Keeping Score

‘Death Penalty’ Would Be an Act of Mercy for Penn State Football

  • Share
  • Read Later
Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)

Joe Paterno, former head football coach at Penn State, walks onto the field before a game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Sept. 11, 2010, in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

In a PBS interview broadcast Monday night, NCAA president Mark Emmert refused to take “anything off the table” regarding its possible punishment of Penn State University in the wake of the damning Freeh Report. The results of former FBI director Louis Freeh’s investigation, released last week, concluded that top Penn State officials — including former president Graham Spanier and former head football coach Joe Paterno — “repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Jerry Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities” in order to “avoid the consequences of bad publicity.”

So the so-called death penalty for Penn State football is possible. And though that punishment seems particularly severe — and totally unwarranted, according to Penn State supporters — it’s actually an act of mercy. Plus, the consequences could be very productive, both on and off the field.

The death penalty sounds much worse than it is. It’s actually a temporary shutdown of a college football program. In the 1980s, Southern Methodist University’s football team got a one-year sentence and took another year off to regroup because players were being paid from a slush fund. (You can certainly argue that SMU should be lauded, not punished, for allowing revenue-producing players to get a piece of the college-football-revenue pie.) If Penn State sat out, say, this upcoming year, the players could retain their eligibility for next season. So a current senior, for example, would be able to play in 2013. An incoming freshman could still play four years of football at Penn State.

(MORE: ‘Every Day Was a Mistake’: How Should Penn State Deal with Joe Paterno)

The NCAA could give players the option to transfer without having to sit out a year. Some might take this option, but with practices fast approaching this summer, they might not have time to flee Penn State.

So what would be the fallout from a one-year ban? Yes, the university and its athletic department would take a financial hit. But the players, a year older and stronger, might return next season in better shape. And they’d have more time to soak up the college experience, away from the football facilities. Penn State might win more games than they otherwise would have, and the players, hopefully, would be more mature intellectually.

During a year of healing, the university could actually prove that it doesn’t center on football. That it can survive, and even thrive, on its own.

Penn State football, and the entire university, is facing a toxic environment this season. In the wake of the Sandusky verdict and an investigation that pinned the failure to report child sex abuse to authorities, in part, on the “culture of reverence for football,” questions will be following the football team all season: What do you think of how your late coach acted? Will recruits bother coming to State College and dealing with the aftermath? Why are you guys playing?

Why go through with this, when you can temporarily escape the toxic atmosphere and return to a healthier place?

If the NCAA takes the typical route and limits scholarships and postseason play for Penn State, the current football players — innocent in the entire Sandusky scandal — may suffer more than under a death penalty. If you gut the team while still putting one on the field, the on-field experience is entirely compromised. With a sabbatical, the entire operation should be refreshed.

For Penn State football, there are many fates worse than death.

MORE: Penn State Cover-Up: Groupthink in Action

122 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
Brimo309
Brimo309

Yeah so Hitler gassed a few people, what about all the hard working innocent people in Germany. Where was the institutional control ? In Jo Pa.s hand that's where. So the statue comes down as should the 2012 season and a 3 year bowl and television ban. Life is not a Rose Bowl Parade, and because of the tortured lives the University has spawned, it's now time for some HIGHER LEARNING to take place.

Nita Taefi
Nita Taefi

Too many excuses for criminal behavior.  So a football player takes cash under the table.  Or, his grades are somehow enhanced to get a scholorship to play for the college  football program.  These are minor infractions to those who see this behavior as part of the program to enhance the sports program.  But the Joe Paternos and the Sanduskys kept this alive for years and there is no excuse for it.  College sports has become more than sports.  It seems to be the source of those fat checks at the top down to the bottom feeders as well as their egos. 

Nita Taefi
Nita Taefi

When students look for an education, they get more that just that.  They're thrust into the fever of sports as a source of pride and bragadocio(sp).  And the money flows in as a result.  From the top governing bodies down to the lowest in the sports department, they all dismissed what was suspected or known in this case.  But their victims grew up and refused to allow the damages done to them keep them from seeking justice.  It's too bad this entire system of cover-up came this far after all the years it was going on.  The penalty should be severe to serve as a warning to those other who might be tempted to abuse children and those who cover it up.

