Penn State University took down the statue of Joe Paterno on Sunday morning, and now it looks like the NCAA will take a hammer to the football program. That gets it half right.
Ditching the statue is the right move. They should have broken it into a million pieces while they were at it.
But I'm not sold on the NCAA's plan to punish those who had nothing to do with the crime.
Removing the Paterno statue means little in the big picture for those who were sexually abused as children by former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. The wounds remain. The shame on the late coach Joe Paterno and others who enabled Sandusky isn't erased by a statue removal.
Yet it's an outward acknowledgement that Paterno and, by association, his football program, no longer symbolize excellence and integrity. Paterno's program was power corrupted.
The students who had camped out to “protect” the statue – remember, young brains need time to mature – moved aside as Penn State officials removed the statue of Paterno leading his team, his finger pointing upward.
“I now believe that, contrary to its original intention, Coach Paterno's statue has become a source of division and an obstacle to healing in our University and beyond,” Penn State president Rodney Erickson said in a released statement.
Obstacle is a good word for Paterno and those who stood by without acting during this most sickening scandal in college sports history.
Paterno was an obstacle to the boys who would have been protected from Sandusky. Penn State's over-powerful football program atmosphere was an obstacle. The lack of ability of those in charge to see right from wrong, good from evil, when the latter stood in front of them with a fake smile and a coach's whistle was an obstacle.
Paterno's name will remain on the library since it represents all the positive things Paterno did for the university, Erickson said. I'd say Paterno forfeited that honor, too, when he concealed information about Sandusky. But Erickson didn't have the guts to wipe Paterno completely from the university because he donated $4.5 million and contributed scholarship.
The problem is, no amount of good can erase the damage caused when Paterno, former university president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz kept Sandusky's actions from becoming public for 14 years, according to findings by the Louis J. Freeh investigation into the matter.
Erickson didn't say what would happen to the statue. It might, in fact, go on display later at the library or a museum. Not sure why it wouldn't be “divisive” in a different location. Put it in storage, collecting dust, forever.
The debate continues over what to do with the Penn State football program. The NCAA says it will take “unprecedented action” today, although this tragedy lies well outside its role in overseeing of illegal phone calls, basketball shoes, ill-gotten tattoos and recruiting blunders.
Arguments on both sides are strong and passionate. Some feel the Penn State football program should receive the so-called death penalty, shutting it down for a year or more. Others feel displacing current players, who are innocent bystanders of the Sandusky scandal, serves no purpose and punishes the wrong people.
It's going to be tough, if football moves on as usual, to watch Penn State being cheered by thousands of fans on Saturday afternoon. Penn State's name is synonymous with Sandusky for the time being. The school's image is tarnished. The idea of big sports business as usual is a bit nauseating.
And, yet, the NCAA's apparent decision to slash scholarships and ban Penn State from bowl games is going too far. I can see how punishments can deter coaches from cheating while recruiting. I don't see how it will do a thing to deter someone as sick as Sandusky. This is a crime, not a rules violation.
Fining the university a record amount of money, and using that money for children's charities, as some have reported is in the NCAA's plans? That, I'll endorse. That would take this difficult situation, hold the university accountable and produce some good.
The NCAA should let the criminal justice system punish the criminals, starting with Sandusky and anyone who enabled him.
I'm sure we'll gain some sense of vengeance and satisfaction seeing Penn State football damaged for years to come.
We want someone to pay for this heinous crime. Someone will. Sandusky will be punished. I'd like to see Spanier, Curley and Schultz face punishment, too, for their failure to stop him when they had the chance.
Paterno died six months ago. There's no punishing him. His statue, once a tribute, is gone now, too.
“(The statue) would be a recurring wound to the multitude of individuals across the nation and beyond who have been the victims of child abuse,” Erickson said.
It's a small acknowledgment by Penn State of the horrors. Small, but necessary.
As for the NCAA, it would be better served to stay out of it.
Shame already engulfs Penn State. Its reputation is in shambles. Reduced scholarships and bowl-game bans only punish those who had nothing to do with the crime.