“We Were Penn State”: My Take on the Penn State Situation


With the college football season just a month away, this would usually be the time that fans are gearing up for on-field action. However, this year, that’s not the case. Instead, people’s focus has been entirely on Penn State since spring practice ended, as one bombshell after another has left Penn State University a shell of its former self.

Yes, I do realize this is Fly War Eagle, a website dedicated to our beloved Auburn Tigers. However, I must take a moment to refrain from writing about Auburn to address the depressing situation in the ironically-named Happy Valley. This scandal has swallowed college football whole. It’s not just the biggest topic… it’s the only topic that matters right now.

There are too many things messed up about this situation. The most important, shocking, disgusting and horrifying event is obviously Jerry Sandusky’s abusing of children, and it’s not even close. I don’t want to delve too much into Sandusky in this article, as his name and crimes are too disgusting to even type at this point. Anyways, As the months went by, more and more was revealed about what was going on at Penn State. First, Sandusky was under fire (obviously) for his horrid acts. Then it turned out Paterno was told about what Sandusky was doing and didn’t alert the police. ESPN didn’t pay much attention to the child abuse scandal until Joe Paterno’s name became involved, which speaks volumes about where ESPN’s priorities are at and have been at for a while. Now, about half a year after Paterno was fired and eventually killed by cancer, it was revealed that he and other higher-ups at Penn State were involved in a cover-up of Sandusky’s crimes. The Freeh Report was the nail in the coffin for Penn State and its football program.

On Monday, the NCAA announced the largest sanctions ever (even larger than SMU in the 1980’s) against Penn State football. These sanctions include a four-year bowl ban, huge scholarship losses, five years of probation, a $60 million fine and vacation of every win from 1998-2011. Was the NCAA right to take action? Yes. Did they take the right action, though? Yes and no.

I definitely believe Penn State University deserves a huge punishment… but when I say Penn State University, I mean the school itself, not just the football program. Who does a four-year bowl ban and scholarship losses hurt? Not the guilty parties, but rather innocent players, innocent coaches (including Ted Roof and Zac Ethridge), innocent alumni, innocent students and all innocent fans.

The vacated wins was a pretty justified punishment, as Joe Paterno didn’t deserve the wins he gained after he began harboring a pedophile (by the way, I hope Paterno made peace with the Lord before he died). However, the players from all those years had nothing to do with what happened regarding Sandusky. The NCAA probably made the right move vacating those wins. That’s what’s scary about this situation: no matter how the NCAA goes about it, an innocent party will likely have to suffer. You can’t fault the NCAA for its decision to fine the school, put it on probation and strip Joe Paterno’s record away from him. The NCAA got this part right.

But I was stunned by the scholarship losses and bowl ban. All these punishments do is punish current players, current coaches and fans. Many Penn State players will transfer and be immediately eligible to play somewhere else. But how many players will be able to get a scholarship at another school? What about walk-ons? They’ll have a very tough time finding a new home if they leave the school.

NCAA president Mark Emmert stated that sports shouldn’t be so powerful that they overshadow all other aspects at schools, then the NCAA turned around and failed to see this Penn State situation isn’t limited to football. The NCAA sent a strong message, but in the process, they revealed their hypocrisy and still punished the innocent for the awful crimes of a small group of powerful people.

However, whether you agree with the NCAA’s actions or not, the deed is done. Penn State University’s reputation is forever ruined. After the school’s done taking a legal beating that could cost the school over $100 million, PSU will have to work to become a leader in the fight against child abuse and gain some respect back to its name. All respect for Joe Paterno has been lost by even the most die-hard Nittany Lion fans. The football program will likely be irrelevant for at least the next 10-15 years, and that’s if they’re lucky enough to rebuild quicker than SMU did. I wouldn’t count on it.

For most of his life, Joe Paterno was a man of integrity and honor. However, near the end of his life, one terrible decision after another revealed his horrid dark side, created a violent snowball effect and led to the end of Penn State University as we know it.