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Aug. 6, 2012

Punishing "The Penn State Way"

by Michael Gerbasi, Online Sports Editor
Penn State University used to be known for their outstanding and historic football program, but now their famous legacy is forever scarred with scandal. National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) President Mark Emmert announced a number of sanctions against Penn State on July 23. This includes a $60 million fine, a four-year ban on post-season or bowl play, vacation of all wins from 1998 to 2011 and reduction in football scholarships. In addition, the statue of former head coach Joe Paterno was later taken down from the campus by the university.

As a result of the Sandusky scandal during former head coach Joe Paterno's tenure, the NCAA announced a number of sanctions against Penn State on July 23. Courtesy of The Chicago Tribune
As a result of the Sandusky scandal during former head coach Joe Paterno's tenure, the NCAA announced a number of sanctions against Penn State on July 23.
These harsh punishments are necessary, however, in order to begin the first step in healing a completely corrupt system that put the success of the football team over moral responsibilities. "They always put football first, before anything else, and everyone saw Paterno as a god, he was almost untouchable," Penn State graduate Sean Kirkendall claims. The school's football dominant culture was able to help cover up the Sandusky scandal, in which assistant coach Jerry Sandusky had been sexually abusing young boys for years. When Sandusky was finally caught, an investigation done by the NCAA found that much of the administration tried to hide the Sandusky scandal. It was this attempted cover up that truly made the situation even more terrible.

A few janitors saw Sandusky molesting a boy in the showers of the locker room but they were too afraid to report it due to fear of losing their jobs. According to a recent CNN article by Ann O'Neil, a janitor told investigators, "I know Paterno has so much power that if he had wanted to get rid of someone, I would have been gone. Football runs this university." According to the same article, there was one woman who stood up to Paterno, but to no avail: Vicky Triponey, who was the vice president of Penn State. Several times she had clashed with Paterno about the discipline the football players. Then, the breaking point came when six football players were arrested during an off-campus brawl. After weeks of heated arguments it was clear that Penn State no longer wanted Triponey anymore, and under pressure from her few bosses, Triponey resigned.

Jerrry Sandusky was convicted on 45 of 48 accounts of child abuse. Courtesy of The L.A. Times
Jerrry Sandusky was convicted on 45 of 48 accounts of child abuse.
That is truly "the Penn State way." Corrupted by such great success, nearly the entire university staff did whatever they could to protect the football team and Sandusky. They were more concerned with winning and pouring in millions of dollars into the university than with doing the right thing: instilling discipline and protecting all of the victimized young children. The NCAA's punishments, although harsh, was absolutely essential to rid Penn State of its corruption. Penn State was corrupt at all levels of its system so the only way to completely clear it was through such strict punishment.

The $60 million fine is basically a death sentence since the Penn State football program only made a profit of about $50 million during the 2011 season. However, the money paid to the NCAA will both bring the Penn State administration back to reality and show that there is zero tolerance for these scandals.

The four-year ban on post-season play will also help the school get off of their football high. Making the ban four years means that the team who played under Paterno and the corruption will be affected. It will allow for all of the reminders and remnants of the scandal to be clear away before Penn State returns to the post-season with a cleaner image.

The vacation of 13 years worth of wins will erase Penn State's immorally achieved success along with serving as a proper reminder of the horrible scandal and cover up. A football team does not deserve to win if they achieve their success the wrong way. Since that is exactly what the Penn State football team did for those thirteen years, they do not deserve all of those wins. Additionally, the 13 years with no wins will serve as a remembrance of the scandal and will therefore help prevent another similar one.

The reduced scholarships as well will help keep the Penn State football program from another football high. Having fewer scholarships will mean less success and dominance for the team, which is what really sparked the cover up in the fist place. The entire reason everyone tried to protect Sandusky and the football program was because they were so dominant and they did not want to ruin that. A few years of less success will help to bring back the moral values and responsibilities that were abandoned at the time of the scandal.

