PRIDE OF THE LIONS: No matter how much it hurts to acknowledge, the Joe Paterno we thought we knew and the one that really was does not appear to be one in the same. Photo courtesy Getty Images

“Now, we must all fear evil men. But there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men.”

Pretty powerful quote, isn’t it? There’s no understating how much it must speak to everyone in the wake of yesterday’s Freeh Report. There was one evil man who became an evil monster that preyed on innocent children for over a decade because other men, GOOD men, allowed him to.

But the credit for such powerful words is not mine. No, that quote belongs to Joseph Vincent Paterno.

The fact that one of the men so horribly damned by the report made public by Louis Freeh yesterday said those words ever before this scandal broke is almost as incriminating as the 267-page chronicle itself. Because that is just what Joe Paterno and others are guilty of here: awareness.

JUDGE AND EXECUTIONER: Louis Freeh’s report effectively kills any hopes we had that high-ranking employees at Penn State had no idea what Jerry Sandusky was doing. Photo courtesy William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

Joe Paterno, Graham Spanier, Tim Curley, and Gary Schultz knew that they were working with a sexual predator for almost one and a half decades and did virtually nothing about it in order to maintain the good name of a college football program. There is no more denying this fact. Just as Jerry Sandusky stripped those boys of their innocence, the Freeh Report has stripped us of our doubts.

But because so many people still refuse to believe a man who coached young men for so long could do no wrong, the fallout from this report was strangely polarizing more than anything else. Those who believed what Freeh discovered immediately called for the head of a man that was already dead while those who didn’t became only more enraged by the sullying of the late coach’s good name.

Unfortunately, though, the Freeh report is accurate. It’s just that simple. In order to preserve the lives they knew, these four men were not only willing but complicit in turning a blind eye to a man they considered a friend as he destroyed the lives of countless others.

Did Sandusky kill someone? No. But in some ways, what he did was even worse. While no one so innocent deserves to die, at least then there is the thought that they might rest in peace. These boys that Jerry Sandusky raped will not find any such solace. Instead, the world they were born into has been transformed into something of a living hell that they must suffer through and fight to overcome each and every day.

So, for that, these men should receive no mercy. Paterno is dead and Sandusky will spend the rest of his life in prison. Now, for us to scrounge up what justice we still can in the wake of this tragedy, the other three men here — Spanier, Curley, and Schultz — need to serve prison sentences as well.

Why? Because the crimes we are dealing with are just that heinous.

Child rape. that is what we are talking about here. A crime so terrifying that a war veteran called it the most unsettling thing he had ever witnessed. THAT is what we are talking about here. If you’re uncomfortable with it being put in such explicit terms, you can turn a censor it, but just know, in some ways, you are continuing the vicious circle of silence that condemned these young boys to begin with.

Maybe that was a little harsh, but it’s true. Whether it was because they had things to lose or the situation itself was just too awkward, the men who knew about these horrors did nothing to stop them. Now that all of us are aware of what has happened, it is on US to end the pain just as it was once on them.

You see, a lot of people were quick to blame Mike McQueary for not stopping what he saw occurring in that bathroom that night, and he deserves plenty of criticism. But the second those men in such positions of authority with the university became apprised of the situation, they inherited that same responsibility.

BOYS TO MEN: The hundreds of youths Paterno mentored does not outweigh the scores he neglected. Photo courtesy Justin K Aller/Getty Images

Instead, they chose to protect their football program. And that is why it’s also worth discussing whether or not the NCAA should hand the Nittany Lions football program the infamous death penalty.

No, this isn’t a kneejerk, revenge-driven reaction. Revenge will do fourteen years of victims no good. No, this is seeing what decisive courses of action we can now take to bring about legitimate change in State College.

So why a death penalty? Because this culture of unleveled priorities and dangerous inaction has completely infected this program. Even now, after months of investigating, we fear that we have just scratched the surface of what has gone on since the mid-nineties at Penn State.

Left unchecked for years, this era has spread like a cancer that has corrupted almost every branch of power in Happy Valley. It has spread so far that we cannot guarantee the problem will have been resolved with selective investigations. This is why it’s worth having a conversation about shutting this football program down and starting it from scratch.

Not only that, but the magnitude of these offenses may also warrant such measures when compared to recent precedents in disciplinary action. Last year, Ohio State vacated all victories in an entire season for essentially what boiled down to football players getting free tattoos. With this in mind, can you really say the temporary termination of the entire football program is too harsh a punishment for dozens of sexually assaulted children?

But that is a conversation for a later day. For now, there are still men that need to answer as individuals for their crimes. And no matter what the authorities in Pennsylvania due, one man will never be able to face the music.

Really, it’s this notion that leaves the most room for debate. Should we tear down JoePa’s statue? Should we strip his name from everything that is Penn State football? Should we allow fourteen years of malicious and selfish decision making to outweigh more than three decades of his career that remain untarnished?

Both sides have legitimate arguments, but there is another Joe Paterno quote that comes to mind when considering these and other questions: “Success is never final.” No matter what you do in this life, the final chapter people read is the one they will remember the most. In Paterno’s case, his legacy has been irreversibly altered. And, while, we can’t march him into a courtroom and hold a trial, some might say that a life correctly judged is punishment enough.

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NOTE: This story was originally published on SportsHead. To read this article and others click here.
When Bryan isn’t writing, he is on Twitter! Follow him @bclienesch!