Should Penn State Receive The Death Penalty?

STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 12: Penn State fans gather outside Beaver Stadium near a statue of Joe Paterno before the start of the NCAA football game between Penn State and Nebraska in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal on November 12, 2011 in State College, Pennsylvania. Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno was fired amid allegations that former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was involved with child sex abuse. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

I know that this isn't strictly a Longhorn-related topic, but I think it's an interesting one to discuss, and I'm curious to see where the BON readership falls on the issue.

In the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky trial and the damning Freeh Report released last week detailing the years-long covering up of the activities of a known child rapist by pretty much everyone who was anybody at Penn State, including the de-haloed Joe Paterno, speculation ramped up about what actions, if any, the NCAA would take against PSU.

When the scandal initially broke last fall, few speculated that the NCAA would impose its own sanctions against the school. We all certainly wondered who at Penn State, in particular Paterno, knew what when as Sandusky's years of serial child-raping took place right under their noses, but there was enough ambiguity to reserve further judgment until more facts were revealed. (I'll freely admit that I was one of the voices urging the virtual lynch mobs which formed in the wake of Sandusky's arrest to reserve judgment against those potentially involved, including Paterno, until we learned more facts.)

With the release of the Freeh Report, though, we have those facts. Yes, some, including Paterno's family, are quibbling at the edges, but it's hard for me to conclude that any rational person can look at the Freeh Report and come to any other conclusion than "They all knew." And with the confirmation of a fact pattern beyond even most worst-case scenario speculations last fall, the door is suddenly opened for the NCAA to impose harsh and what would as far as I know be unprecedented sanctions against Penn State.

In fact, NCAA President Mark Emmert just this week explicitly left all possible punishments, including the death penalty, on the table for PSU, as the NCAA starts to figure out what actions, if any, it will take against the school.

So what should the NCAA do? Should it steer clear of imposing sanctions altogether, given that the activities which occurred and which were covered up were criminal in nature, and that expanding its jurisdiction away from the playing field and into realm of off-the-field criminal activities -- no matter how egregious this particular instance was --would open up a Pandora's Box of complications for the NCAA any time personnel involved with a collegiate athletics program ran afoul of the law?

Or should the NCAA get involved and impose sanctions for the years-long actions of those affiliated with the Penn State football program, even if many of those involved are no longer associated with the university? If sanctions are imposed, does the NCAA get the flow chart down and see how many improperly-financed tattoos equal how many children have been raped, and from that determine the standard mix of scholarships and bowl appearances to take away, or will the NCAA have the courage of its convictions and shut down the football program for a year or two -- no matter how big and powerful it is -- for behavior that, as Emmert himself has put it, is as "egregious as this in terms of just overall conduct and behavior inside a university"?

As you may have surmised by this point, I'm in the pro-death penalty camp. I'm disgusted by Sandusky's actions. I'm disgusted by the scope of the cover up which has been revealed. I'm disgusted at the way the football-centric culture at Penn State facilitated this cover up. If what happened at Penn State doesn't provide the ultimate example of a lack of institutional control, I can't possibly imagine what fact pattern would.

And, frankly, though this shouldn't really be a consideration of the NCAA when it determines what to do, I'm disgusted by so much of what I've seen come out of a non-insignificant portion of Penn State's students, alumni, administration, trustees and supporters as this scandal has unfolded. Yes, many in the PSU family, perhaps even a strong majority of members of that family, have reacted in what I would term an appropriate manner, but it seems quite a few members that family (optimistically, just a very vocal small minority thereof) have attempted to engage in ostrich-in-the-sand behavior, acting as though the wholesale institutional facilitation of child rape is worthy of nothing more than a "nothing to see here, let's move along" response, particularly when it comes to what Paterno himself enabled. I really hope those spoiled brats who rioted the night Paterno was fired feel particularly proud of themselves now in the wake of the Freeh Report. And I can't possibly imagine what would motivate some (of what is for now a small group, apparently) to guard against the potential removal of a statue of a man who enabled a child rapist.

In sum, emotionally, I want football taken away from that segment of this fan base for a couple of years. They don't deserve it any more.

(Though I am almost of the mindset that, if the NCAA decided that the death penalty was not the appropriate punishment [and there are valid reasons for that position], I'd almost rather see the NCAA do nothing at all than impose the typical set of sanctions for what might be the most horrific set of circumstances it has ever encountered. Treating the enabling of child rape similarly to the Ohio State tattoo scandal would make a mockery of the victims of Sandusky and Penn State.)

But what do you think?

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