COMMENTARY: NCAA sanctions against Penn State fall short - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

COMMENTARY: NCAA sanctions against Penn State fall short

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Joe Paterno is now the 12th winningest coach in college football history. Joe Paterno is now the 12th winningest coach in college football history.

(RNN) - The NCAA on Monday levied historically harsh sanctions against the Penn State University athletics program. They weren't harsh enough. Not by a long shot.

A day earlier, Penn State authorities took down the 7' statue of Paterno - and its bitterly ironic caption, coach, educator, humanitarian - that stood outside the university's football stadium. That, too, was not enough. Paterno's name remains on the university library. That should come down, too, though PSU officials have said it will not.

That man's name and legacy must be forever disassociated from Penn State University and from college athletics. What happened in that place must never happen again, anywhere.

Can enough ever be done to punish an institution whose most powerful leaders allowed a monster to flourish?

Here are but a few findings revealed in the Freeh Report on which those NCAA sanctions were based:

Jerry Sandusky, a former high-profile coach who maintained close association with the university after retiring, raped many little boys over a period of years. This took place on university property, in university facilities and during university-sanctioned athletic road trips. The university's highest-ranking officials knew what was happening, did nothing to stop it and actively covered it up to the extent of using intimidation to discourage witnesses from coming forward.

The Freeh report cites exchanges of emails between accused felons and former Penn State administrators Graham Spanier, Tim Curley and Gary Shultz in which university president Spanier said it would be more "humane" if they, themselves, handled allegations of Sandusky's rape of a child in a locker room shower rather than report the crime to authorities.

Humane. That's the word he used. HUMANE.

The Freeh report shows that Joe Paterno told bald-faced lies to a grand jury. Around that same time, January 2011, the coach was negotiating a sweetheart deal with the university that would allow him to retire at the end of the season with a multi-million-dollar package that included pension, cash, forgiven loans and even the use of the university's private plane.

Take a minute. Breathe deeply. Think about all this.  

Can you believe it? Even now? How does this happen? How the hell does this happen?

Joe Paterno was so powerful that he was able to squelch the truth about a pedophile in his own organization who was serially raping children. And he evidently was so drunk with power that he didn't see anything wrong with protecting that man, who was his friend.

Paterno's self-proclaimed motto was Success with Honor. What kind of a fraud must he have been to dare to associate those words with his name?

He reveled in his image as a grandfatherly saint in a blue-and-white rep tie and black cleats. He mouthed platitudes about running a clean program that abided by all the rules, creating a pure environment in which teachers could teach, students could learn and his football program would produce strong men with high principles who won football games the right way, with "honor."

What a lie.

Paterno was a hypocrite, a narcissist and at best a 24-carat-gold phony. At worst, he was a sociopath who did a good job of making football players go to the library.

When the truth began to emerge, he showed no remorse. Shortly after he was summarily fired, two days before a home game with Nebraska, he issued a mealy-mouthed statement claiming "he wished he had done more."

In his final letter to his players, before Sandusky's conviction and before the full and terrible truth had emerged, he wrote:

"It must stop. This is not a football scandal and should not be treated as one. It is not an academic scandal and does not in any way tarnish the hard earned and well-deserved academic reputation of Penn State. That Penn State officials would suggest otherwise is a disservice to every one of the over 500,000 living alumni."

What a lie.

The method by which the NCAA levied sanctions against Penn State on Monday morning was unprecedented. NCAA President Mark Emmert chose and handed down those penalties without a committee review or an Association investigation. The president's committee of the NCAA gave him what amounted to emergency power to take those drastic steps.

Emmert did not rule out further investigation by the NCAA into the PSU athletics program – and may that come to pass. For if there are other wrongdoings that have been concealed, may they come to light. Here's hoping the NCAA will not stop here, that it will go into Happy Valley with all guns blazing, because if there is more wickedness to be found, it must be found.

The current sanctions are stiff, but they don't go far enough. Like much of what the NCAA does, they are largely symbolic:

The $60 million fine, to be paid over five years, is roughly a year's revenue for Penn State athletics. That's not enough. There were 10 victims we know of. Their lives have been destroyed. How much is that worth? How many more victims were there? Here's hoping the civil suits that are sure to come against the university result in more crippling financial penalties.

The scholarship limitations will render Penn State's football team uncompetitive in the Big Ten – and it would have a hard time competing at the NCAA Division II level. Penn State's football team, such as it is, will for years to come, take the field and it will lose and lose and lose. Maybe that will serve as some kind of weekly reminder about the wages of sin. Maybe attendance at PSU home games will drop from tens of thousands of fans to dozens, and maybe donations to the athletic program will dwindle to insignificance.

Don't bet on it.

Any players on the team now can transfer to any other university and play without sitting out one minute. They should. They probably won't.

Any player who wants to remain at Penn State and not play football may do so without losing his grant-in-aid. If a young man exists who remains loyal enough to Penn State to want to take advantage of its academics, but does not want to play for its tainted football program, may he do so and may God bless him. We'll see if such a man exists.

All wins for the past 14 years will be vacated and Joe Paterno drops from the No. 1 winningest coach in college football to No. 12. That's the very least that should be done. Vacating all Paterno's wins would be more like it.

There's a four-year bowl ban and the team will not be eligible to compete for the Big Ten championship. That is meaningless - a team without enough scholarships to field a two-deep roster won't be in the hunt for the Rose Bowl.

The death penalty was considered, but discarded. Too bad.

The idea, evidently, is that Penn State football should continue to exist, a shadow of itself, as a reminder of what can happen when power corrupts.

An even more striking suggestion: What if every member of the board of trustees stepped down,as they no doubt should? What if every member of the Penn State football coaching staff from 1998 to 2011 were subpoenaed to testify under oath that they knew nothing of the crimes being committed in the building where they worked, by Jerry Sandusky, convicted child rapist, their friend and colleague?

As he handed down the ruling Monday, NCAA President Mark Emmert said:

"We hope we would never, ever see anything of this magnitude or egregiousness again in our lives. But we do have to make sure that the cautionary tale of athletics overwhelming core values of the institution and losing sight of why we are really participating in these activities can occur. That's the balance that every university needs to strive for."

Penn State's new president Rodney Erickson took the sanctions without a whimper.

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

He should be grateful. He got off light.

Here is the closing paragraph of Paterno's final communication to his players, before what he called "allegations" were revealed to be an unspeakable truth.

"Penn Staters across the globe should feel no shame in saying 'We Are...Penn State.' this is a great university with one of the best academic performing football programs in major college athletics. Those are facts - and nothing that has been alleged changes them."

Joe Paterno: A self-serving liar to the end.

Tom Ensey is a lead producer with Raycom News Network, and a veteran sports reporter and editor. Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. Raycom News Network.