Yesterday, the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) dropped the proverbial hammer on Penn State and their historic football program. I have some personal connections to Penn State. My sister and brother-in-law, and their daughters all attended Penn State. I remember during Christmas break we all had to root for Penn State in whatever bowl game they were in. I’m sure they are having mixed feelings about the events of the summer and the damage done to their alma mater.

Scandals are nothing new to college sports. Every few years there are recruiting violations, drug abuse and other charges leveled at college players and coaches. The two biggest football programs in Montana certainly have had more than a few skeletons in their closets.

The Missoula jail needs a revolving front door to keep up with the latest series of crimes by Grizzly players. MSU had a murder and brief but violent drug involvement that led in part to the ouster of Coach Jerry Kramer.

Penn State

Over the summer, an investigation of Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, led to his arrest for 48 alleged accounts of sexual abuse of ten boys over a 15-year period. A jury found Sandusky guilty on 45 of the 48 counts against him. He will most likely spend the rest of his life in prison.

As the late, great, radio icon, Paul Harvey would say, “Here’s the rest of the story.” Apparently, Sandusky’s child abuse did not go unnoticed at Penn State. Further investigation found that several people in the upper echelon of Penn State were either aware or suspicious of Sandusky’s activities, but did nothing about it. Among these higher ups was Penn State Head Coach Joe Paterno.


Paterno was the coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions for nearly 46 years. Unfortunately, Paterno died of lung cancer in January of this year. By June, the evidence proved that Paterno, along with three other high ranking officials at Penn State, tried to cover up Sandusky’s activities thus putting the college in line for punishment by linking them to the cover up. The legacy Paterno had worked so hard to build in life would be taken from him after his death.

The NCCA Ruling

There have been some tough rulings by the NCAA over the years. Colleges stripped of wins or titles, excluded from bowl games, scholarships reduced. The NCAA’s ruling against Penn State is unprecedented. They ruled the following:

  • $60 million in fines over 5 years to fund child abuse programs and other children’s public services. The governor says no taxpayer funds can be used to pay these fines.
  • No post-season bowl appearances for four years. That means no college athlete that wants to go pro would go anywhere near Penn State.
  • The number of athletic scholarships Penn State could award was reduced.
  • Current Penn State players would be allowed to transfer to other schools without penalty by the NCAA.
  • Penn State was stripped of 111 victories between the years of 1998-2012. Meaning Joe Paterno would lose his standing as the winningest coach of all time — he’s now fifth.

“Football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing and protecting young people,” NCAA President Mark Emmert declared.

Penn State Reaction

Penn State had a tough decision to make. They could try to appeal the ruling and take the chance of having their football program put on hold; or they could take the ruling, with a spoonful of sugar, knowing that it will be years before they can regain their former glory, if at all. They chose the latter.

Penn State removed the statue of Joe Paterno, the former winningest coach of all time, from the front of their stadium and began the long healing process.

Penn State spokesman David La Torre said,

“It was clear Penn State faced an alternative — a long-term death penalty and additional sanctions for the program, university and whole community. Given the situation, he believed the sanctions offered and accepted was the appropriate course of action.”

Economic Repercussions

Regardless of your feelings towards sports, there is no question that big time football is a major moneymaker for colleges. Losing that historic program not only greatly reduces the revenue of the college, but also has a tremendous economic impact on the city itself. The MSU football program generates hundreds of thousands of dollars to Bozeman businesses each year.

Some Final Thoughts

As I said earlier, I have some family ties to Penn State. Over the years Penn State has always been viewed as a first rate and honest program. To see the legacy of Joe Paterno lost after 46 years is a tragedy to his family. However, there is no way I can excuse the actions of Sandusky for the horrible abuse he inflicted on his victims, nor can I forgive Joe Paterno and others for looking the other way for fear of some bad publicity.

Sandusky going to prison is justice done in one case, and the lost of victories was a correct decision, in my view, for Paterno. To current students, current athletes that did nothing wrong, this seems like a punishment to them too. They are the collateral damage in this whole mess. Wrong place; wrong time.

But unfortunately, a small group of selfish people hurt the reputation of a fine university, damaged the economy of a town, but most of all, damaged forever the lives of at least 10 young men. There are probably more that did not come forward.

When we see these actions we look to the heavens and wish there was some way we could do a “do over.” To somehow go back, and to prevent this from ever happening to another innocent child again. I hope the NCAA ruling will not fall on deaf ears at other institutions of higher learning.  A lot of life changing decisions will be made in the days ahead. This scandal has affected many people in many ways. Me included.

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