for all those years needs to be finalized by the “media” both voice and written. If the NCAA with it’s loosely defined rules deem it necessary to Penalize Penn State let it happen. Also if The Big Ten merits that some type of Punishment is needed let th do exactly that. As well Ohio State Loyalist know first hand the NCAA can not get out of their way at times. What about the much needed punishment for the “U”,where is that. Hasn’t happened and may never happen. Also in the SEC, the corner of the Rug can be lifted so high as to sweeping all the Violations Under there. In closing,Mark I have all the Respect for Coach Tressel but in my eyes your statement about him being the best ever at Ohio State is clouded. Are “You” kicking The Grand Old Man and Coach out the door???? I am talking about Coach Woody Hayes. Have Faith. Go Bucks !!!!

    • “Arguably the best football coach it has ever had.” No disrespect to Coach Hayes because the word “arguably” makes the difference.

    • NCAA does need to act. For one, I don’t like the idea of punishing those left behind — namely the students and players. Ohio State got a rather harsh penalty given the difference in circumstance. A few tatoes and jerseys?? Are you kidding me! Time will tell what the NCAA will do. If they don’t do something soon, I think PSU is smart not engaging in self flagellation. After all, it surely didn’t help Ohio State. As far as the best coach, Woody was a ledgend. Time will tell if Urbanization is a good as expected. Be patient, my firend, and GO BUCKS.

  3. No death penalty…PSU administration needs to do the following pertaining to their football program..

    blow up Paterno’s statue and remove his name from everything affiliated with the school..

    vacate PSU wins 2001 – 2011

    3-5 yr bowl ban

    tv ban for 3 years

    • OUCH! Maybe a little harsh coming from Me…..and I have No Warm Feelings for penn State and the Nittany Kitties by ANY Means. The Statue needs to Go, no doubt about it……it is No Different than the Iconic Statue of Sadaam Hussein that had his head decapitated and toppled. penn State will forever be RIDDICULED as Long as it remains. Paterno was a FRAUD. Death Penalty may be a bit harsh but They SHOULD be Banned from TV for at least Five Years (they are disgraceful). A Bowl Ban would be Acceptable but essentially You would be making the Other 11 Conference members to take a hit financially with the current Revenue Sharing in place. What the Big Ten SHOULD DO is ask Penn State to LEAVE the Conference……..they would not be missed. Most people wouldn’t care and many of THEIR Fans never liked the BigTen anyways. Penn Rape never was a “Good Fit” irregardless of what Some People had You believe. After the latest travails in Happy Valley…….they are Baggage…….BAD Baggage. Get Rid of Them while The Iron is H-O-T!

      • But doesn’t NOT issuing a bowl ban because it hurts the current revenue structure feed into the notion that football is more important? I don’t think the death penalty is warranted, but sanctions worse than USC (3-5 year bowl ban) should be levied.

      • I am Very Much an ADVOCATE of a MAJOR Ban on Penn State Football and an Unprecedented Slap on PSU as an Institution for One of the Most Blatant Abuses of LOIC. The Inbred Culture at Penn State needs to be Addressed. EVERY Facet of the University needs to be Scutinized at this point. No Television Exposure or revenues for a certain period of time and under NO Circumstance should Penn State be allowed to represent The Big Ten for at least 5years in ANY BCS Game. They are an EMBARASSMENT. “IF” the NCAA drops the ball on This Issue and doesn’t Levy a Serious verdict on Penn State for what took place , the entity known as the NCAA needs to be disolved itself. they Need to PAY, and Pay Dearly.

      • The Penn State culture refused to let the small children have their day in court so why are you so insistant that it all be settled in court. The NCAA has its place to try to maintain some order in sports. Penn State created their own special order that common descency rules do not apply to them. A female member of the Board of Penn State still doesn’t get it and is living in a fantasy world, Her arrogance is much like many of the old regime – get some new blood. A clean sweep should be in order, I was a football player but I realize their are more important things than football.

  4. The NCAA should get out of the wayand let the courts deal with a crime for which the NCAA has no authority.

    • No doubt the courts will deal with this case accordingly. But to say the NCAA has no authority … just what in your estimation would a university have to do to get a lack of institutional control charge?

      • Your getting broad based. Site the example of where a cival crime has been committed at a University and the NCAA has
        entered into a sanction as well. He hasn`t even gone thru appeal and you jump the gun GO BUCKS

  5. While I agree with you, your last paragraph doesn’t really make sense. You are saying that even with SMU’s death penalty, paying players never went away – yet you are arguing that PSU needs the death penalty to assure the NCAA doesn’t have to deal with this kind of thing two decades from now. Seems counter-intuitive.

    • Agreed. I have edited out the final paragraph.

  6. If SMU got the death penalty for paying a few players then how much worse is a football program that enables rape to little boys?

  7. One Year (365 days)..Two Years (365 days)..Three Years (365 days)…Four Years (365 days)…Five Years (365 days)…Six Years (365 days)…Seven Years (365 days)…Eight Years (365 days)…Nine Years (365 days)…Ten Years (365 days)..Eleven Years (365 days)..Twelve Years (365 days)…Thirteen Years (365 days)…FOURTEEN YEARS (365 days)….ENOUGH SAID !!