Steven-Garrick Archibald-McGre
Steven-Garrick Archibald-McGre

Witch hunt.Freeh ,actually lost his job because he could not tell the diference between what is the truth,and what is an out-right lie,and he became a bitter individual when he applied for a job with the CIA and was turned down because of his ethics,..

Pjsplayroom
Pjsplayroom

And the ignorant commits ! All of you should be a shamed ! Penn State did not give Sandusky kids ! Child services and the second mile did ! Fact 1998 the police and DA`s office had victims and had sandusky on tape admitting to the crimes and the Da`s office dropped the charges!!!! Tom Corbett was the Attorney General 1996-97 when all the allegations started and admitted he was good friends with the Sanduskys ! Corbett recieved 641000 dollars from the second mile over the last 15 years 200000 thousand while he was investigating sandusky 2009-10 ! It all on record !! you want the death penalty ? Give to the state agencies and governor the real enablers!!!! Theres your facts!!!!cowards!!!

Pjsplayroom
Pjsplayroom

Maybe we should give this writer the death penalty for being a coward ! Conspiracy yep ! A political one from the Governor to the second mile ,police , judges ,child services ,  Dept of welfare they all knew and gave this monster kids for 17 yrs ! 17 years what a f`ing joke all media people are ! Not one has the balls to tell the truth !

Psufan40
Psufan40

I've been and always will be a PSU fan and yes I'm saddened by what happened and feel horrible for those who were molested. Yes something should have been done in 98 why not ask our Govonor why he didn't do more and why didn't McQuearry who actually witnessed it do more yet they're both getting away with what I feel is worse than what Joe didn't do!!! Death Penalty? Really people that is meant for universities that are already on probation for NCAA violations which PSU has none so let the legal system do it's job and let the NCAA stay out of it. You're talking about kids that were in elementary school when this happened and now you want to take a life long dream away from them because you're a PSU hater and the only punishment good enough for you is the DP. What about all of the businesses the rely soly on those weekends to make a living can they survive a year how about you haters, can you survive a year without a steady income? Think about it!!!

Soulcheese
Soulcheese

I don't understand how a few men(less than 10) can be representative of a penn state culture of hundreds of thousands. They may be in a position of power, but are not representative of penn state. Punish them and punish them hard, but do not punish the masses for the acts of a few.

Cpjohnsonjr
Cpjohnsonjr

The football players shouldn't be punished. Lets play football!!

D_00
D_00

Capitalism is wonderful, but it is a system without morality. In this case, powerful men blinded by money, put that above the welfare of children.

This is a case where capitalism needs to be punished, along with the men who used it as a justification to protect their selfishness. However, men come and go, institutions stay - without a momentary punishment, nothing will really be learned, memories are short.

Give them the "death penalty", the loss of revenue from it will hit home - as nothing else will - as to how great the consequences are for what they did.  Penn State has tens of millions of dollars, they can preserve the scholarships of their athletes, compensate businesses for loss and donate to children charities - and still have millions left over to pay themselves.

Genedrum
Genedrum

There is no logic in imposing penalties on innocent people who had no part in the failings of the leadership including the board of trustees and governor. Those who are guilty of coverup or not doing their job should be punished. The students, football players, fans, and alumni would be victims by being punished for something they did not do. The idea of telling football players they can transfer to another university is stupid. They don't want to go somewhere else orthey would not have picked penn state in the first place. Whether you realize it or not, the victims will receive huge financial judgments and there will be no money to pay them without tapping the football revenue. Governor Corbett slashed the penn state budget several months ago and the victims will find there is virtually no money to pay them. Cash donations will drop suddenly because alumni will not want give freely if the funds are not used for the intended purpose of the donor.

Why does anyone want the NCAA to punish innocent people ? Sanctions can be used just as effectively and thereby make a strong statement. Destroying the football program and others associated with the university is not the common sense anwer.   

uktennfan
uktennfan

I'm a Glasgow Rangers fan and if you want to take a look at a death penalty. Take a look at this:-

               Relegated 3 divisions where the ave att is 650. GRFC is 52000.

               Transfer embargo imposed, starting league with 13 players.

               The team had to be liquidated and set up as Rangers newco.

