Souhan: Penn State, NCAA must set example

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 11, 2011 - 6:04 AM

Shut down the football team for now, because a case of "lack of institutional control" has never been so heinous.

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Ousted Penn State football coach Joe Paterno

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Mike McQueary did not do enough when he saw Jerry Sandusky with a boy in the Penn State showers. Joe Paterno did not do enough when told of Sandusky's crime. The Penn State administration did not do enough to protect children on its campus while Sandusky used the auspices of the football program to pursue victims for more than a decade.

Now the Penn State trustees is proving that in Happy Valley, inaction and shortsightedness are endemic. Even while dismissing the president of the university and their famous football coach, the trustees are failing to grasp the enormity of the crimes committed on their watch.

What we know now is that key members of the Penn State football program were serial enablers of child rape and molestation.

Dismissing the university president and athletic director is not enough, not when your campus has been used as a safe haven and hunting ground by a pedophile. Firing Paterno is not enough, not when Paterno neglected to use his immense power to halt the abuse of children.

It is time for the powers that be to use their powers pointedly and appropriately.

Penn State should cancel the rest of the football season.

The NCAA should investigate the football program and consider the death penalty.

Many of the people who rioted on the Penn State campus Wednesday night in protest of Paterno's dismissal probably plan to attend the football game on campus Saturday. They should not be given any forum in which to voice their delusions, and certainly not a 106,572-seat stadium in which to hold an undeserved memorial to Paterno's tainted career.

Playing a football game on that campus at this time would trivialize the abuse of children on that campus, would signal to the many victims and those who care about them that beating Nebraska is more important than beginning the arduous process of cleansing the program.

Playing a football game on Saturday originally would have meant allowing McQueary to coach. No one should have to see that, and no one will, as the school said Thursday night he will sit out because of threats made against him.

Cancelling the game does not require much thought or backbone. It is the only conscionable decision.

The NCAA must display a conscience as well. This is an institution that punishes coaches for offering their players rides, that shut down Southern Methodist's football program for paying athletes.

Compared with serial pedophilia, what happened on the SMU campus is the equivalent of spitting on the sidewalk.

Let no one say that some good will come of these events, but the NCAA can use Penn State as a disgusting example of what can transpire when a college football program becomes omnipotent.

McQueary saw Sandusky with a boy in the football locker room shower. He passed the buck to Paterno, the most powerful man on campus. Paterno passed the buck to his boss. Even as rumors of Sandusky's alleged crimes proliferated and he was the target of a police investigation into his relationship with another boy, McQueary and Paterno did nothing while Sandusky used the football program as the candy with which to seduce children.

College football has long been a receptacle of corruption and greed. Only on a campus where the football coach is treated as part Pope and part Patton could such evil persist for so long.

The NCAA should prove that it cares about more than $50 handshakes between alumni and athletes, that it holds universities responsible for all of the ills that occur within their bloated football programs.

When the NCAA levies its harshest penalties, it cites a school's "lack of institutional control.'' There has never been a clearer case of university lacking institutional control over its football program than Penn State allowing Sandusky to bring children to the team's sidelines and showers.

The NCAA should shut down Penn State football at least until Sandusky has been tried and his victims have been compensated.

A football game in Happy Valley would remind us how willing too many people are to forgive abuses of power as long as the local team bolsters their self-esteem on Saturday afternoons.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500ESPN. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

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