Friday, July 27, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> NCAA punishes today’s Penn State players

Special to The Leader

FAYETTEVILLE — One understandable reaction to the NCAA’s pitching penalties at Penn State is its unfair to Penn State’s current players.

After all, it wasn’t the current or past Penn State players that committed the atrocities giving the current Nittany Lions the unenviable choice of either transferring with preseason college football practice beginning most everywhere next week or staying put in a program doomed by penalties to struggle for many years to come.

Penn State can’t play in a bowl game until 2017, after the current players’ eligibility has expired, or compete for a Big Ten championship while its scholarships over the next four years are reduced from the maximum 25 annually additional to just 15 annual additional from 2013 to 2016.

The school reels from a $60 million fine paid over five years to programs preventing childhood sexual abuse or assisting the victims of childhood sexual abuse plus experiencing its annual $13 million Big Ten bowl revenue sharing diverted to “established, charitable organizations in Big Ten communities dedicated to the protection of children.

Is that unfair to Penn State’s current players to be told decide your athletic and academic priorities right here, right now?

Of course it is.

Of course the rejoinder is, how unfair was it for all those kids all those years that the criminal justice system has confirmed former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was sexually abusing?

You know the answer to that one.

No NCAA penalty, including the so-called “Death Penalty” that shut down SMU’s football operations for two entire years during the 1980s, can rectify the damage that Sandusky did to young boys, at least one right on Penn State’s property, while Penn State officials, including, apparently, revered Coach Joe Paterno, since deceased, turned a blind eye to and shut their mouths about the suspicions that needed to be forwarded to the police and agencies concerning the welfare of children.

Actually, some say given the duration of these penalties and the likelihood many current Nittany Lions will take the option of transferring with immediate eligibility, these punishments are actually worse than the death penalty of shutting a football program down for a year or two and then starting from scratch with a full complement of scholarships.

All of that is debatable.

What’s not debatable but buoyed by the Freeh report reconfirming the worst, the NCAA eschewed its usual snail’s pace investigation lasting for years and hit Penn State fast as well as hard.

The report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, was commissioned by Penn State and accepted by Penn State so the NCAA wasted no time slamming Penn State with what Penn State’s administration could not rebut but had acknowledged.

“Football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing and protecting young people,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said.

A good start but there needs to be a finish. Emmert and his NCAA need to address the entire mode of secrecy that college football operates with these days, and mandate to let the sun shine in.

Secrecy undid Penn State.

To an infinitely lesser degree, secrecy undid Arkansas when the Razorbacks had to fire ultra-successful head football coach Bobby Petrino. Petrino was fired April 11 when events surrounding his April 1 motorcycle accident gradually revealed he had gifted $20,000 to the woman accompanying him on the motorcycle with whom he had had “an inappropriate relationship” and had hired over more experienced applicants for a position on his support staff.

It becomes a whole lot easier for successful coaches to keep secrets if the administration supposed to be governing them operates to keep most everything secret, too.