               

All because the previous owner evaded tax (as well he used his own company to build stadium:- Murray Steel and paid himself a fortune). The subsequent owner was a thief and a fraud who sold future revenue on ticket sales and pocketed the money himself. 

All punishment that has taken place has been directed at Rangers and there fans. While these two continue to live well off.

Spank
Spank

"Groupthink in action".  Boy, isn't that irony?

uktennfan
uktennfan

As a college football fan from the UK. I think there is a bit of over reaction to this, Michael Jackson had accusations of the same thing but everyone thinks he was some sort of musical genius as well as the RC church, do people stop going to church because of the priest scandal that popped up everywhere and where covered up by the Vatican itself.

    Don't get me wrong this is a terrible crime but I don't see why Penn State fans should have to pay for this. I think that most of you are envious of a successful school and are just kicking it while its down. It's just the same as fining these banks where as the people running them should be in jail. People should be held accountable for there decisions not hiding behind organisations. Anyone responsible for this should be fired and thrown in prison.           

Username
Username

The Death Penalty is a non issue in this case.  This scandal had nothing to do with recruiting violations or anything to do with NCAA at all.  It dealt with a college, who's head men covered up sexual abuse.  The courts took care of it.  Nothing to see here.  PSU will live with this forever, that is a death penalty in it's self.

pannich
pannich

Everyone seems so concerned for the townsfolk, the vendors, the players who had no part of this.   Here's what you are missing.  All of those people benefited from the Paterno reputation and power.  They blindly adored and still have unwavering loyalty to the man who we now know was more concerned about win 409 than doing the right thing.  Yes, they will now take a hit.  That's how life works. Blame Paterno and crew for the hardships - they are the leaders who let you down. 

Synsitter
Synsitter

 I trust that no one where you work has ever committed a crime. Using your logic YOU had financial gain from that employer so now YOU should be penalized by association. By mere association you have said that the businesses that benefited from Penn State are all culpable.

Your unsupported assumption that all PSU supporters still have unwavering support for Joe Paterno is based on what? Maybe that the Paterno family still insists he is innocent.  This is the type of knee jerk emotional reaction that has no place in making these types of decisions!

pannich
pannich

I love how people at Penn State are NOW worried about poor innocent people who had nothing to do with this.  Never mind that the blind loyalty and adoration still displayed is what gave those in power the ability cover up their mis-deeds.

Synsitter
Synsitter

 That is a ridiculous comment. Their "blind loyalty" as you call it had nothing to do with what occurred. Are you responsible for all of the crime in your local community because you are not at every City Hall meeting and actively involved in what is occurring in your community? After all you are giving up that responsibility to everyone in government (your elected officials) by blindly following your politicians, police department, etc. I don't recall anyone suggesting that you be penalized for their dumb/blind/corrupt decisions that today are leading to wholesale city bankruptcies.

What you are really saying is that organizations such as the NCAA are really just as responsible for what occurred at Penn State. Apparently, even as they used that University's image to support college athletics they ignored what was going on based on your reasoning! Where is your outcry about that?

Make the decision about Penn State one based upon logic, not emotion.

Jake Garrett
Jake Garrett

I was abhorred by the things that went on at Penn State , that being said, everyone that screwed up has been canned or arrested. When you use the Death Penalty it isn't just the football program and fans that get screwed. At a place like Penn State football pays for pretty much all the other sports, especially women's sports (exception being basketball) that usually end up losing universities money. So when you give the death penalty you're not really just effecting the football program you are affecting the ability of the University to make money.

A
A

My issue with the death penalty, as other have noted is it will punish the innocent as much or more than those involved.

The local stores, food astablishments, motels ect. Hard working people that rely on those revenues.

The University would be ok, deep pockets, athletes you give another year or the transfer.

But Mr store owner go's under.

The acts are deploreable and all that are guilty should pay, but a broad sweep is not the right thing to do. Focus on those that are culpable.

Grant
Grant

Does Sean Gregory do any research before he writes such a ridiculous post?

It's called the death penalty because it killed SMU football for decades.  Mr. Gregory calls it a sabbatical.  Go watch the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary "Pony Excess".  There's a reason why the NCAA president fainted immediately after issuing the decision.  There's a reason it's only been handed down to a single football program in the history of NCAA enforcement.  In short, there's a reason it's called the death penalty. 