  8. After reading all the comments up to here, I believe that the following should take place. 1. The B10 “requests” that PSU leaves the conference (immediately). 2. The NCAA should apply the death penalty to the PSU football program. This wasn’t just a money issue, this was the worst kind of coverup one could imagine. The only way it could have been worse would have had Coach Paterno as the pervert instead of an assistant coach. This was a coverup from the TOP down! There is no other way the NCAA can look at this. If the NCAA does not give the death penalty, then they are a disgrace to collegiate sports.

  9. The death penalty is a negative sum game. Take all FB gate and TV proceeds and donate to child abuse charities. Let the kids play and let the admins figure out how to pay for girls lacrosse.

    • Sorry, I Do Not agree with this notion At All. The Penn State Program needs to Pay a Hefty Price. “The Game does NOT Go On” or You are merely admitting mistakes were made, “Let’s Move On”. Allowing PSU to continue to PLAY ON with no penalties is what is The problem in This Country on most fronts. Fine a driver $200 for going 20 mph over the speed limit yet allow a Corporate Embezeller to do Community Service after they bilked millions from a Fund or innocent people. “Why?” Because they are Good People or They came from a good Family or I see them in Church regularly? It is BS like this that Really Chafes My Arsce. SLAM The Door on Penn State……..they sure as hell wanted to Do So on OSU over Tattoos. make them pay.

  10. Amen to your thoughful suggestions. I believe, the Penn State atrocities may be the benchmark of reference forever more in college athletics. I just can’t think of any examples that come close to what we have witnessed in the past year or so.

    In this instance, a civil case could be made that the cover up by the university itself is tantamount to continuing to provide what amounts to illegal funds for coaches….in this case Paterno and Sandusky…and perhaps others, that knowingly broke the law and should have been fired.

    And somewhere in that voluminous rule book that finds fault with any little transgression, isn’t that a violation of NCAA bylaws.

    But thats just a minor part of all of this when compared to the moral crimes that transcend the technical legalities.

    However, it sure looks like there is a nexus here that will allow the NCAA to take severe action. And anything less, will forever minimize the credibility of this institution (the NCAA) that has a history of arbitrary and subjective decision making.

    Not to mention a few years of upcoming sensationalized public trials that Penn State will have to endure when families and victims bring details to court that could easily cost the university hundreds of millions of dollars. The public would have every right to ask again and again..”why did the NCAA fail to act..”

    And that will kill NCAA credibility going forward.

    In all, the reprehensible disgust is just overwhelming and will not go away. Not now. And perhaps never.

    • Excellent Post. “IF” this Scandal is NOT a CLEAR Example of LOIC, there will Never Be One. Should the NCAA choose to NOT Sanction Penn State and most certainly it’s Football Program ,why Not Make the Infamous Shower Room of the Lasch Building a ‘MUST SEE’ visit for Campus Visitors. The Lies, Cover-Up and Hidden Agenda of Joe Paterno need to be EXPOSED and ALL applicable Parties Punished. Paterno was a FRAUD and History needs to Truly Document It.

  11. WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!As a Buckeye fan for all of my 64 years, and a parent of four Penn State Grads, I am sick and tired of pundits all piling on the Penn State situation and wanting to brand all Penn State Alums with a scarlet letter.Without having Paterno available to comment on the emails that mention his name you can’t get the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I can read the marginal notes attributed to Paterno and the other emails that say the individual (Curley) talked to Paterno and changed his mind and with an open mind conclude a totally different interpretation.

    • You don’t think that if Paterno was still around he wouldn’t obfuscate like he did while he was still around?

  12. I agree completely with your assessment in regard to the need for the death penalty. Every single defense I have heard has been about the impact that would have on PSU players, coaches, students, local businesses, the B1G, and even the NCAA. I’m sorry, but isn’t this how PSU got to where they are now? They didn’t worry about the impact on all those children but only about Paterno and PSU et. al. It makes me sick to read any form of defense for that fraudulent, enabling, joke of a university. It was (is?) corrupt from the top down, academia and sports alike. I say give them a 3 year death penalty and then relegate them to Division 2 for another 11 years. This is precisely how long (that we know of) that people at that place covered up for a child raping monster. I also feel they should vacate all wins from 1997-2011, including bowl wins, and they should have to donate all revenue made from the football program during this span of abuse to child abuse awareness.

    • PSU fans, Paterno’s family, and school administrators still do not get it. Children are more important than their culture,

      • I applaud The Media that covered This Story, as Horrific as It Is. May the Victim’s find Comfort in KNOWING that Citizen’s Around The World sympathize with a terrible situation they were placed In. Hopefully People will NEVER Forget what happened at Penn State and May The Penn State Faithful come to terms with a Forever Tarnished Reputation that has affected All Alumni, Student and Benefactors……people that may have Not been directly Involved with The Situation but You were All part of a Cult that ENABLED IT. ANd No One will Forgive You for That.

  13. Today, July 23rd is a GLORIOUS DAY! The Lion’s Roar has been Silenced! Penn State is fortunate that More Severe penalties were NOT Sanctioned. Much more could have and should have been done………NO Television Exposure and Expulsion from The Conference. The Shame and Black Eye that Penn State represents will NOT Be Forgotten. The Penalty Does Not Suit The CRIME and Their Fans still Do NOT GET IT! I Thank The NCAA for their SWIFT Action……….surprising to say the Least.

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