Should Penn State get the death penalty?
On the surface, yes. Nothing so terrible has ever happened in and around any major football program. And the fact that it happened with the apparent knowledge of the revered coach and university president – and then systematically covered up – makes it all the worse.
If Penn State football doesn’t get the death penalty, what in the world would? Paying players at SMU seems to pale in comparison, no? NCAA sanctions against other programs for comparatively trivial matters – Indiana basketball, Michigan basketball, etc. – have crippled programs for years.
The main (and most persuasive) argument against the death penalty is that none of the players, coaches or university officials who were involved in the Jerry Sandusky coverup remain with the university or the football program.
Fine. But actions – or inactions, in this case – have consequences, and this is why we can’t have nice things in Happy Valley. And how is that different than in Bloomington or Ann Arbor? Kelvin Sampson and the Fab Five were long gone as new coaches and players struggled through dark years.
The larger question is: Should the university be allowed to continue to profit from an entity that was so thoroughly corrupt for so long?
The profits are massive. According to the Business of College Sports, Penn State football generated $50.4 million in profit on $70.2 million in revenue in 2010 and $53.2 million profit on $72.7 million in revenue in 2011. That is by far the most profitable major sport in the Big Ten.
Therein lies a middle ground between sanctions that would be deemed to be insufficient by many and shutting down Nittany Lion football for a period of time.
The NCAA (or Big Ten) should give Penn State administrators a choice:
- Close down the football program for one year and release all players from their scholarships, while banning the Lions from postseason play for three years; or
- Donate all ticket, TV and apparel revenue for the next two years to RAINN and/or other organizations who support victims of sexual abuse.
The first option would destroy the program. Players would flee Penn State for other schools, and the postseason ban would gum up recruiting for the foreseeable future. Not to mention all of the other Penn State programs supported by football revenue.
The second? All it costs Penn State is money – something the university isn’t lacking – while producing a societal good. And I’m sure the ardent supporters we see on TV and on message boards would gladly step in to help offset the costs.
By adopting the second approach, the university has the opportunity to use the football program to do right by victims while preserving the very thing many alumni and supports hold most dear (as evidenced by this year’s season ticket sales).
Isn’t that what Saint Joe of State College would have wanted?