Earlier this year, I wrote that Joe Paterno was a coward. While we can talk about all of the great things he accomplished and the undeniably positive impact he had on a number of young men who came through his program, the fact remains that he knew, or at least had strong reason to be suspicious, that Jerry Sandusky, a the long-time assistant coach of his, was not only molesting young boys, but using the Penn State program to do so.
Paterno did nothing, and rightfully deserves to be called a coward. While detractors of this point of view will try to blast the Freeh Report or defend Paterno for hiding behind a chain of command, it seems to be beyond reasonable doubt that Paterno had ample information to rid his program and numerous boys from the terror that is Jerry Sandusky. Instead, the most powerful man at Penn State, the man powerful enough to tell the university president that he could not fire him, was meek and mild when it came to Jerry Sandusky.
Now, Mark Emmert, the NCAA president who has caved to public pressure, is now following in Paterno’s footsteps of cowardice.
The decision to begin restoration of scholarships to Penn State is wrong, immoral, and cowardly. Sure, with all eyes on the university, it has taken steps to “improve,” but what does that matter? What merit does “good behavior” bring to the discussion?
The punishment, too mild in my view, was handed down not out of fear that the university would one day allow sexual predators to roam free again, but because the university had already allowed Jerry Sandusky to destroy the lives of numerous young boys sacrificed at the altar of the Penn State football program.
Has what the university did changed? Did it turn out that Jerry Sandusky did not molest those boys or the university did not turn a blind eye? No. So why should the punishment?
In a time when the NCAA is taking a beating in the arena of public perception, Mark Emmert is looking to come back into good graces. However, this decision underscores what is so wrong about the NCAA. It is an organization about perpetuating its own existence, remaining profitable, and maintaining control. It is not about values that we want to instill in collegiate students, it is not about scholarship, and it is certainly not about the student athletes.
The NCAA does not have the “guts” to stand by a tough decision. It does not have the strength to say that amateur sport is not about profit so student athletes should not be paid, and it does not have the conviction to apply such a philosophy to themselves, the adults that take advantage of these athletes.
Emmert, the leader of this organization, is a coward, and he showed that Tuesday. By refusing to give Penn State the “death penalty” initially, he sent a signal that it is worse to pay student athletes like SMU did than to allow a serial sexual predator onto your campus and sweep it under the rug to avoid a black eye to your program. By refusing to stick by the punishments he did hand down, he has kowtowed to the whims of public pressure and sent a signal that, as long as you are “sorry” and “make changes,” even the most heinous crimes can be forgiven.
What a shame. What a sham. And what an act of cowardice.