Scoggins: Penalties are harsh only if we forget why

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 24, 2012 - 6:39 AM

Penn State's program will pay a severe price, but nothing compared to real victims.

hide

Ed Ray (left), NCAA Executive Committee chair and NCAA President Mark Emmert answered questions about the penalties imposed upon Penn State during a news conference in Indianapolis on Monday. The NCAA has slammed Penn State with an unprecedented series of penalties, including a $60 million fine and the loss of all coach Joe Paterno's victories from 1998-2011, in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

Photo: Michael Conroy, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

In the end, Penn State's football program didn't receive the death penalty. It just felt like it.

The NCAA swung its hammer Monday and delivered unprecedented and crippling sanctions against Penn State and its football program over a child sexual molestation scandal. The penalties were historically harsh, and a swift, decisive action by a governing body that is routinely mocked for its toothless approach to discipline.

The punishment: A four-year postseason ban, $60 million fine, massive scholarship limitations, victories vacated from 1998 to 2011, current players free to transfer immediately without restriction.

The NCAA stopped short of applying the death penalty, but the actual punishment might be more punitive than a temporary suspension of football in Happy Valley. The sanctions practically ensure the program won't recover for years, probably decades and maybe ever. Penn State football is dead for the foreseeable future.

How do you feel now?

Are you relieved, satisfied, sad, still angry?

Is it possible to feel all those emotions at the same time on the same subject, because I sure do.

My emotions ran the gamut in contemplating what to express about the penalties and their potential ramifications for a football team, school and community. What happened at Penn State was so egregious, so sickening and so preventable that any punishment handed down would not be harsh enough, even if the NCAA arguably overstepped its boundaries in a criminal matter without launching its own investigation or following its normal protocol.

This case is bigger than football, bowl games or a coach's record. Kids' lives were ruined, and any parent or person with common decency should shudder at the hurt and devastation it caused. Credit the NCAA for directing the $60 million to programs that work to prevent child sexual abuse and assist victims.

This doesn't ignore the fact that many people who had nothing to do with Jerry Sandusky's despicable acts or the cover-up by Joe Paterno and a few Penn State leaders will suffer because of them. Sandusky is rotting in jail, Paterno is dead and the administrators who could have put an early stop to the abuse in this horrific case are gone.

A wide swath of innocent people are left to navigate a mess they didn't create. I feel genuinely sorry for the current Penn State players who don't deserve this and the alumni who love that university and are emotionally conflicted because they are tethered to the worst scandal in college sports history. Not every fan engaged in the kind of "hero worship" that NCAA President Mark Emmert described in calling for a cultural change.

"One of the grave dangers stemming from our love of sports is that the sports themselves can become too big to fail and too big to even challenge," Emmert said.

We're skeptical, however, that the Penn State case and punishment will result in Emmert's desired sea change in how college football and college athletics overall are viewed nationally. The actions and inactions at Penn State were terrible, but it seems naive to suggest that college football somehow will become de-emphasized as a result.

College football is big business. It drives athletic departments and pays the bills for nonrevenue sports. The arms race -- whether you like it or not -- is not slowing down or going backward. It's a noble idea but not entirely realistic.

It's OK to admit that college football is important as long as it comes with the necessary oversight and morality from those in leadership positions. Penn State officials and Paterno specifically failed miserably in that regard because of an insatiable ego and desire to protect a coach's legacy and the program's image.

The hope here is that the NCAA's harsh penalties send a resounding message that prevents something like that from happening again. Maybe it will force the next person with knowledge of such a crime to step forward rather than remain silent, to show some courage when confronting an authority figure, to simply do the right thing at a time of crisis. If that's reform, we're all for it.

This painful chapter undoubtedly will change Penn State's athletic culture. The school must redefine who and what it is. It's unfortunate that innocent people who had nothing to do with this sad situation now must pay the price, but that's how the system works. We can argue whether that's fair or just or piling on, but they're not the real victims here.

We can't lose sight of that.

Chip Scoggins • ascoggins@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Kansas City - WP: J. Guthrie 3 FINAL
San Francisco - LP: T. Hudson 2
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
New Orleans 10/30/14 7:25 PM
Carolina
Dallas 117 FINAL
Orlando 92
New York 80 FINAL
Toronto 83
San Antonio 87 FINAL
Houston 96
Miami 104 FINAL
Memphis 98
Minnesota 113 FINAL
Chicago 112
Phoenix 105 FINAL
Utah 100
Sacramento 93 FINAL
LA Lakers 92
Denver 112 FINAL
Golden State 119
Portland 99 FINAL
LA Clippers 89
Dallas 3 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 2
Tampa Bay 4 FINAL
Winnipeg 2
Vancouver 3 FINAL
Colorado 7
Carolina 3 FINAL
Edmonton 6
Columbus 1 FINAL
Anaheim 4
Connecticut 21 FINAL
(18) East Carolina 31
Miami-Florida 30 FINAL
Virginia Tech 6
So Florida 17 FINAL
Cincinnati 34
Troy 13 FINAL
South Alabama 27
BYU 30 FINAL
Boise State 55
(6) Oregon 59 FINAL
California 41
North Texas 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10:59 PM
Hawaii
(2) Florida State 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Louisville
Troy 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Cincinnati 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Tulane
Tulsa 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Memphis
Purdue 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
(17) Oklahoma 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa State
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(22) West Virginia
Texas 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Texas Tech
Northwestern 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa
Maryland 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Penn State
Houston 1 FINAL
Chicago 2
Montreal 23 FINAL
Ottawa 17
Saskatchewan 27 FINAL
Calgary 40
Hamilton 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 6:00 PM
Winnipeg
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Montreal

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who wins and loses in football this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close