With yesterday's announcement of NCAA sanctions against Penn State, students and alumni are trying to make sense of what it all means to the future of the university's football program. The $60 million dollar fine, loss of 20 scholarships, and a four year ban from postseason play has some asking if it would have been better to simply shutdown the program for a year. I want to say right up front that I never would condone the reprehensible behavior of the Penn State administration in relation to the Jerry Sandusky scandal. I think the efforts to cover-up something as heinous as sexual abuse of children should be punished to the full extent of the law. I think that the NCAA should sanction Penn State.
But, there was one point in the sections that I disagreed with. As part of the sanctions imposed, the NCAA striped Joe Paterno of 111 wins from 1998 to 2011. My question for the NCAA is "Who does that punish?" Let's face it, Joe Paterno was a staple on college football. His record of wins was a testament to his many years of service to college football. Again, I don't condone his or anyone else's actions, but you can't just wash away history. Yes, he made a grave error in judgement when he aligned with the university administration in covering up Sandusky's abhorrent behavior, but how does taking away the wins of a legend punish him? It's not like those games suddenly never happened. You can still call up ESPN and get the films for all of those games. This is like a group of historians deciding to say that the battle of Gettysburg never happened. The loss of those games doesn't impact Joe Paterno any longer. But, what about the students who played in those 111 games? What about Adam Tallaferro who suffered a paralyzing neck injury as a freshman in one of those games in 2000 against Ohio State? That game no longer exists, according to the NCAA. Adam has the injury to prove that the game did indeed happen. Then there is Evan Royster, who now plays for the Washington Redskins. He set a school career rushing record from 2007 to 2010. Now, according to the NCAA, he lost every college game he ever played in.
You can't erase history. Just as the soldiers of Gettysburg died in an event that can't be denied or erased, the effort and work of the coaches and players can't just be washed away. NCAA, punish the school, but leave the records where they stand. Don't make the players of years past feel like their injuries and efforts were for naught.