Susan DelPonte, center, reacts to a television in the HUB on the Penn State University main campus in State College, Pa., as the NCAA sanctions against the school's football program are announced Monday. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Monday, July 23, 2012 6:09 PM
The hammer, make that a giant anvil, finally came crashing down on Penn State.
With one mighty swing, the NCAA and its president, Mark Emmert, finished what Jerry Sandusky started at least 14 years earlier, taking down the once proud and pristine football program.
While officially Emmert did not hand the Nittany Lions the death penalty, he sure put the program on life support.
The punishment of course will never completely fit the heinous crimes that were committed by Sandusky, but they also won’t cover up the facts of this case.
It seems the NCAA, especially by taking away 112 wins — all but one of those won by legendary head coach Joe Paterno — wasn’t so much as wanting to punish the school, but cleanse itself of the entire matter.
Emmert just tried to give college football, if not all of big-time college athletics, a shower.
Too bad he did it with dirty water.
By punishing the school, Emmert turned the attention once again away from the victims and actions of Sandusky to football. He kept a criminal case a football story, and he put the NCAA right in the middle of it.
In doing so, Emmert and the NCAA added many more folks to the list of Sandusky victims, including all those student athletes that he and his association are supposed to protect.
By wiping out the wins, he is telling all those players who sweat, fought, lifted and worked their tail off for Penn State during those years that they don’t matter.
Sorry, you can’t remake history. What’s done is done.
Just like Penn State officials would like to wipe away the past 14 years of disgrace but can’t, neither can the NCAA take away what those players and coaches earned.
The NCAA is supposed to be about competition on the field, not making political statements off it before the judicial system has fully taken its course.
So now Emmert and the NCAA are not only judge, jury and executioners, but also the moral police.
That’s a lot of power for an institution that in the past has drifted away from taking any actions.
This is a group that has more than once sold out its athletes to the top dollar, that has allowed coaches to run wild in programs and turned their events into cash cows.
Now, they take the high ground.
Really, it’s more like Emmert and the NCAA buckled to public opinion, caved to those who wanted action, any action. The lynch-mob mentality took over and lost was perspective.
Of course, what makes it interesting is that this usually toothless group sunk its gums into an already dead and decaying corpse.
Nothing the NCAA did will hurt Penn State more than the university has already hurt itself. Money will come and go, but the program is damaged for some time to come.
The NCAA just made sure the world knew it stood on the side against evil. That’s not really leadership.
While Emmert and his buddies were quick to act on Penn State, they have been moving at a snail’s pace on other investigations. Just look at the mess that is the University of Miami football.
If ever there was a case of an institution losing control of its football program, the Hurricanes are it. Over and over, they flaunt their actions at the NCAA only to get a slap on the wrist here and the loss of a scholarship there.
Yet the investigation into Miami’s mess is taking longer than the Manson case.
However, at Penn State the NCAA was acting not on its own investigation but that of the university’s. Letting others do the dirty work seems to be the motto now.
Here’s the interesting part, to my knowledge this is the first time punishment was handed out to a program that was never allowed a hearing. If ever a case needed due process, it is this one. Not so here.
Let’s make no mistake about it, Jerry Sandusky is the real villain here and he is being punished by the law.
Yes, others helped by turning their backs, but then again all of us, including the NCAA, are to blame in that matter. We all bought into the belief that football can be bigger than the university.
I don’t expect there will be public outcries or protesters outside games Saturdays this fall.
Yes, the NCAA took a stand, fought evil and punished a football program and university.
But if they want to be real leaders they should show us how to stop this from ever happening again.
They, like the rest of us, didn’t know the devil came sometimes dressed in coaching shorts, polo shirts, baseball caps and a whistle.
We all, including the NCAA, got fooled by that.
So maybe the NCAA should find a way to punish itself as well.
Jim Gazzolo is American Press managing sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org