The NCAA announced its penalties for Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal on Monday. While I still question their authority to act in this situation as it’s mostly a criminal matter, and I thought NCAA president Mark Emmert was rather sanctimonious in his delivery of the punishments, they may have actually handed out a reasonable punishment.
No one with any conscience needs to be told how horrific Sandusky’s crimes are, yet Emmert had an air about him that the parent had finally entered the room to handle the rowdy children. I keep thinking of the woman who called into sports talk radio shortly after 9/11 as people were debating when sports should resume. She screamed about how we should never have sports again. It was as if nothing fun should ever happen again in our country due to the tragic events of that day. Somehow in her distress she wanted to punish people who were even discussing sports by taking the games away.
Obviously, there is a time and a place for sports. But bottom line, they are a part of life, and life always goes on. An emotional response is forgivable from a woman dealing with who-knows-what fallout from that day. The NCAA president doesn’t get that luxury. This was a criminal matter. Sandusky will and should die in jail for his crimes. Those who failed to report him may follow. The fact is that if this tragedy had come out of the Penn State psychology department, the NCAA wouldn’t have considered closing the department as it reportedly did with football. It would have been an absurd idea.
Emmert should have spent more time telling the public why he had any authority to do anything. The idea that the football program dominated the school and had far too much sway at the university might have been a worthwhile focus for his press conference. Though there have been suggestions that this was the reality, Emmert never made that case. Without it, the NCAA seems to have misfired.
If the idea that the NCAA has jurisdiction in punishing the university and Joe Paterno for the cover up of Sandusky’s crimes is accepted, I actually think they did a decent job of doing so fairly. Players are allowed to transfer and play immediately, a provision that I thought should have been extended through next summer to give players time to evaluate the situation and find other schools if they choose to go elsewhere. The football program essentially continues with a reduction of scholarships and no Bowl appearances for four years. Everything else, while no doubt significant to the behind-the-scenes operation of the program, really doesn’t mean anything to fans. They still get to play football. As far as I’ve heard, they weren’t even given a television ban, which is a huge concession in their favor. Obviously, they’ll take a hit as a national power, but within two years they can start selling recruits on being part of the resurrection of Penn State football in their junior and senior years and, I’d think, immediate playing time in their freshman year. The idea that they’re “done” even for a decade is ridiculous. College football has a four year cycle anyway.
Yes, Paterno lost 111 wins on his record for games that took place during the cover up and the official status of being the coach with the most wins in the sport. Morally speaking, he probably deserves it for his desire to look the other way on Sandusky. In reality, it really doesn’t amount to much. The games were still played, and Paterno will still be remembered – for better or worse. Besides, it was pretty damn obvious JoePa wasn’t doing much actual coaching for the last several years when he got the record – by one game – anyway.
Penn State football will and should return.
For now, a Week-in-Review and the occasional tweet seems about right for throwing out my thoughts on the sports world at the Ink. Every now and then I’m sure an issue will move me to write more than a quippy bullet point, as above. Here’s what else caught my attention in sports in the last week:
· I’ll confess, I wrote the following as I was watching the beginning of the bottom of the 8th inning of the Phillies game last night, “As exhilarating as Monday night’s comeback victory was, it’s equally as maddening to see them not be able to put a streak together. The hole that they dug in the first half of the season makes every loss excruciating. Realistically, I think fans should hope for them to make a run at the Wild Card, which successful or not offers a ton of hope for next season – assuming Cole Hamels is still on the roster.” Odds are the statement will hold true, but after the Phils stormed back to win for the second consecutive night, nobody cares right now. At least we got two great nights in July!
· I just saw a report that the Phillies have re-signed Hamels. If true, kudos to everyone involved. It’s another great move by an organization proving it’s one of the elite franchises in baseball.
· I keep waiting for Cliff Lee to have a dominating performance and it’s just not happening. I’m certainly not a baseball historian, but his season has to be one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen in the sport. It doesn’t seem like the guy is pitching all that poorly, but he’s certainly not the Lee of a few years ago. He hasn’t taken much heat yet because he had some hard luck no-decisions or losses early, but that’s not the story lately.
· To everyone mocking me for dropping my fandom of the Eagles, I give you Mike Vick. This guy is supposed to be the leader of the team, a team that went 5-8 last year before winning 3 meaningless games and had the noose of the “Dream Team” moniker slapped on it by their idiot backup quarterback around their neck all season, and he uses the word “dynasty” right before training camp. Is he frickin’ kidding? Yes, he qualified it, but it was just an asinine thing to do and tells me (among many other examples) that he just doesn’t have what it takes to lead a team to a Super Bowl.
· Some of the reaction among media members to the penalties levied against Penn State has been predictable dumb. But Brian Baldinger on 97.5, who consistently over reaches with his statements on non-NFL issues, offered one of the most shortsighted. On Tuesday, he said, “They’ll never fill that stadium again” talking about Beaver Stadium. I know I already tweeted about the absurdity of that statement, but it’s worth repeating. I’ll be shocked if the first home game for PSU this season isn’t sold out (with every seat filled), and I would expect nothing less for the entire season. In fact, there’s almost no chance that every game isn’t sold out over the next four seasons.
· One last thing, I’d like to thank Chad Johnson for changing his name back to, uh, Chad Johnson. Hearing him called Ochocinco was rather annoying, and the genius didn’t even get it right – ochocinco is not “85” (his jersey number) in Spanish as he thought.