A year off is a deathblow for a NCAA football program.  All your players, present and future, leave for other schools.  Then you can't recruit because who wants to play for some talentless team?  Not to mention the fact that the Big 10 likely isn't going to be so wild about keeping Penn State around when they have no football team and there are plenty of big football programs without the stained name that they could bring in to replace them.  So now you have a talentless team, playing in a small conference, with a reputation that is lower than dirt.  Does that sound like a recipe for success?

I'm not arguing that Penn State shouldn't get the death penalty.  I would just like us to be clear as to what we're talking about when we discuss whether they should get it.  I personally think they should.  A school built around a football program is exactly the problem.  If the university can't stand without it's football program, it deserves to fall. 

Sysnitter
Sysnitter

 Not sure how using the death penalty to prove that the university can survive without the football program proves anything pertaining to this criminal activity. If you use that logic every University in this country should have to go thru a one year death penalty just to prove they can survive without football!

jj
jj

how can turning in a pedophile hurt your image? The Boosters, Alum, and the Public in general would have said Jeez, who would of thought that of Jerry? But Joe did the right thing. Did it the Penn State way. He’d a been a hero. No here’s the reason below.

 

The Daily (http://bit.ly/vwE2vC) reported Monday that Paterno and three fellow investors, including longtime Second Mile board Chairman Robert Poole, secured financing to build a $125 million luxury retirement community around 2002, according to public records.

The publication also reported that Paterno was partnered with the same team of investors in developing a golf resort and nearby restaurant and inn.

Paterno also joined with other current and former Second Mile board members on a bottled water company, a coaching website and a chain of convenience stores.

Pinnacle Development, one-half of the developer team that built The Village at Penn State, included Paterno, Poole, William Schreyer - a Penn State trustee whose daughter is a longtime board member of The Second Mile - and local developer Philip Sieg.

Each partner stood to make an estimated $590,000 in fees and 15 percent annual interest on a $125,000 initial investment if the project was successful enough to get funding for a second phase, according to The Daily. But the project did not flourish, and The Village's nonprofit owner filed for bankruptcy on Wednesday.

 

No Jerry no Second Mile.

 

Sandusky was asked to retire in 99 after the police and child services investigated and dropped the charges. All of the people your buddy mentioned knew what was going on. Also Sandusky had lost his touch as far back as 94. After Bradley was introduced, Joe read off stats that painted the “D” in a bad way. I sure he was worried about football but money drove this.

Dannyward
Dannyward

It has been over a week now since the report, and President Cover-Up is still a Tenured Professor at PSU. The denial continues. Fire the BOT , let the NCAA handle the Football Program.

PSUdisgustsME
PSUdisgustsME

You bring up a good point about a one year ban not being the end of the world for PSU.... and that's exactly why they need to get a multi year band form of the death penalty. PSU needs to be crippled to point where it will take at least 10+ years to recover.

remembervictims
remembervictims

At least one year for each year of the Cover-up - 14!

Synsitter
Synsitter

As long as we are contemplating "the death penalty" why limit it to the uninvolved people at Penn State? Members of the police department and some prosecutors in Pennsylvania were apparently aware of the situation. Let's shut down those organizations as well. It is apparently irrelevant to many that the problem was just a few. In our "zeal for justice" lets just give Penn State, PA State Police Department and all PA District attorneys the death penalty. After all we have determined that several people in each of these categories had some knowledge of this situation long ago. I am sure that the innocent State Troopers and prosecutors will be able to "transfer" to jobs elsewhere.

Matt Mitchell
Matt Mitchell

PSU88 - Seriously, don't bring other schools in to this conversation...  I agree with you that the culture at Big time D1 programs is to win..and win..and win...and rules are broken.  However, if you want to include schools like Ohio St in this conversation, then you should certainly support the "death penalty," for Penn State.  Ohio St is serving a one year ban from all postseason play for a FEW PLAYERS selling memorabilia for tattoo's.  THOSE players are gone, yet the current team/coaching staff has to pay the price.  The NCAA cited, "lack of institutional control," because JT knew about it and covered it up.

I can't stand hearing the argument here that their is "no rule," written in the book about this...  What a joke.  The institution will be penalized in civil court, and should be penalized by the NCAA.  

