Stop saying innocent at PSU are being punished

OPINION

July 23, 2012|By Matt Lindner, For RedEye

Let's make one thing clear for those of you who apparently have completely misinterpreted everything Penn State-related over the past week--the NCAA isn't punishing the innocent by levying severe sanctions against Penn State, rather they're punishing the university culture that allowed the innocent to be stripped of their innocence in the first place.

The facts are there. Multiple people looked the other way while an assistant football coach sexually abused a number of children, continually allowing him to attend university functions and use university facilities despite having an inkling of what this man was capable of.

This is disgusting.

And yet, since the very moment it was announced that the University That Paterno Built would face "unprecedented sanctions" in the wake of the Freeh Report findings, people who should know better wondered aloud "Why are you punishing innocent people for the actions of a few?" as though only Jerry Sandusky, former president Graham Spanier and the now-deceased Joe Paterno should face penalties.

Here's why.

As anyone who has ever attended a Division I school (and I hold degrees from two) will tell you, jocks and coaches in the marquee sports like football and basketball are allowed to get away with a lot more than the rest of the student body because they help bring in staggering amounts of money to the school each year. The culture of hero worship on college campuses nationwide encourages students and administrators alike to look the other way when it becomes apparent that people who are really good at sports think they're above playing by the rules the rest of us must abide by.

There is no other way of putting this: the NCAA needed to send a message that the ol' sweep-it-under-the-rug-and-maybe-it'll-go-away mentality that many major institutions have when it comes to something that threatens to slaughter their cash cow will not be tolerated under any circumstances.

What Penn State is faced with isn't the death penalty, but its damn close. A $60 million fine, five years of probation, four year bowl game ban, loss of dozens of scholarships and 14 years of wins completely vacated.

The NCAA has said specifically the non-revenue sports will not be affected by the sanctions. Football players, recruits and students who came to Penn State specifically for the football program are free to transfer to other schools. Life will move on.

But anyone claiming the innocent are being punished here is just plain wrong. Penn State football will be back on its feet in a decade or so. The truly innocent in this case have already been punished, and they'll spend the rest of their lives recovering from the abuse they suffered at the hands of a monster.

Matt Lindner is a RedEye special contributor.

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