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Should The “Sandusky” Sanctions Against Penn State Be Dropped?

Friday, January 4th, 2013

The governor of Pennsylvania is now challenging – legally – the steep sanctions imposed against Penn State by the NCAA in response to the sordid Sandusky scandal. The basic argument the governor is offering is not a new one: it’s that the university and football program should not be punished for the actions of a few. And this argument remains as flawed – and offensive – as ever. 

Look, the “few” who were punished for their acts included: a former assistant coach (who sexually abused boys on the Penn State premises), the revered head coach, the athletic director, a vice president, and the president of the university. This isn’t just a “few” whose actions were reprehensible (Sandusky), misguided or worse (Paterno), and downright offensive and in fact criminal (the university officials). A university is not just an abstract entity: it’s a complex infrastructure with its own set of working rules. Clearly, at Penn State, the chain that connected the football program to the athletic program to the president of the university was exposed as being morally bankrupt and insulated from the real world for many years. Let’s also remember who the victims were – youth – and the crimes committed against them – sexual abuse.

Since the sanctions were imposed, Penn State has responded in an honorable manner. They have taken every step to rebuild the image of the university as an institution that will not put athletics ahead of the fundamental educational and moral values that it must uphold. They had vigils. They have hosted a conference on preventing child abuse. They have housed – for many years – professors and researchers who contribute much to improving the lives of children. The football program conducted itself with pride this year and showed respect for the victims.

I get, in a practical sense, that many people at Penn State are bearing the burden of the few. I congratulate them for taking this on. It’s the right thing to do. If they weren’t doing that, we’d have no confidence that things have really changed much there. I would hope that the governor of Pennsylvania would see that and support that – because his message is that we should all forget about the criminal acts that were committed there and the extensive efforts made to protect the university rather than help the victims. We should never forget what happened there. Let Penn State continue to absorb the sanctions with honor and with a forward looking perspective to be sure that the phrase “Penn State Proud” resonates in a good way.

Penn State Building via Shutterstock.com

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