Md
Md

This is idiotic, everyone would leave no doubt. Smu still hasn't recovered. And that's in a metropolitan area, not rural where the community depends on the school, ask all the local business owners if

They believe going bankrupt is merciful...

Gwberg
Gwberg

Just allow the state to hold the guilty accountable.  Why should innocent, future football players, who were never involved, be bathed in sleeze?   Don't make more mistakes.  The football program needs to continue at Penn State, period.

Johnny 5
Johnny 5

Three questions Joe Paterno never bothered to ask Mike M. about victim # 2. What's the boys name? Where's he right now? Do you think he's in danger? Truth is Joe never wanted to know the name, he just wanted to know how to cover his ass. They have a mural downtown with him wearing a blue ribbon they painted recently on his jacket. He doesn't deserve to wear that ribbon that stands for the protection against child sex abuse. I used to want his statue torn down, but what a slap in the face to those kids and that foundation. The whole town seems screwed up.

-PSU Alum '00'

Jmm350z1989
Jmm350z1989

Think for one moment if it was your son getting raped by Sandusky, are we even having this conversation? Death penalty, statue torn down, and thats not even close to what these boys have to go through. Quit being selfish and recognize the pain that this university inflicted on these poor children.

Sysnitter
Sysnitter

 This isn't being selfish. It is having a rational, not emotional response to the issue. If it were my child I would want the maximum legal penalty that could be applied to the 5 people shown responsible. Those are Sandusky, Paterno, Spanier, Schultz and Curley. What I would NOT be doing is serving "justice" on everyone we deem to be within reach even though they had nothing to do with the horrific criminal activity! Lashing out at everyone like that only serves to bring "justice" down to the criminal level. Suggesting that the whole University should suffer is tantamount to saying since certain janitors were aware of the problem and did not report it we should sanction the union they belong to.

Ex Pa'er
Ex Pa'er

It is under the umbrella of the "program" that allowed all of this to take place. Is that rational enough for you. 

Sysnitter
Sysnitter

 No, because it still does not explain how any logical thinking person wants to punish everyone instead of just those responsible. If you had a family member guilty of rape should you be placed on an anti-rape drug because you are associated with him/her?

Adam
Adam

 couldnt agree more.. im a PSU Grad and bringing the death penalty just causes more issues - businesses in state college suffer (food vendors, restaurants, hotels that rely on home games for revenue) - student athletes who waste a year of their life because its too late to get on another schools football team.. other sports that are funded by our football program..

Punishment is needed - for those who knew.. and literally everyone who knew.. should be punished..  BUT punishing our players today, and the hotels and other small businesses that rely on football revenue is just plain dumb

Pennstate1988
Pennstate1988

Two facts:

1) The University you speak of is consistently a TOP TIER institution...not to mention one of the world's top 100 Universities.  (Feel free to check rankings)

2) The football culture is no different from that of Ohio State, Alabama, LSU, Michigan, Texas, USC. etc, etc, etc.  Not to mention most communities with high school teams across the country.

Let's be fair in how we tell the story....

Douglas Dooling
Douglas Dooling

As a Catholic, I cannot support mercy-killing.

Furthermore you claim, "During a year of healing, the university could actually prove that it doesn’t center on football. That it can survive, and even thrive, on its own." There are two things wrong with this assessment. 

First, to whom will Penn State prove it has been rescued. I know you mean the nation, but the problem is that the nation is not even paying attention. Our university has made strides in seeking cures for pediatric cancer and breast cancer, but the loudest the national media has ever reported on these areas is a whimper. If our program took a year off, the media would only discuss the Sandusky Scandal upon our return.

Second, the community cannot survive. Football supplies major revenue to Central Pennsylvania that its loss would negatively impact hundreds of thousands of Keystone State residents. People who weren't affiliated with the university by any means would feel the wrath of the NCAA. 

Razzey111
Razzey111

Yes the Nation is paying attention!!!!

Andy
Andy

Really good article with a perspective I never thought of.

Pittpantherfn
Pittpantherfn

Let Penn State Play On !!!   take all the revenues from football for te next 2 years and devide it up between all the victims !!!!  Also give sanduskys pention to them as well....   What do the victims get out of this death penalty for either...

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 235 other followers