Sanford Speaks Out is the latest blog sensation written, edited and produced by Sanford D. Horn, a writer and educator. Sanford will write about issues of the day covering a myriad subjects: politics, education, culture, sports, religion and even food.
Monday, July 23, 2012
Not-tany Lions Declawed
Not-tany Lions Declawed Commentary by Sanford D. Horn July 23, 2012
On the day following the dismantling of the statue of Joe
Paterno on the campus of Penn State University the rest of the football program
has rightfully suffered a more deeply impacting disabling.
Both the stripping of the campus of the statue of the
iconic coach, six months to the day of his death, January 22, and the
punishment thrust upon the university were appropriate and overdue. The
objections by students on campus at the removal of the statue of Paterno, who
coached at Penn State from 1966-2011, is demonstrative of how the culture of
sports and hero-worship has far superseded what is right, proper and moral and
perhaps indicative of how the NCAA did not go far enough in its punitive
actions against the school.
The university, and the football team specifically, have
been sanctioned by the NCAA for its complicity in the child abuse sex scandal
that rocked the Happy Valley campus to its core last fall. This scandal saw
former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky convicted of abusing 10 boys. The true number
of young boys molested, violated and/or abused may never be known, and while
the lost innocence of those boys can never be replaced, the sanctions against
Penn State are a good start. Hopefully, the severity of the punitive actions,
while not deep enough, will deliver a message across the nation’s campuses that
humanity and morality will trump sports and the protection of so-called heroes
at the risk and potential loss of children’s innocence.
Sandusky deserves nothing less than to pay for his
vicious crimes with the ultimate penalty – his life. Yes, the death penalty is
most appropriate for the perverse and unconscionable crimes of robbing young,
impressionable children of their trust, protection and innocence – irrevocably altering
their lives. Yet, the sanctions imposed upon Penn State have nothing to do with
the ongoing criminal investigations, said Mark Emmert, NCAA president.
Sandusky may be the lowest of the low, but the cover up
is just as much a part of this whole sordid tale – just ask the ghost of
Richard M. Nixon. As such, the assistant coaches and Paterno are just as
complicit, and the university obviously agreed, firing the coach proven to have
feet of clay on November 9, 2011, along with relieving Graham Spanier of his
duties as university president.
The current regime must now cope with the loss of $60
million – the financial penalty equivalent to one year of football’s gross receipts.
The $60 million is to be paid out at $12 million increments over the next five
years into an endowment to benefit victims of child sex abuse. This money
cannot come at the expense of non-revenue sports or the student-athlete
scholarships, yet, while academic sources were not ruled out, Emmert said such
a plan would be inappropriate.
Ultimately, I fear a large chunk of this fine will come
from the coffers of the taxpayers of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which
would be wholly unacceptable.
While not sanctioned with the so-called Death Penalty,
the punishment imposed upon Southern Methodist University (SMU) in 1987 for
paying players thousands of dollars, the penalties facing Penn State will
certainly hamstring the football program for many years to come – presumably long
after the penalty phase expires.
“We did not feel the suspension of play would be
appropriate,” said Dr. Edward Bay, NCAA Executive Committee Chair and President
of Oregon State University.
Such a punishment would send an eye-opening message that
this scandal is bigger than the tarnished reputation of Joe Paterno, bigger
than football, bigger than sports and certainly bigger than the demands of the
fans, boosters and alumni. The need for a cultural change is vital, in spite of
the unintended harm that would come from the secession of play for one season.
Clearly arguments can be made on both sides of the death
penalty coin. The revenue lost to the university for the six home games, the
exposure given to the band and cheerleaders, as well as the income lost to the
vendors is at stake. The university would need to pay the schools of the six
road games for lost revenue.
But the bigger picture is that the institution of football
is not too big to fail; that the culture of sports is not too big to fail.
These are tragic circumstances which require harsh and immediate meaningful actions.
For the next four years, 2013-17, Penn State is banned
from participating in bowl or other post-season games, including the Big Ten
conference championship. As for the conference title game, the university will
forfeit about $13 million over the same four year period, also to be donated.
Additionally, the Penn State football program has been
sacked in the scholarship department on two levels. The NCAA has limited new annual
scholarships from 25 a year down to 15 for each of the next four years in
addition to limiting the number of total scholarship players each of the same
four years to 65, down from 85.
Clearly this will impact recruitment on top of the
post-season ban. Major high school recruits will want to play where they have
an opportunity to appear in a bowl or other post-season games. They will likely
seek to avail their skills to other programs. On the other hand, Penn State
head coach Bill O’ Brien must sell his program to players who might not have
the opportunity to earn serious playing time at another major institution.
As for the current squad of Penn State football players,
they will be allowed to transfer without the traditional penalty of yielding
one year of their eligibility. Should players decide to remain at Penn State
and not continue to play football, the university is required to honor the
scholarships of those players. And those scholarships would count toward the 65
permitted for that season.
Penn State will also be placed on five years probation
during which time it is expected to work with an academic integrity monitor, an
independent, third-party to report on Penn State’s progress, at a cost to be
absorbed by the university. This is designed to elucidate the university to
embrace values appropriate for an institution of higher education complete with
the virtues of fair play on the field, positive moral values off the field and
a place where children can be nurtured, protected and educated.
This is a “horrifically egregious situation,” said
Emmert. “No one feels good about this. This is an unprecedented, painful
chapter in the history of intercollegiate athletics.”
“We hope we are never here again,” said Bay.
Former NCAA and NFL coach Lou Holtz predicted “serious
fan drop offs” from the more than 100,000 fans per home game to around 50,000.
One additional penalty, with which I found objectionable,
but understand the reasoning behind it, is that all wins earned by Penn State
and Paterno from 1998 through 2011 will be vacated. The year 1998 was selected
as it represents the first reporting of abuse and the failure of Paterno and
the university to act appropriately. For the record, 112 wins will be forfeited,
all but one under Paterno’s name, dropping him from the winningest Division I coach
down to fifth place with 298 wins behind
Bobby Bowden (377), Bear Bryant (323), Pop Warner (319), and Amos Alonzo Stagg
While I understand removing Paterno from the top of that
elite list, it also punishes the hundreds of players who presumably had nothing
to do with the sex abuse scandal. It offers the implication of on-field
cheating by otherwise honest football players. The wins earned by those players
on the field should stand.
Make no mistake; I am not defending Paterno, by any stretch
of the imagination. In fact, my animus toward Penn State far pre-dates this sex
abuse scandal. As any University of Maryland alumnus can site, there is a bad
history on the gridiron between the two schools – with Penn State leading Maryland
in the all-time series 35 wins, one loss and one tie. Maryland’s lone victory
occurred in 1961 and the Terrapins have not won since.
And while I am a tremendous sports fan, I have placed
this monstrous scandal in its proper place and perspective. The Pennsylvania State
University must suffer the consequences of the actions of its employees. The
sanctions will undoubtedly prove deleterious to the football program, but
hopefully the message will be received around the nation’s campuses that
immoral, lascivious behavior, including, but not limited to, the molestation of
children will never again be tolerated or covered up.
Paterno was not G-d and football is not a religion. Amen.
Sanford D. Horn is
a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN. He is an alumnus of the University
of Maryland and a member of its Terrapin Club, supporting the scholarship
program for athletes.