Joe Paterno deserves the censure that has been heaped on him. His cover-up of a pedophile was a moral failure and for that he deserves everyone’s scorn. His statue, an icon on campus, was removed and put in storage. His family complains that there was no due process and from a legal point of view, they are right. But from a moral point of view, there is no question.
Penn State now has been sanctioned with unprecedented penalties, receiving a $60 million. This isn’t meant to compensate the families of those abused, but the fines and recruiting restriction make clear the NCCA’s outrage. There is no room or excuse for pedophilia.
The football team has also been banned from postseason bowl games for four years and the number of player scholarships has been slashed.
In addition, all the school’s wins from the last 14 years, 111 in all, have been vacated. This wipes out Paterno’s standing as the most successful football coach in big-time football.
While this last penalty clearly was aimed at Paterno’s historic standing, it strikes some as unfair. Why? Here is the argument: What Penn State did had nothing to do with what happened on the field. The team didn’t receive an unfair advantage on the field because Sandusky’s pedophilia and the subsequent cover-up. The penalty has nothing to do with the crime. No one questions that Penn State won those games fairly on the field. No cheating, no drugs, nothing suggests anything underhanded.
Senior editor of Commentary magazine, Jonathan Tobin argues that if victories are to be taken away, then they should be for those games played while Sandusky was active as an assistant coach with the team. http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2012/07/23/morality-and-the-false-god-of-amateurism-penn-state-ncaa/
The argument is appealing but ultimately wrong. The cover-up had a tremendous impact on Penn State’s success on the field. Why else would there be a cover-up in the first place? The cover-up was to protect the school’s image and adversely affected its finances. Big-time football is big-time money. Institutional cover-ups are mostly about money. Pedophiles hurt the bottom line.
And that’s the reason why stripping the wins from the school and Paterno was the right decision. The bigger picture, though, is that the penalties serve as a cover-up of the moral rot that is at the center of the NCAA’s program, which pretends to promote scholar/athletes but in fact often exploits those who play ball by making them unpaid entertainers in multi-million dollars businesses called universities and provides professional football with a free farm system.
The NCAA may feel righteous in their morally correct decision. But it is a self-righteous decision if it doesn’t lead to real reforms for college sports.