Green Room

Penn State makes Joe Paterno vanish; NCAA may do worse

posted at 2:18 pm on July 22, 2012 by

If you know the name of Lavrentiy Beria, onetime Russian secret police chief, it is not because of the Great Soviet EncyclopediaIn 1953, following Beria’s arrest and subsequent execution for “criminal activities against the Party and the State,” all public records of him were expunged. Subscribers to earlier editions of the encyclopedia received a page to replace the one with an entry for Beria.

It may be said in a similar vein that if you know what legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno looked like, it is not because of the statue of him that was erected outside of Beaver Stadium shortly after his death in January. The statue of the Nittany Lion coach of 46 years was removed from its pedestal shortly before dawn on Sunday—the latest symbolic mea culpa for the shame Paterno’s sin of omission brought the university and its hallowed football program.

The decision to remove the statue came ten days after the release of a scathing report by former FBI director Louis J. Freeh which found that Paterno had conspired with three other top Penn State administrators to conceal allegations of child sexual abuse made against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. According to the Freeh report, the motive was self-serving: to shield the university and its football program from negative publicity.

Of the statue’s removal, Penn State President Rodney Erickson said in a 592-word statement to the press:

I now believe that, contrary to is original intention, Coach Paterno’s statue has become a source of division and an obstacle to healing in our university and beyond. For that reason, I have decided that it is in the best interest of our university and public safety to remove the statue….

I fully realize that my decision will not be popular in some Penn State circles, but I am certain it is the right and principled decision.

Erickson intimated that the 7-foot, 900-pound bronze casting may not be gone permanently. He stated that the sculpture will be stored in an unnamed “secure location,” adding that Paterno’s name will remain on the university’s library. Whatever.

If the story ended there, so would this article. But there is more. The NCAA, which governs college sports, has said it plans to take “corrective and punitive measures” against Penn State’s football program. Details will be revealed in a press conference at 9 a.m. on Monday.

One possibility that was initially raised but since rejected is the so-called “death penalty,”suspension of the program for at least one year. But NCAA president Mark Emmert has made it clear that the penalties the association does mete out may be worse than death. Talk of significant loss of scholarships and of multiple bowls is being bandied about on sports websites.

Drastic times call for drastic measures, but one wonders if the NCAA is overreacting. The decision they make could impact the lives of innocent adolescents—young men who showed the requisite skills in high school and signed on to play in Penn State’s prestigious program only to find themselves in limbo.

Then there is the matter of protocol. ESPN writes:

The NCAA is taking unprecedented measures with the decision to penalize Penn State without the due process of a Committee on Infractions hearing.

The NCAA has a system in place in which it conducts its own investigations, issues a notice of allegations and then allows the university 90 days to respond before a hearing is scheduled.

Following the hearing, the Infractions Committee then usually takes a minimum of six weeks but it can take upwards of a year to issue its findings.

But in the case of Penn State, the NCAA appears to be using the Freeh report—commissioned by the school’s board of trustees—instead of its own investigation, before handing down sanctions.

The NCAA has taken heat in recent years for a number of bad decisions, such as suspending players for relatively minor indiscretions, and its rigidity. Some commentators have even questioned whether membership for a university is worth all the aggravation. Could its overreaction to the Penn State scandal be the last straw?

Related Articles

Follow me on Twitter or join me at Facebook. You can reach me at howard.portnoy@gmail.com or by posting a comment below.

Recently in the Green Room:

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Set up a program to help transfer the affected students somewhere else. Then torch the place.

pedestrian on July 22, 2012 at 3:55 PM

Hmm…my last comment must have gone into moderation. Can’t for the life of me figure out why it would have.

gryphon202 on July 22, 2012 at 4:04 PM

somewhere else

A little more complicated than that. It would have to be an elite program similar to the one they signed on to play for. But even if those spots existed—and for all intents and purposes they don’t—roster assignments for the fall have already been made. Bad deal for those kids.

Howard Portnoy on July 22, 2012 at 4:20 PM

I’d shut it down for a lot longer than one year. (Sports have nothing to do with education.)

