It's rare when we agree editorially with the Minneapolis Star Tribune
, but columnist Jim Souhan got it right about shutting down Penn State's football program. As he writes:
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.
To be fair, none of the Penn State players who will take the field have any connection to the scandal. But several of their coaches--including interim head coach Tom Bradley--were around, and may have been part of the conspiracy of cowardice and silence that allowed former assistant Jerry Sandusky to prey on young boys. Bradley and the rest of the staff will almost certainly be fired at the end of the season, along with other university officials. What sort of signal does it send to allow Tom Bradley to lead the Nittany Lions on the field against Nebraska?
Here's something else to consider: Penn State is currently 8-1 on the season, with an inside track to the Big Ten championship game and a slot in the Rose Bowl. Is the conference--and the NCAA--comfortable with that possibility? Barring action by the university or the NCAA, the school being labeled as "Pedophile U" could be playing in Pasadena in January. Besides, any championship won by Penn State this year will almost certainly be vacated, once the NCAA completes its investigation and levies sanctions. Why let the team compete for hardware--and victories--that will be surrendered in a matter of months?
As Mr. Souhan reminds us, the NCAA has imposed the "death penalty" on a football program only once in its history, against SMU back in the 1980s. SMU was judged guilty of paying players and had to stop playing football for two seasons. As Souhan observes, "compared with serial pedophilia [at PSU], what happened on the SMU campus is the equivalent of spitting on the sidewalk.
All the more reason, he argues, to shut down the Penn State program:
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.
As this post is written, the Penn State-Nebraska game is already underway, so today's spectacle in Happy Valley is proceeding as scheduled. But allowing the program to continue (until the Sandusky matter has been resolved) would be an absolute travesty, and another, needless insult to the victims of the former coach.
One final note: according to ESPN's Big Ten blog
, there was exactly one protester--one
--outside Beaver Stadium before today's Penn State game. Jon Matko, a Pittsburgh resident and 2000 Penn State graduate may be the only member of the university family who "gets it."
Matko thought the university should have canceled the game and the rest of the season. He knows the importance of the game to university revenue and how canceling wouldn’t be fair to the players who had nothing to do with the scandal, but felt Saturday was too soon to play. “It’s the right thing,” he said. “It’s not about Joe. It’s about the kids.” One of Matko’s signs featured the famous Albert Einstein quote: “The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” When he arrived at Beaver Stadium on Saturday morning, Matko was shocked to find himself alone. He didn’t tell his parents where he was going today, but thought he would show up at Beaver Stadium and join other protestors. But he couldn’t find any.
“It’s shocking that I’m the only one here,” he said. “It’s shocking and disturbing.”
Here's something else for the college football community to consider: would fan reaction be any different if this was happening at Florida, Texas, Alabama, USC, or any other college football power? Sadly, we think not.