Quarterback Rob Bolden (left), among others, has announced that he is transferring from Penn State. Courtesy of U.S. Presswire
Quarterback Rob Bolden (left), among others, has announced that he is transferring from Penn State.
Some supporters of Paterno, however, say that the innocent Penn State players will be hurt by the penalties, but there is not much truth to that. There will always be other good schools and other good teams where incoming Penn State freshman and transfers can go, especially since the NCAA allowed current players to transfer freely and incoming players to break their commitments and go to other schools. Quarterback Rob Bolden, wide receiver Justin Brown and offensive lineman Ryan Nowicki among others have announced that they are transferring from Penn State to other schools.

"The Penn State way" was all about doing whatever was necessary to preserve the football program, even when it meant covering up such a large crime. Joe Paterno and the Penn State staff were convinced that they were doing the right thing in protecting the football program, when what they were really doing was only protecting themselves. Yet self-preservation is not the way to build integrity; doing the right thing is, which is exactly what the NCAA did in their punishments: the right thing.

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  • Alex Federman (View Email) on August 7, 2012 at 1:49 AM
    Hey Michael,
    As a Blair graduate and Penn State student, I'm disappointed to read this op/ed. I respect your opinion, but you seem to have gotten a number of facts wrong in this piece.

    -The statue of Paterno being taken down was a decision made by the University, not the NCAA.
    -"a completely corrupt system." Um, things aren't always in black or white. Also,
    -"much of the administration" -not really. As far as anyone knows, it was only four men involved in the "cover up."
    -"an investigation conducted by the NCAA." The investigation that the NCAA based their sanctions on was paid for by Penn State, and conducted by Louis Freeh and his consulting group. The only person to actually undergo the judicial process so far was Sandusky, everyone else has not actually legally been convicted of anything. Not that that excuses what they did, but the judgements were made before any real investigation.
    -About Vicky Triponey- don't believe everything you read in the news. Triponey was incredibly harmful to the student voice at PSU, shutting down the radio station because one show dared to criticize the administration and meddling in the student government. That CNN story reeks of her trying to set herself up as a hero, and you can read an incredibly well-written response from a student who had to fight with her here: I mean, look at those photos in CNN, and tell me they're not staged to create the most dramatic response they can get. The same story showed up in the Wall Street Journal back when the scandal first hit, and it's clear she's trying to sell her story to gain face. When a feature relies solely on anecdotal evidence from one person, it's definitely biased.
    -"nearly the entire university staff" Again, completely wrong. You do know that Penn State is a school too, right? Nobody outside of the football program knew about it. I suppose the students should be in trouble for going to the school too? You're starting to sound like The Onion (,28842/)
    -Not sure what this sentence means or how it makes sense: "Making the ban four years means that the team who played under Paterno and the corruption will be affected."

    If the NCAA did the "right thing," that means that they should make these kinds of sanctions for any other University with some kind of scandal or criminal activity. Would you agree with that?

    In general, I find it incredibly insulting that you think "Penn State was corrupt at all levels of its system" and that everything is about football. As a student here, I've definitely felt that football is important to the community, but I went here not even liking football, and there's a strong academic and cultural community too. How would you like it if I said that Blair was "corrupt on all levels" after hearing about something like a teacher stealing club money or something (offenses way on different levels, but similar applying some traits to an entire body). In this editorial, you're definitely letting emotion overcome logic and reporting, and that's something you should look out for.

    Feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions or comments.
  • John on August 7, 2012 at 8:56 AM
    The NCAA didn't rule to to take down the Paterno statue. The NCAA also didn't do an investigation. I stopped reading after that line because you obviously have no knowledge or facts on the situation. Embarrassingly inaccurate article.
  • Judie Cook (View Email) on August 7, 2012 at 7:03 PM

    This article is the best of any written so far on this sad state of affairs. The author clearly has the ability to put forth his thoughts in a concise manner without beating the reader over the head. I am impressed with this young man's talent, not only in writing but in thinking! Unfortunately, many young adults do not understand why" the hammer "was necessary in handing out punishments to PSU...Someone or something HAD to get the school's attention. I think they did!
  • Mike on August 7, 2012 at 10:11 PM
    The young writer, a self-described journalist, states: "Corrupted by such great success, nearly the entire [PSU] university staff did whatever they could to protect the football team and Sandusky."' This is a deliberately broad, unsubstantiated, and malicious statement against a diverse university population and has no place in respectable editorializing or journalistic reporting. To commend this young man for such blatant disregard for ethics only encourages further irresponsible and juvenile behavior.
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