Jerry Sandusky is no longer an assistant coach at the Pennsylvania State University.
Tim Curley is not the athletic director. Gary Shultz is not the senior vice president of the school’s finances. Graham Spanier is no longer the president of the university, and Joe Paterno is no longer breathing.
David Joyner, the school’s acting athletic director, was an orthopedic surgeon at the time of the most recent cover-up. Bill O’Brien was the offensive coordinator at Georgia Tech.
Michael Zordich, a Penn State legacy, and linebacker Michael Mauti were in middle school.
I mention all of this because it has so apparently been disregarded by Mark Emmert and the NCAA hall monitors.
Sandusky is a monster; that much is far from debatable. Frankly, the term “monster,” given its overuse, does little to describe the bloodcurdling propensity of an individual once thought to be good and decent. That this beast in the unassuming, avuncular cloak was protected and enabled by an entire group of university leaders is alarmingly repugnant.
According to the Freeh Report, on at least two occasions, 1998 and 2001, there were a multitude of clear indications that Sandusky was sexually abusing children – including a first-hand account from graduate assistant Mike McQueary. In each case, the most powerful people at Penn State chose not to act; electing, instead, to protect the reputation of Sandusky and – most importantly – Paterno’s program.
Following Sandusky’s retirement in 1999, he was given an “emeritus” rank that – incredibly – allowed for lifetime access to campus locker rooms and showers, along with weight rooms, fitness facilities and training rooms. He was also given, under the approval of Spanier, a one-time payment of $168,000 as a sort of swollen pension. He had keys to all of the buildings, as well as football season tickets and undeterred access to the Nittany Lion Club.
The university even agreed to align itself with The Second Mile, Sandusky’s sham of a children’s charity.
When faced with outing the defensive coordinator of the football team, Schultz reportedly wrote, “There is a more humane and up front way to handle this.” Spanier warned of possible repercussions, suggesting that the “only downside” related to protecting a sexual predator would come with the absence of plausible deniability in the event of a relapse. Together, the two men, along with Curley and Paterno, elected to gently reprimand Sandusky and shower him with parting gifts.
Their “humane” treatment was nothing short of inhumane, in that it actually prolonged and assisted the disgusting, deplorable actions of a known pedophile. That reality was ignored at the urging of an aging, delusional football coach.
As it turns out, the Paterno that we thought we knew did not exist. He was not a man of flawless morals. He was not a leader and protector of young people. He was not the familiar, amiable JoePa.
Perhaps that is not fair to say. Perhaps, at a certain point in his life, Paterno was all of those things. But, near the end, he was nothing more than an egomaniacal dictator, drunk on his own legacy, that cared about nothing other than his own Penn State – which is not to be confused with the Penn State of others. In the end, it was clear that he would protect the outward appearance of his program at all costs. And he did.
Had Paterno not rapidly succumbed to cancer in January, he would likely be subject to the very same perjury charges that Curley and Schultz currently face. Penn State committed appalling transgressions of civil and criminal laws, for which there exists civil and criminal courts. Those involved should – and will – pay dearly for harboring a child rapist.
The school did not, however, commit a single violation of any NCAA bylaw. Not one. There was no pay-for-play, no improper phone calls, no tattoo bartering or jerseys being sold on eBay. The circus has been completely disbanded; the puppet master is covered in dirt, the freak show is behind bars, and the puppets are sure to join him soon. The all–but–irreparable damage has been done, most of it self-inflicted, none of it related to something as trivial as Mark Emmert’s code of amateurism.
But, as Emmert continually reminds us, he simply cannot resist the urge to over-legislate. Whether or not the situation calls for it is irrelevant.
Masked in a righteous disguise, Emmert disregarded his jurisdiction, instead setting an indefensible precedent. The NCAA’s groundless punishment of extreme proportions included a four-year post-season ban, the vacating of all wins from 1998-2011, and a completely random $60 million fine.
Of course, the sole purpose for rescinding wins that were acquired fair and square – something that has never, in the history of collegiate athletics, been done – was simply to knock Paterno down out of the record books; though, much to the chagrin of the NCAA, Agent K will not be showing up with a neuralizer to erase the memories of those wins, let alone the memory of how it ended. And never mind the fact that a man in Emmert’s position has no legal right to strip funds from a public university, the $60 million fine is mostly irrelevant given the likelihood that beset boosters replenish those funds in no time flat. None of that is really the point.
Emmert’s actions have done nothing to actually enforce accountability upon those responsible. The Freeh report did that. The court of law is doing that. If anything, Emmert has managed to redirect retribution and undue attention upon the current coaches and players – individuals that had absolutely nothing to do with any of this. In doing so, he has inadvertently crippled the school’s attempt to redefine itself post-Paterno. The 85-year old Paterno thought he was Penn State. By punishing a program, athletic department and university that is now void of Paterno’s presence, Emmert appears to be struggling to differentiate the two, as well.
“This program was not built by one man,” said Mauti. “And it’s sure as hell not going to get torn down by one man.”
Though, thanks to Emmert, it may very well be torn down by three men.
The Penn State campus is now swarmed by opposing coaches in pursuit of defectors; defectors who may have otherwise assisted in the rebuilding effort in Happy Valley. Instead, subsequent to the overzealous, extra-legal, extrajudicial judgment of the leader of a so-called non-profit organization, the program – which is currently serving as the talent pool of a pseudo supplemental draft – is in danger of falling right along with Paterno’s statue; one and the same.
“We’re proud of who we are,” said Zordich. “We’re the true Penn Staters, and we’re going to stick together through this. We’re going to see this thing through, and we’re going to do everything we can for the university. We know it’s not going to be easy, but we know what we’re made of.”
Unfortunately for Zordich and the rest of the true Penn Staters, the NCAA’s misguided, opportunistic pursuit of positive publicity upped the degree of difficulty considerably. As a result, Emmert has drastically increased the plausibility that a pedophile and a shockingly evil enabler forever define a once-great institution.
Emmert is no judge and he levied no justice. He merely compounded the injustice.