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The Penn State Report: Punishment At What Cost?

Just when we thought the Penn State child sex abuse scandal couldn’t get any worse, comes The Freeh Report. The former head of the FBI, Louis Freeh, spearheaded an independent investigation into the scandal involving former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky was convicted on 45 counts of child sexual abuse after it was discovered he had been abusing young boys who were part of his charity.

When the facts were presented in court, many of us suspected that Penn State officials must have had some knowledge; I mean former assistant football coach Mike McQueary testified seeing Sandusky abusing a boy in the showers, then told authorities, including Coach Joe Paterno, all of whom did nothing. Now Paterno is dead, Sandusky is in jail and a whole host of other, high-level school officials are facing charges. Needless to say this story has been burning up the Twitterverse and is all over Facebook, which leads me to the point of this post.

What now? What should happen to Penn State’s football program? And what sort of impact will it have?

It’s interesting to see the reaction when you ask that question. For example, someone on Twitter worried that shutting down the Penn State Football program would punish kids in who couldn’t play football anywhere else. Someone on Facebook worried about the economic impact and livelihood it would have on others in the community. And of course we can’t forget the students who rioted in the streets after it was announced that Paterno, the grandfatherly, head coach of Penn State, affectionately called JoePa, had been fired.

There’s a part of me that wants to understand. I get that it might be hard on the lives and livelihood of those left to pick up the pieces. But you want to talk about lives that need to be rebuilt? How about all of Sandusky’s victims? Talk about trying to pick up the pieces.

See, here’s the thing. I am a mother of a teenage boy. When I see, hear, read about this mess, I think about my boy. I think about the mothers who told their sons they would be safe with Sandusky; that he was a good man who was trying to help them. And I think if the adults with a bunch of misplaced priorities, who knew something was up yet didn’t do a damn thing. According to the  Freeh report, they showed a “striking lack of empathy” in dealing with this case and its victims (for 14 years), apparently more concerned with the humane treatment of their colleague.

WHAT?! They were more concerned about the frailty of a grown man abusing young boys? Come on now. Talk about misplaced priorities.

And this where we find ourselves now. Maybe it’s just me but honestly I have a hard time understanding how any parent could think about the future of the Penn State football program where there are lives that have been shattered by the men associated with it.

Can anyone explain why Penn State ‘s program should not be shut down for a long, long time? What do you think should happen to Penn State’s program?

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  1. royale Watkins

    July 12, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    Great piece Renee. I have no respect for a school and the body of people who have not put the needs of these young men before their program. I great place to start would be renaming a building on campus in each victims honor so people never forget.

  2. thedoseofreality

    July 12, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    You did such an excellent job here Rene. Thank you for writing about this. It must be talked about. Something like this cannot ever happen again. Reading the report this morning honestly made me sick to my stomach. From the beginning of this story, I have felt just so outraged every time I think about it that I would try not to think about, except I couldn’t not think about it because of these children. These innocent children and the adults who did nothing to protect them. And then I would read reports and stories and comments from people attempting to defend Paterno and well I could stay silent no more.

  3. Lashell

    July 12, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    They need to clean house … PERIOD! Everyone top official connected needs to go. Shut down football, too!!

  4. Jenn

    July 12, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    I feel like you read my mind. It seems like there are more questions now that this has come to light, although I don’t really think ANYONE is all that suprised. I’m sure there was speculation – but now? Oy vey doesn’t even begin to cover it. The whole thing is disgusting and the people who covered up should be ashamed of themselves. Maybe the program can’t survive – I think the memory of it has made a permanent, nasty mark on PS. How does an institution survive that? At least the biggest perpetrator has been brought down and will never, ever see the light of day again in his lifetime.

  5. Doyle

    July 12, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    Great said what I had been feeling. As some who was sexually abused for several years of my youth and my time as a social worker we as a society do not want to know or really talked about this or actually doing anything about it. Which is very unfortunate.

  6. Bill Mah

    July 12, 2012 at 11:42 pm

    Its just disgusting that this happened for so long and nothing was done. Now that’s just disturbing. Your quote “misplaced priorities” was the perfect description of this horrible crime. They knew something was going on but just sat and did nothing about it is just ridiculous.

