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

Chicago WSox - S. Carroll 12:05 PM
NY Yankees - H. Kuroda
Tampa Bay - J. Hellickson 12:07 PM
Toronto - M. Buehrle
Detroit - B. Farmer 12:10 PM
Minnesota - Y. Pino
Seattle - C. Young 12:35 PM
Boston - B. Workman
Baltimore - B. Norris 1:20 PM
Chicago Cubs - K. Hendricks
San Francisco - T. Lincecum 3:05 PM
Washington - J. Zimmermann
Houston - C. McHugh 6:05 PM
Cleveland - D. Salazar
St. Louis - S. Miller 6:05 PM
Philadelphia - D. Buchanan
Atlanta - E. Santana 6:10 PM
Cincinnati - M. Leake
Pittsburgh - E. Volquez 6:10 PM
Milwaukee - W. Peralta
San Diego - A. Cashner 7:10 PM
Arizona - V. Nuno
Miami - T. Koehler 7:10 PM
Colorado - J. Lyles
Detroit - J. Verlander 7:10 PM
Minnesota - T. May
Kansas City - J. Guthrie 7:25 PM
Texas - N. Tepesch
LA Angels - C. Wilson 8:05 PM
Oakland - J. Lester
NY Mets - J. deGrom 8:10 PM
Los Angeles - Z. Greinke
Carolina 7 FINAL
New England 30
NY Giants 35 FINAL
NY Jets 24
Jacksonville 12 FINAL
Detroit 13
Oakland 21 FINAL
Green Bay 31
Chicago 6 FINAL
Seattle 34
Tampa Bay 3:30 PM
Buffalo
Tennessee 6:00 PM
Atlanta
Dallas 6:00 PM
Miami
Washington 6:30 PM
Baltimore
New Orleans 7:00 PM
Indianapolis
Minnesota 7:00 PM
Kansas City
St. Louis 7:00 PM
Cleveland
Houston 8:00 PM
Denver
San Diego 8/24/14 3:00 PM
San Francisco
Cincinnati 8/24/14 7:00 PM
Arizona
Atlanta 8/28/14 5:00 PM
Jacksonville
Detroit 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Indianapolis 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Kansas City 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Green Bay
NY Jets 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
St. Louis 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 8/28/14 6:30 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 8/28/14 6:30 PM
NY Giants
Washington 8/28/14 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Baltimore 8/28/14 7:00 PM
New Orleans
Chicago 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Cleveland
Denver 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Dallas
Minnesota 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Tennessee
San Francisco 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 8/28/14 9:00 PM
San Diego
Seattle 8/28/14 9:00 PM
Oakland
(21) Texas A&M 8/28/14 5:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Wake Forest 8/28/14 6:00 PM
ULM
Boise State 8/28/14 7:00 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Tulane 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Temple 8/28/14 8:15 PM
Vanderbilt
Rutgers 8/28/14 9:00 PM
Washington St
Weber State 8/28/14 9:30 PM
(19) Arizona State
BYU 8/29/14 6:00 PM
Connecticut
(6) Jacksonville St 8/29/14 6:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Bowling Green 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Western Ky
TX-San Antonio 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Houston
Colorado State 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Colorado
UNLV 8/29/14 9:30 PM
Arizona
UCF 8/30/14 7:30 AM
Penn State
Chicago 6:00 PM
Toronto FC
Montreal 6:00 PM
Red Bull New York
Chivas USA 6:30 PM
New England
Houston 6:30 PM
Columbus
D.C. 7:30 PM
Sporting Kansas City
Vancouver FC 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Montreal 16 FINAL
Winnipeg 24
Toronto 3:00 PM
Edmonton
Calgary 8/24/14 2:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 8/24/14 6:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Ottawa 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Montreal
Winnipeg 8/31/14 2:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Indiana 4:00 PM
Washington
Minnesota 6:00 PM
San Antonio

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How closely will you follow the Lynx in the WNBA playoffs?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

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

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close