COWARDLY LION: Joe Paterno didn’t want to risk his football program to bring a sex offender to justice. Now he has 112 fewer victories to his name. Photo courtesy Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Congratulations, Penn State. Heavy “unprecedented” sanctions aside, you’ve managed to keep your precious football program. It took a lot of work, too. When you learned you’re defensive coordinator was a sexual deviant and a pedophile, you had to cover it up. When it was discovered 14 years later, you had to pretend you DIDN’T cover it up. And when the public didn’t buy it, you had to send school and athletic administrators to gallows so fast you gave the French Revolution a run for its money. All that work just so you could take the field against Ohio on September 1st.

Now that you’ve dodged the infamous death penalty, do you believe it was all worth it? The rest of the nation has mixed reactions.

When the debate over proposed NCAA sanctions against the Nittany Lions arose, critics of the idea argued that no punishment would ever avenge the victims of Jerry Sandusky. This is true, but the point was never to do right by the victims because that’s simply just not doable. No, the point of NCAA sanctions needed to be to ensure that such a systematic failure never occurred again.

In that respect, Mark Emmert and the NCAA may not have gone far enough. Were the punishments severe? Yes, no one can argue that. But PSU is going to run on that field just months after last year’s defensive coordinator is sent to prison for the rest of his life for raping young children in the team’s facilities. Something about that notion is disturbingly troublesome.

JUDGE, JURY, AND NO EXECUTIONER: Mark Emmert opted not to shut down the Penn State football program, but that’s not to say a price will not be paid. Photo courtesy Joe Robbins/Getty Images

But this is not to say every action college football’s governing body took yesterday was wrong. In fact, there was a lot to like. Namely, the vacation of victories all the way back to 1998 was absolutely spot-on. Not only does it quite literally erase ALL the work that was done with a dirty program, it strips Joe Paterno of his title as the winningest coach in Division I college football.

The move may be the closest we ever come to feeling something that even remotely resembles justice. How do you punish a man who is already dead and gone? You strip him of his legacy. And after his name has been successfully tarnished and his shrines have been taken down, the only thing remaining was his status in the record books. Now there are 112 fewer victories to JoePa’s name and one last place we will ever have to read his name again.

Another great move was a little bit of a no-brainer: the allowance of current and committed Penn State football players transfer without the usual penalties. This saga has had enough victims and there is no need to go out creating more unnecessarily.

However, the removal of scholarships is the one point that seems to be the most controversial. People in favor of punishing State College say it didn’t go far enough while those who defended the university’s status believe the forfeiture unfairly cripples the program. To be honest, though, there are points to be made against both sides.

First of all, the program is ALREADY crippled. They have a new head coach leading a regime change at Happy Valley for the first time in almost half a century, most of the current players are most likely going to leave PSU, and the entire team is going to have to practice and play every day with the darkest of clouds looming over their head. Limiting the number of scholarships the school can hand out won’t do anything to change all that.

As for those who wanted ALL of the scholarships taken away, that too would’ve been the wrong move. Why? Because while it may not have been a death penalty per say, the results would have been much similar. If you take away all the scholarship offers, Penn State becomes a football program that is “volunteers only”. Having to play with that kind of disadvantage in an elite Division 1-A conference? You might be BETTER OFF ceasing football activities entirely.

But there is a good reason the NCAA didn’t issue PSU the death penalty and I wholly agree with it. The only other program ever to receive the death penalty, SMU, received said penalty for continuing to commit grave infractions while already on probation. In other words, Southern Methodist got shut down for being a “repeat offender”. Penn State’s mistakes in the Sandusky sex scandal, no matter how grave, are the first of their kind.

The one final sanction directly related to football is the four-year postseason ban. Such bans have become popular punishments handed down by the NCAA (see ‘USC’ and ‘Ohio State’) over the past few years, but in this case it seems a bit redundant. The other sanctions Emmert and company have put in place against the Nittany Lions effectively kill their ability to compete over the next few years, so further banning them from participating in bowl games and championships seems rather pointless.

The major non-football penalty, though, was the financial fine. Doesn’t it always come down to the money? The university will have to pay a ticket tabbing out at $60 million, the equivalent to about one year’s worth of football-generated revenue in Happy Valley.

Quite honestly, the amount of money Penn State is fined isn’t too big of a deal. No amount was going to be so large that it bankrupts the university in any way and no amount was going to be so small that its beneficiaries — in this case child abuse-related charities — would have no use for the funds. My only gripe here, if any, is that the money total was based on one year’s worth of business at Penn State. If all the other penalties are going to be leveled in sentences of four or five years, why not this one, too?

Nevertheless, the Nittany Lions get to play football in 2012. And after the passing of Joe Paterno, that’s really all the Penn State faithful could ask for. As for the other side, they can rest assured that the culture of cover ups and mislaid priorities is effectively over in State College. Are both sides still unhappy with Monday’s news? Then perhaps both sides are being a little too greedy. What yesterday’s sanctions do is give the nation the best chance to move on. Given how disgusting and uncomfortable this whole fiasco has been, that may be the best form of justice for us all.

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