  7. Mike W.

    July 13, 2012 at 11:38 am

    As always, well stated opinion, GEM! And, I understand the comments that have been posted to this point. This has been every bit the horrible story that everyone has described. It is beyond imagination that so many people who knew what Sandusky was doing did absolutely nothing to stop it. Though scarred for life, I pray that Sandusky’s victims’ emotional wounds will heal and that they will be able to move forward with productive lives. The rest of what I have to say will likely turn the heat up a bit on this discussion.

    In the world of college athletics, it has always bothered me that when a program runs afoul of the rules (in this case, the law), when it comes time to dish out punishment, the ones who suffer are not the ones who committed the infraction. People are quick to say “throw the book” at Penn State and there is certainly precedent to do that. Think back to the Southern Methodist University football program receiving the NCAA’s “death penalty” in 1987 and 1988. But, if you ask me, shutting down the PSU football program would be the easy solution. If it took eight months to conduct this independent investigation and generate the scathing report released on Thursday, maybe folks should spend a little time coming up with the right penalty that doesn’t punish so many people who had nothing to do with the crimes.

    When SMU received it’s two-year ban from college football, it not only destroyed a once prominent program, it destroyed an entire conference affecting eight other universities. Should the other 11 schools in the Big Ten Conference have to suffer because of Penn State’s transgressions?

    If the Penn State football program goes away, I’m sure the players could all find new teams. But what about the student athletes in the non-revenue generating sports? What would all the people whose livelihoods depend on PSU football do? Just like “Black Friday” can make or break a retailers sales year, the loss of a major college football program could easily break an entire community. The amount of money that would be sucked out of the local economy (hotels, restaurants, gift shops, gas stations, grocery stores, etc.) would be– dare I say– devastating. Would that be fair and appropriate?

    I would be more inclined to support a punishment that ONLY affects the university. Something like, leave the football program in place. From the net profits, provide the necessary support for the university’s non-revenue generating sports, contribute to trust funds for Sandusky’s victim’s, support charities that deal with sex abuse issues, etc. and force PSU to come up with other ways to pay for whatever else the university used football money for. The football program would get NO benefits of net proceeds. Do that for, say, two years. Then, for a three year probationary period, the program could restore partial benefits while continuing to contribute to the victim’s funds and supporting charities. Is this a perfect solution? Probably not. I’m just brainstorming here. But, as I see it, this would punish PSU without punishing innocents and do some good.

    Bottom line for me– If it took eight months for Louis Freeh and his team to investigate and find that Penn State was grossly negligent for 14+ years, it would be good idea to spend some time coming up with the right penalty and not doling out a knee-jerk punishment that misses the target.

    Ok… I’ve put on my kevlar vest. Fire away!

  8. Cody Williams

    July 14, 2012 at 1:49 am

    Very nice, Rene. I needed to read this. It validates my feelings. As a parent.

    Rape is a horrific and brutal act. One of the young boys testified that he blacked out and could not remember what Sandusky did to him in the shower. I understand.

    They need to shut the program down. They don’t need to wait another day.

    Football is not that important.

  9. Cody Williams

    July 14, 2012 at 1:58 am

    Mike, the “death penalty” is not designed as a punishment as much as it is a deterrent.

    It’s a message to other NCAA member school to get your shyt in order.

    Penn State is not the only university where the tail wags the dog, the football program has more influence than it should.

    Shutting down the Penn State program would send a message to other school to get your shyt in order so we don’t have anything like this happen again.

    Well worth it, in my opinion.

  10. Cody Williams

    July 14, 2012 at 2:00 am


    Mike, the “death penalty” is not designed as a punishment as much as it is a deterrent.

    It’s a message to other NCAA member schools to get your shyt in order.

    Penn State is not the only university where the tail wags the dog, the football program has more influence than it should.

    Shutting down the Penn State program would send a message to other schools to get your shyt in order so we don’t have anything like this happen again.

    Well worth it, in my opinion.

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