CrazyGene on July 22, 2012 at 4:22 PM

It would have to be an elite program similar to the one they signed on to play for. But even if those spots existed—and for all intents and purposes they don’t—roster assignments for the fall have already been made. Bad deal for those kids.

Howard Portnoy on July 22, 2012 at 4:20 PM

Cry me a river. What Joe Paterno did is considered misprision of a felony in some states. It disgusts me to no end to see him martyred in sports journalism because he coached kids who played a game to pay for school.

gryphon202 on July 22, 2012 at 4:30 PM

4 year post season ban and 4 year t.v. Ban. No good players will want to go there for decades as it’s going to be a bunch of awful teams. Allow transfers without sitting out for this year and next year.

rbj on July 22, 2012 at 4:41 PM

Cry me a river. What Joe Paterno did is considered misprision of a felony in some states. It disgusts me to no end to see him martyred in sports journalism because he coached kids who played a game to pay for school.

I’m certainly not “martyring” Paterno. I am lamenting the fate of a bunch of kids whose only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Allow transfers without sitting out for this year and next year.

Again, easier said than done. Which ranked programs have openings for any of these kids.

Howard Portnoy on July 22, 2012 at 5:07 PM

Penn State’s prestigious program

Surely you jest.

SagebrushPuppet on July 22, 2012 at 5:12 PM

A little more complicated than that. It would have to be an elite program similar to the one they signed on to play for. But even if those spots existed—and for all intents and purposes they don’t—roster assignments for the fall have already been made. Bad deal for those kids.

Howard Portnoy on July 22, 2012 at 4:20 PM

1. It’s a game.
2. If they are so good that it matters what team they play for, then by going to another team that team will become better.
3. It’s a game.

pedestrian on July 22, 2012 at 5:13 PM

Surely you jest.

In recent years their star has fallen, but they still turn out plenty of NFL top draft prospects.

pedestrian on July 22, 2012 at 5:13 PM

1. & 3. Wrong. For better or worse, it’s a livelihood, or an entree into one.
2. Huh??

Howard Portnoy on July 22, 2012 at 5:23 PM

1. & 3. Wrong. For better or worse, it’s a livelihood, or an entree into one.
2. Huh??

Howard Portnoy on July 22, 2012 at 5:23 PM

1 & 3. Just because the kids are looking forward to an extremely lucrative career doesn’t mean we have to protect a culture of people that led Paterno to sacrifice the abuse victims to preserve the money train.

2. A team is a collection of players, coaches, etc. By moving the players from team A to team B, team B changes. If they are good enough, team B can be the starting point for their career, because team A no longer exists to outshine it.

pedestrian on July 22, 2012 at 5:39 PM

Who has actually read the report? I smell a scapegoat. Remember the scene in the movie Maverick where Mel Gibson turns to his father and says something to the effect of “Look at all the good you did, no one will remember it now.” Coach Paterno was a great man, inspired generations, and was LOYAL to the one place he wanted to be. I want to remember him for that, not the shifting soil of morality with the benefit of hindsight. Ban me if you want but I find it hard to believe that what he did good far outweighs what he did wrong.

dentalque on July 22, 2012 at 5:58 PM

Lets get rid of the NCAA, as it has failed in its mission (at least, if you think its mission is to monitor the sports programs at colleges nationwide).

How can it be explained that the NCAA had no idea this was going on? Has the NCAA even been asked if they knew or suspected? Did Freeh explore that or not?

BTW, the real mission of the NCAA is to make sure the money keeps coming in hand-over-fist to the major university’s sports programs, and to publicly spank somebody for getting caught every now and then.

BobMbx on July 22, 2012 at 6:01 PM

Coach Paterno was a great man, inspired generations, and was LOYAL to the one place he wanted to be.

dentalque on July 22, 2012 at 5:58 PM

A great man?

He was part of a pedophile ring that enabled Sand*sky to keep molesting children for years.

You have a different definition of great than I do. I guess Sand*sky was a swell guy as well who made a few bad calls in his life. But hey, he inspired some people as well and even set up that nice charity Second Mile. And he was a great coach too!

Go Sand*sky! /

sharrukin on July 22, 2012 at 6:08 PM

Surely you jest.

