The powers that be at Penn State, after more than a decade of wrong doing, have finally shed a stark and glaring light down the dark corridors of its past.
Transparency is what could have saved Penn State 10 years ago.
Former FBI director Louis Freeh held nothing back and avoided no one in his investigation of the Jerry Sandusky cover-up in State College. He performed his duties to perfection, and the result was a public slaughtering of any shred of dignity Penn State had remaining.
And rightly so.
Freeh, however, never would’ve been intertwined with the Nittany Lions had powerful men in charge of Penn State held themselves accountable in 2001. Or 1998. Or who knows how many other countless times some suspecting indecisive mind failed to step forward with information about the horrific acts of a cruel monster.
Certainly, the guilt trickles up and down the chain of command – and in different quantities for different individuals. An orderly hierarchy of responsibility is a valued and imperative aspect to our great country and, in this case, it failed miserably.
I believe that Joe Paterno knew full well what his sins were, and he paid with his life. Yes, he was aging rapidly and was battling cancer. But guilt is as heavy a human emotion as there is, and I think it killed JoePa.
Sandusky is right where he belongs — in prison for the rest of his living days. Gary Schultz, Graham Spanier and Tim Curley will be joining him very shortly. And Penn State’s reputation will be tarnished forever. It’s a permanent right cross directly to the face of what had been one of the most respected and revered programs in all of athletics. And the resulting black eye will have costs and ramifications that we may not fully understand — or be able to quantify — for years or possibly decades. The organic punishment that will be handed down by prospective students, courtroom judges and talk show hosts could cost Penn State into the billions of dollars.
And rightly so.
The civil suits should be heavy handed. The court of public opinion will be unrelenting. And those who failed to report or act on suspicions will be forced to live with their guilt for the rest of their lives. And you can bet it will be haunting.
But should Penn State football be given the Death Penalty?
I believe that athletic competition, at its core foundation, is inherently good. I have to. It’s why I pay my mortgage writing and talking about football games and basketball tournaments. Teamwork, unity, discipline, hard work, personal responsibility, commitment and honesty are just a few things I learned growing up on a football field and baseball diamond.
And it is these very principles that must lead Penn State into the future.
Power, greed, money, fear and arrogance caused the cover-up, not the sportsmanship that my father instilled in me at a young age. The only silver lining, if there is one at all, to the worst scandal in NCAA history is the potential for change and progress that is has created.
Penn State was corrupt and it will undoubtedly and appropriately pay a heavy price for its actions. But the future offers an opportunity for the Penn State students, alumni, faculty, administrators and supporters who were, and still are, completely innocent throughout this entire process.
To Penn State, I offer this advice: Commit yourself and your institution to being proactive in the fight against child molestation. Spend money, dedicate time, be vigilant and creative in the battle raging right now in every American city against the evils of child predators.
It is this fight that is most important to me. And it’s in this bout that Penn State football can be the most useful. Not winning championships or going to bowl games or bringing ratings to ESPN on Saturday afternoons.
Penn State football was incredibly powerful for all the wrong reasons eight months ago. It now has a chance to rebuild and transform itself into something so much more than a football team and protected university cash cow.
I wrote this at the end of my article on the day Joe Paterno was fired from Penn State:
“This is about the kids – and there are no silver linings.
I cannot expect victims’ hearts to relax now that 40 counts (for now) of child sexual abuse have been levied against one sick human being. The arraignment of Gary Schultz and Tim Curley won’t repair the frayed nerve endings that have been permanently damaged. I cannot expect victims to sleep easier at night because Joe Paterno and Graham Spanier have been fired as head coach and President at Penn State.
And even when Jerry Sandusky gets what is most-assuredly coming to him in a federal penitentiary, the horrific memories of the past will not be expelled from the furthest reaches of those children’s memories.
I can only hope with every ounce of my soul that somewhere a frightened young child, panicked irresolute parent or morally weak graduate assistant will find the internal strength to learn from what has happened in State College, Pa., and vow to never let it happen again.”
It will take many years, but I believe that Penn State football, with the right people in the right places pushing in the right direction, will be a part of a new culture in Happy Valley.
One that is renowned, not reviled.
-by Braden Gall