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Friday (Should Penn State play football the rest of the year?) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand under NCAA: football Updated: November 11, 2011 - 8:46 AM

Colleagues Phil Miller and Jim Souhan wrote strong and wrote well today about the oddity that will be on the Penn State campus Saturday: a football game.

The underlying questions: Can Penn State pull off hosting a football game in the midst of this awful scandal, and do they deserve to regardless?

When there is a tragedy either within sports or bigger than sports, the notion of a "return to normalcy" is often trotted out as a good reason to resume competition. We're not quite sure that holds up in this case, as we can't fathom how things will be normal Saturday or for quite some time at Penn State. There is also the notion that current players, among others, shouldn't be punished for things that happened long ago and to which they have no immediate connection. But fair or not, that happens all the time. The Gophers basketball players who came after the academic scandal, for instance, had to bear the burden of penalties against the institution. The school has to be punished somehow, and it can't be punished in the past.

Even the NCAA seems conflicted. In a statement, president Mark Emmert said Thursday: "The NCAA will defer in the immediate term to law enforcement officials since this situation involved alleged crimes. As the facts are established through the justice system, we will determine whether Association bylaws have been violated and act accordingly." In other words, they aren't going to cancel any games right now, even though Emmert told ESPN on Thursday this is "easily the worst scandal I've ever seen or even heard of in intercollegiate athletics."

Some would say money and power contributed to this heinous alleged series of crimes at Penn State -- that if there was a cover-up, or at least mind-boggling inertia, it was to protect not only the member of an inner-circle but also the prestige and earning power of a major university's dominant football program. Some might also say the same forces of money and power will dictate that the games still go on.

Should they? Can we separate this all out into real life and sports? Maybe. But if we tune into the game Saturday, it won't be for football. It will be out of a strange curiosity. And we're having a hard time picturing a scene in Happy Valley that would make us think, "Yes, this was the right thing to do."


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