In recent years their star has fallen, but they still turn out plenty of NFL top draft prospects.

Howard Portnoy on July 22, 2012 at 5:23 PM

My point wasn’t clear. To use the word “prestigious” to describe a sport program that knowingly harbored a pedophile is … well, I’ll let you use the modifier of your choice.

They should change the name of that place from Penn State to State Penn.

SagebrushPuppet on July 22, 2012 at 6:29 PM

He was part of a pedophile ring that enabled Sand*sky to keep molesting children for years.

You have a different definition of great than I do. I guess Sand*sky was a swell guy as well who made a few bad calls in his life. But hey, he inspired some people as well and even set up that nice charity Second Mile. And he was a great coach too!

Go Sand*sky! /

sharrukin on July 22, 2012 at 6:08 PM

Yes I do have a different definition of great then you do. I judge a man on the corpus of his work. I don’t usually make personal attacks but unless you have read the report and reached a different conclusion, you are a media following moronic drone.

dentalque on July 22, 2012 at 6:42 PM

Yes I do have a different definition of great then you do. I judge a man on the corpus of his work.

dentalque on July 22, 2012 at 6:42 PM

You know, Sand*sky may have done some nice things in his career but that really doesn’t blot out, nor does it excuse his behavior. The ‘corpus of his work’ be damned.

sharrukin on July 22, 2012 at 6:45 PM

Testing. I’ve tried 2 posts and waited a while but have not seen either. Is there a magic word related to this case that is not allowed??

willamettevalley on July 22, 2012 at 7:22 PM

Is there a magic word related to this case that is not allowed??

willamettevalley on July 22, 2012 at 7:22 PM

Sand*sky

sharrukin on July 22, 2012 at 7:24 PM

sharrukin on July 22, 2012 at 6:45 PM

That is a poor debate technique known as “Throwing mud in the water.” I am not talking about him. I am talking about coach Paterno and his corpus of work. You know it and choose to ignore it. You never answered my question. Have you read the report? If it shows that coach Paterno covered up JS’s crimes to “protect the program” I would agree with you. My problem is the the attempt to implicate Paterno and penalize a bunch of students and coaches who have had nothing to do with it.

dentalque on July 22, 2012 at 7:42 PM

I am not talking about him. I am talking about coach Paterno and his corpus of work. You know it and choose to ignore it.

The same faulty logic applies to both. If Paterno’s ‘corpus of work’ is to be examined as a whole then why not Sand*sky’s?

You never answered my question. Have you read the report? If it shows that coach Paterno covered up JS’s crimes to “protect the program” I would agree with you.

Paterno knew about the 1998 incident with Sand*sky.

Paterno lied to the grand jury…testifying that he was unaware of any possible child abuse by Sand*sky prior to the 2001 Lasch shower rape.

Then in 2002…In his Grand Jury testimony, Paterno stated that McQueary had described Sand*sky “fondling” a young boy in an act he described of a “sexual nature,”

emails revealed he [Paterno] had engaged in additional conversations with Curley pressuring him (and Schultz and Spanier) not to report the rape to police.

My problem is the the attempt to implicate Paterno and penalize a bunch of students and coaches who have had nothing to do with it.

dentalque on July 22, 2012 at 7:42 PM

They had a lot to do with it. The sick adulation that sports is given at Penn State is the prime motivation behind the cover up. The worship that is directed towards Paterno, Sand*sky, and THE GAME, is why those kids were molested for years and no one wanted to do the right thing. THE GAME was more important and those ‘great men’ were only ‘great’ because they won THE GAME. If they had lost most of those games, would they have been considered ‘great men’?

sharrukin on July 22, 2012 at 7:55 PM

I honestly believe that any penalty, from the NCAA, is going overboard. The University doesn’t deserve a break but those who were recruited to go to this program do. THey’ve lost the coach they came there to play for, they’ve lost the prestige that playing there would give them, and they’ve found themselves in a situation that is far different than they pictured when they signed their commitment papers. For the NCAA to pile on to this is just overkill. This program is going to take a long time to recover from this and the law and public opinion will take care of everything else.

bflat879 on July 22, 2012 at 8:49 PM

Sad that things that used to generate outrage no longer do. We wouldn’t be having this discussion if it didn’t involve a famous coach from an elite athletic university. If anyone deserves the players’ ire for pissing away the football program, it is the long list of faculty members that mishandled the Sandu$ky incident, not the NCAA.

