Banging the Doldrums: Penn State Football Deserves Death Penalty, Won’t Get It


The Frees report may as well be the adult admission that there is no Santa Claus. Yesterday thousands of Penn State, and college football fans in general discovered that the last great beacon of heroism and virtue had knowingly empowered a child molester for the past 13 years.

In 267 damning pages, former FBI Director Louis Freeh leads an investigation that outlines Paterno’s knowledge of at least one serious incident between Sandusky and a child on the Penn State campus, and was later complicit in a 13 year cover-up of the events to protect the reputation of the football program and the university.

With those findings in mind even to the most sentimental of hearts it’s tough to see Joe Pa as coming from any better cut of clothe than an Urban Meyer or a Nick Saban. Was Joe Paterno the highly virtued man we thought, or was that all a facade, the virtue little more than ornamentation on an elaborate costume designed to make us see exactly what he wanted us to?

That’s frankly another discussion entirely, but one of the many new wounds that the Penn State community must try to heal from. But that’s fairly superficial compared to the deeper issue, the one that will undoubtedly come to light in the next few days.

Penn State football deserves the death penalty.

This isn’t SMU, this isn’t pay-for-play, this is so much worse it’s unimaginable. This a university willfully putting its own reputation over the well-being of innocent children, hell practically sacrificing the innocence of children to protect their own self interest. This is a group of men who decided that the image of the football program, those iconic plain white helmets and navy jerseys, was above the welfare of children, when they had repeated indications there was a serious problem.

To be blunt, this was a group of men who knew an employee was raping children in their facilities but didn’t want to rock the boat.

To me, and I’m sure to a great many others, there could be no better indication that you no longer have a firm grasp on any sort of moral compass. Even the roughest prisons have unwritten codes the punish child rape, yet for 13 years at Penn State nobody said anything despite knowledge a highly celebrated former coach with full access to their facilities was carrying on inappropriately with children on school grounds?

That’s not lack of institutional control, that’s lack of institutional values. That’s worse.

The problem is, the NCAA shares those same values (or lack thereof) and that’s why Penn State will get to keep playing football.

The values we’re referring to, or really value (singular) is money. Profitability. It’s why nobody wanted to make too big a fuss about Sandusky at Penn State. Sure there were issues with old friendships and loyalties, but the bottom line was that when this all came to light Penn State was on the decline and with Joe Pa pushing 70, a scandal likely could have been enough to start unseating him.

It would have killed the University too.

The men at the top got together and decided that was a worse possibility than continuing to let Sandusky operate…

Think about it, from 1998-2004 Joe Pa and Penn State were 45-39. News that Paterno’s lifelong coaching assistant was a child molester would do little to engender support from a fanbase that was beginning to grow impatient, in addition to hurting what were already diminishing football revenues as the team struggled.

Bottom-line, things were tough, money was down, it was not a good time for a scandal so profit dictated that nothing be said. 13 years later, it was too late to get out in front of the story…

Here’s where we’re about to see the stunning lack of values from the NCAA too, Penn State should see its proverbial head roll for this one, but they’ll keep playing football in Happy Valley because it’s too profitable not to shut down the Nittany Lions.

The NCAA doesn’t go after profit, they go after threats to their profits.

When the NCAA goes after student-athletes, the infractions they’re the most serious about are the ones where the athlete profits “unfairly.” Honestly, Terrelle Prior is not a bad person for trading some Ohio State swag for a tattoo, but they made it seem like he was all that was wrong with college football at Ohio State last summer.

AJ Green didn’t deserve a four game suspension for selling his own jersey, especially when UGA’s bookstore sold over 6 different replica varieties. USC didn’t win more games because Reggie Bush’s parents had a big house.

And seriously, aside from the benefits associated with recruiting (of which many players don’t even sign with the violating schools, see Miami) do house rentals, boat trips or VIP passes help anyone gain a competitive advantage? Maybe marginally… Maybe.

The real reason those are considered capital offenses though is that it puts the profitability of the NCAA’s entire system at risk. Face it, the NCAA is running a racket where they make millions and millions of dollars with very little overhead in regards to their athletes. Anything that compensates a player, or threatens to modify the current system hurts their bottom line and the system’s long-term viability and just like any two-bit gangsters or crooks, they protect their interests forcefully.

But shutting down a program? Why would you do that?

The NCAA won’t kill Penn State because they won’t kill the cash cow the program has become. It’s too profitable. The Nittany Lions just raised more money through donations this past off-season than at any point in their history. The cash is still flowing.

SMU was a different animal, they were in such violation of NCAA rules they could have completely ruined the entire system by (gasp) paying athletes. That’s an affront to the college game.

This at Penn State? This is a travesty. But there’s too much money to be made once it passes, so justice be damned, save the brand.

Patrik Nohe is the Florida State University beat writer for the Miami Herald, follow him on Twitter!