Paterno’s History is History
By now we all know that the NCAA came down hard on the Penn State football program and top university brass: a $60 million penalty that could be a tax if John Roberts gets his say, a four-year ban on bowl and championship games, a loss of scholarships, five years probation, and nullifying all the wins – 111 of them – the team compiled from 1998 through 2011.
Something needed to be done, and it’s hard to argue the NCAA went soft on school officials who callously permitted a serial pedophile to use campus facilities to feast on the souls of children. Penn State yanked down the Joe Paterno statue last week, and the NCAA yanked even harder, only instead of a dismantling a statue, they did it to Paterno’s winning legacy.
This was the NCAA acting like the old Soviet Union, trying to erase something (in the Soviets’ case – innocent people) and pretending it never happened. Touchdowns that were scored are now meaningless. Defensive lines that executed goal-line stands were rendered retroactively invisible by the NCAA.
The purpose of doing all this was to stick it to Joe Paterno. That’s all. And he absolutely had it coming. Read the Freeh Report, and you’ll see why. But in so doing the NCAA eviscerated the accomplishments of hundreds of innocent football players who now get to explain to their kids that, yes, they won football games, but not really. Scrubbing history might sound like a forceful punishment, but the end result is always the same: the events happened, and pretending like they didn’t feels completely alien, un-American (I don’t mean unpatriotic; there’s a difference).
Joe Paterno died earlier this year as the leader in big-time college football wins. Nothing can change that. No matter how hard the disciplinarian strains to explain it, you can’t punish someone if they’re already dead. What the NCAA’s actually doing is telling other coaches at famous football programs that this can and will happen to you if you put yourself above common decency.
I only wish there was a way the NCAA could’ve punished Paterno without bringing down innocent football players along with him. Removing him from the College Football Hall of Fame, for one, would’ve been my route. Not only would I destroy whatever monument is there honoring him, in its place I’d put a cracked, dirty plaque stating Joe Paterno was the first person removed from the HOF and further explaining what brought about his downfall to constantly remind everyone who visits. I suspect the NCAA doesn’t control the HOF, hence 111 wins never happened.
I can live with the NCAA’s decision even if I disagree with some of its reasoning. I’m not the one who was repeatedly violated by a monster who was given free rein on a campus to groom his innocent prey, and whose behavior was selfishly ignored by monsters of a different breed.