We’re talking about misprision of felony, perjury, subbornation of perjury, and to top it all off, in service of protecting an athletic program from a sexual predator. I weep for our country if where people are going to play football in the fall is in any way shape or form weighed against the importance of justice — real justice — for sexual assault victims.

gryphon202 on July 22, 2012 at 9:50 PM

I want to remember him for that, not the shifting soil of morality with the benefit of hindsight.

dentalque on July 22, 2012 at 5:58 PM

“Shifting soil of morality”? Seriously? Where’s the shifting soil here?

Paterno actively covered up child sexual abuse to protect his beloved football team and it’s reputation. The only shifting I see is you tying your logic into pretzels in order to rationalize this horror.

Dominion on July 22, 2012 at 11:02 PM

For the NCAA to pile on to this is just overkill. This program is going to take a long time to recover from this and the law and public opinion will take care of everything else.

bflat879 on July 22, 2012 at 8:49 PM

I don’t think so. I think the crimes here are so evil that no university board or leadership should ever think that this would be worth turning a blind eye to again either for the cash or the prestige of a winning team. I think the NCAA should go beyond the death penalty and make an example of them so no one would ever forget ever. Or even tempted to get away with it for a slap on the wrist of a forfitted season.

If having Reggie Bush take payment caused USC to forfeit a championship, this penalty must be of many magnitudes greater. If betting on baseball causes lifetime banishment, then this penalty must be of many magnitudes greater. If attempting to sign a player under the table like the Timberwolves did cost them several draft picks, then this penalty must be of many magnitudes greater.

redeye on July 23, 2012 at 1:07 AM

They should change the name of that place from Penn State to State Penn.

Is it any surprise that Michael Mann runs his global warming scam from there?

Pablo on July 23, 2012 at 8:16 AM

Whoa. HTML fail.

Pablo on July 23, 2012 at 8:17 AM

I read on the internet that Penn State isn’t removing Paterno’s statue permanently…

Wait for it…

They’re just modifying the base so that he looks the other way!

Thank you. I’m here all week. Be good to your waitresses and the 11 o’ clock show is different from the 9:30.

Dukeboy01 on July 23, 2012 at 8:53 AM

A little more complicated than that. It would have to be an elite program similar to the one they signed on to play for. But even if those spots existed—and for all intents and purposes they don’t—roster assignments for the fall have already been made. Bad deal for those kids.

Howard Portnoy on July 22, 2012 at 4:20 PM

This has been percolating for nearly a year. Any kid that accepted Penn was a fool in more ways than one. More importantly, get rid of collegiate sports beyond intramurals and let the major leagues run their own minors/farm teams. Linking atheletics to academia is such a farce and only in America. One goes to college to get ‘book learning’ and shouldn’t be a pathway to pro sports.

AH_C on July 23, 2012 at 12:40 PM

Ban me if you want but I find it hard to believe that what he did good far outweighs what he did wrong.

dentalque on July 22, 2012 at 5:58 PM

History is replete with heroes turned to zeros due to moral failing.

AH_C on July 23, 2012 at 12:45 PM

Will wonders never cease – I agree with Howard on this issue and not with Ed Morrissey.

More importantly, get rid of collegiate sports beyond intramurals and let the major leagues run their own minors/farm teams. Linking atheletics [SIC] to academia is such a farce and only in America. One goes to college to get ‘book learning’ and shouldn’t be a pathway to pro sports.
AH_C on July 23, 2012 at 12:40 PM

This is not just about football or baseball who have “farm teams” for the minor/major leagues. I say this as the parent of a child who will be playing college golf in the Fall. You have no idea how important these programs are to the individuals and the sport itself, and to their future careers. I can only hope and pray that idiotic thinking such as yours is in the minority.

Buy Danish on July 23, 2012 at 6:05 PM