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"Till Another Comes Forward:" 10 Different Positions on Penn State

Since vineyard’s excellent post has gotten over 300 comments, I have tried to summarize the various points made there here. Some of these positions are composites, and many of y’all may find yourselves agreeing with more than one; I can sympathize with King Solomon’s perspective in Proverbs 18:17 when he says, “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.” I have added editorial Pros and Cons to each position, some of which are based on my opinion and others of which are based on my opinion of other people’s opinions.

Do with this what you will; this was just my attempt to make sense of this mess in the way that I typically try to make sense of life’s messes. I have arranged the following 10 positions that I have read here and elsewhere from most to least punitive in terms of punishment type; once again, some of these are more composites than they are one straight opinion. I have tried to deal fairly with each position whether or not I agree with it (okay, except for Position #7, although I can understand the sentiment) and just wanted to organize some of the arguments made over the past few weeks.

Position #1:

What the people at Penn State did was so morally reprehensible that their football team should receive the death penalty. The cult of personality Joe Paterno had going on up there combined with the toxic, football-obsessed culture that Penn State fans embrace enabled the powers that be to protect a child molester, so everyone is culpable in this tragedy. Since everyone is at fault, everyone from the top down should be punished as much as possible in order to deter other schools from following the same path.

Pro: Fully embraces the seriousness of the situation.

Con: Places full blame on people whose sole crime is loving college football.

Position #2:

Penn State should get the death penalty because of the egregious lack of institutional control displayed by the program. While they were not on probation at the time of the infractions, said infractions go so far beyond the typical pay-for-play and recruiting violations that swift and harsh action is necessary. How can the NCAA give a program the death penalty for merely paying players when Penn State allowed a pedophile to continue preying on little boys?

Pro: Points out that other schools have received harsh punishments for far less than what Penn State did.

Con: Giving the NCAA free reign to make up rules as it goes along is not good for anybody.

Position #3:

Penn State should get the death penalty because Sandusky’s victims demand justice. Some of them have called for this year’s season to be suspended, and their request is reasonable given the circumstances. If your child was one of the kids that Sandusky had molested, you know that you would be calling for the death penalty as well.

Pro: Places the focus on the victims rather than on the politics surrounding college football.

Con: Places justice in the hands of those who understandably might not be able to think rationally.

Position #4:

Penn State should punish itself by giving itself the death penalty as an acknowledgment of culpability in this scandal. Paterno & Co. suppressed this information for the sake of football, so football should be suspended as a way of telling others that Penn State will not tolerate such actions.

Pro: This would be a classy move that would take the issue of the death penalty out of the hands of the NCAA and put it into the hands of the offenders.

Con: Current players and coaches are screwed and would have to hastily make other arrangements.

Position #5:

The NCAA should not give Penn State the death penalty due to a lack of overt rules detailing a situation wherein a team can be disbanded without having first been on probation for a major violation, but the NCAA should conduct a full-scale investigation of all of Penn State’s affairs going back decades. If Paterno & Co. decided to handle child molestation “in-house,” who knows what else never saw the light of day? The NCAA should also write rules so that a program that allows such horrible things to happen can receive the death penalty.

Pro: The NCAA would uphold its own rules while following the logical premise that keeping something big hidden might indicate keeping smaller, violation-type things hidden.

Con: Penn State gets off without any punishment at all unless the NCAA turns up evidence of violations or levies its own lesser punishments based on other rules.

Position #6:

The NCAA should not give Penn State the death penalty, but they should take away scholarships, lower a multi-year postseason ban, limit recruiting opportunities, strip the team of wins, etc. They should also allow all Penn State players to transfer to other schools unconditionally and immediately. No precedent for a circumstance like this exists in college athletics, but enough violations occurred that the NCAA can at least hit them with these lesser sanctions and put them on probation with the promise to examine their every action under a microscope for years to come.

Pro: Assuming that the NCAA can point to the basis for these penalties in its rulebook, Penn State gets punished severely without violating the NCAA’s rules and will be closely scrutinized for years.

Cons: If the NCAA makes up reasons for punishment not in the rulebook, see con of Position #2; also, some might feel that whatever punishments the NCAA hands out short of the death penalty will not be harsh enough.

Position #7:

The B1G should boot Penn State out of the Big Ten as a moral disgrace to the conference. Regardless of what the NCAA decides to do or they decide to do to themselves, Penn State is unworthy of being either a Legend or a Leader.

Pro: Penn State gets some sort of punishment if they and the NCAA do nothing.

Con: Hypocrisy.

Position #8:

Penn State should sanction itself by voluntarily reducing scholarship numbers, giving itself a postseason ban, vacating wins, etc. They do not deserve the death penalty because they have taken every possible step to cleanse itself of this stain, but the voluntary punishments will be another method of apologizing to everyone wronged.

Pro: See Pro for Position #4 and replace “death penalty” with “sanctions.”

Con: Some would feel that Penn State does not grasp the severity of the situation due to the lack of death penalty.

Position #9:

Penn State should not receive the death penalty because they do not deserve it. There is no precedent for handing down the death penalty to a school that was not first on probation for a major violation, and all of the guilty parties are either dead, in prison, or unemployed by Penn State. Besides, all that Penn State fans are guilty of is loving their football team, which is hardly a capital offense.

Pro: Upholds the letter of the NCAA rulebook while acknowledging that the guilty parties have already been punished.

Cons: Penn State gets off with no punishment; overlooks the fact that groups of people are punished for the acts of a few all the time.

Position #10:

Penn State should not receive any additional punishment whatsoever because none of the things done were technically NCAA violations. They may have been moral violations, but morality is fortunately not legislated by the NCAA. Besides, the NCAA is infamous for capriciously making up punishments as it goes along, so do you really want them judging a bunch of people who are just trying to move on from this tragedy?

Pros: Upholds the letter of the NCAA’s law; prevents the NCAA from employing their choose-your-own-adventure-style punishment system.

Cons: See Cons of Position #9.

This and that:

  • If it’s possible to do so within the parameters of the rules, Penn State’s football players should be granted immediate and unconditional permission to transfer to another school of their choosing. I don’t remember where I read this, but someone said that if they were a Penn State football player, they would never want to use those showers again. I am not entirely certain what the rules say about instances wherein players are allowed mass transfer, but I can’t blame anyone who wouldn’t want to stay there. This would also be a way of giving them a type of death penalty without officially lowering the boom.
  • I like the idea of conducting a comprehensive, top-to-bottom investigation of Penn State in search of violations, especially because I am uncomfortable with the NCAA making up more capricious BS on the spot to suit its whims.
  • That said, something has to happen to Penn State. I don’t know what exactly; the trouble is that I think Penn State should receive some sort of punishment for what it allowed to happen but I don’t want it to be some knee-jerk, public-appeasing action that the NCAA made up just because it suited them. Surprisingly enough, the NCAA’s “Pedophilia Cover-up” section of the rulebook is rather thin and not up to the task of designating a suitable punishment.
  • I don’t hold the rank-and-file Penn State fan accountable for anything more than loving their football team. They had no way of knowing what was going on and concealed nothing from no one. That being said, people suffer for the actions of others all the time, fair or not.
  • I would like to see Penn State punishing themselves somehow, although I can’t really blame them for not wanting to make things harder than they are. Still, I feel some sort of self-punishment would be classy and would send a good message.
  • This is a bit different from what I usually do; I did at least have a literary reference at the beginning.
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