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What’s next for Penn State, football program?

July 24, 2012
By MIKE MATHISON - Sports editor (mmathison@heraldstaronline.com) , The Herald-Star

I waited a day for my column to see what would happen to Penn State.

What was handed down from NCAA czar Mark Emmert really should be of no surprise to anyone.

People will argue about the NCAA and its rules and this really wasn't a football matter, but a criminal matter.

Yeah, and?

Former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted on 45 of 48 counts of child abuse last month.

What's criminal is that boys were molested by Sandusky and all people want to talk about is former coach Joe Paterno's legacy.

Two weeks ago, a report came out by former FBI Director Louis Freeh on what happened at Penn State during Sandusky's unspeakable transgressions.

And, now, Monday, the NCAA put the hammer to Penn State with a $60 million fine, a four-year football postseason ban, vacating all wins since 1998 and the reduction of 10 initial and 20 total scholarships each year for a four-year period.

People will also argue that the deceased Joe Paterno is still getting a raw deal. Just ask the family, they will tell you with all of their statements regarding each twist turn of this horrible mess.

JoePa was the most powerful man on campus.

Period.

I do not know at what point in time that happened, my guess would be somewhere around 1982, the first national championship, and, most definitely by 1986, the second national crown.

I get that Paterno was the beloved figure, being in the community for 61 years. No one wanted to believe that he was complicit in this mess. He donated money to the school and was the face of the place.

Even though Graham Spanier was the president of the university, JoePa held the gavel.

And JoePa, along with Spanier, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, chose not to make that one phone call to get the ball in motion.

One phone call from any of them, especially Paterno, gets this matter taken care of in the late 1990s, or even as late as 2001.

"I'd like to speak to Tom Ridge, please."

"Who is calling please?"

"Joe Paterno."

"Just a minute Mr. Paterno."

"Hi, Tom, Joe here. We have a problem down here and I would like your assistance to clean this up."

"What's the problem?"

Paterno then explains the problem.

"We'll get right in it, Joe."

"Thanks, Tom."

Nothing about this case is easy.

This had nothing to do with on-field problems.

There were no recruiting violations, no grade fixing, no improper benefits and no point shaving.

This, by all indications, was a squeaky clean program.

Yet, it wasn't.

There was a monster within its midst, who was allowed to roam the campus.

And nobody, not Paterno, not Spanier, not Schultz, not Curley, went the extra step to make sure Sandusky was stopped.

"We cannot look to NCAA history to determine how to handle circumstances so disturbing, shocking and disappointing," Emmert said in the statement. "As the individuals charged with governing college sports, we have a responsibility to act. These events should serve as a call to every single school and athletics department to take an honest look at its campus environment and eradicate the 'sports are king' mindset that can so dramatically cloud the judgment of educators."

New Nittany Lions football coach Bill O'Brien was pretty succinct.

"Today we receive a very harsh penalty from the NCAA and as head coach of the Nittany Lions football program, I will do everything in my power to not only comply, but help guide the university forward to become a national leader in ethics, compliance and operational excellence," he said in a statement. "I knew when I accepted the position that there would be tough times ahead. But I am committed for the long term to Penn State and our student athletes."

People are going to say over and over that this isn't over and why is all of this happening before the trials of Schultz and Curley and before Spanier gets hit with anything.

I firmly believe that this is going to get worse and worse and worse with each passing trial.

This has nothing to do with JoePa's legacy.

This has everything to do with the Fearless Foursome and their collective lack of integrity.

At some point in time, one of the four had to do the right thing and not one of them did.

Penn State was handed a fate worse than the death penalty.

It will cripple the program. Maybe not in the next two years, but it will cripple the program and Penn State football will be something along the lines of Texas Southern.

"Against this backdrop, Penn State accepts the penalties and corrective actions announced today by the NCAA," Penn State President Rodney Erickson said in a statement. "With today's announcement and the action it requires of us, the university takes a significant step forward.

"The tragedy of child sexual abuse that occurred at our university altered the lives of innocent children. Today, as every day, our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the victims of Mr. Sandusky and all other victims of child abuse.

"Against this backdrop, Penn State accepts the penalties and corrective actions announced today by the NCAA. With today's announcement and the action it requires of us, the university takes a significant step forward.

"The NCAA ruling holds the university accountable for the failure of those in power to protect children and insists that all areas of the university community are held to the same high standards of honesty and integrity."

What happens now?

What happens now with the 100,000-plus in attendance each Saturday?

What happens now with the school's donors?

What happens now that 20 student-athletes per year are not going to Penn State to play football?

What happens?

Life goes on.

The Paterno family will eventually quit making statements.

Penn State will write many checks in the millions, probably upward of $175 million, to a lot of people.

Students will still go to school there.

High school football players will still attend Penn State on full-ride scholarships and will eventually graduate.

Football will be played each Saturday.

Life goes on.

This will not change the culture of college football in the fact that it will always be king on most college campuses.

Football runs most places and funds most other sports, except basketball.

Donors will still donate large sums of money to the university because of the football program.

And, somewhere down the line, there will be another USC, another Ohio State, another North Carolina.

It will happen again.

Let's just pray there is never another Penn State.

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at mmathison@heraldstaronline.com and can be followed on Twitter at @MathisonMike)

 
 

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