As I was skimming through the Freeh Report today, I thought back to a time not long ago when they were calling for Paterno to step down.
He had committed the unforgivable crime of getting old in a young man’s game, and for that reason, he had to go. His teams were mediocre and his methods were out of touch, it was argued. Wow, such adversity seems quaint now, doesn’t it?
I scrolled through the 267 pages of the report with revulsion and anger taking turns having at it. It was one of those moments when you think you know, but you really don’t know. It’s when the bad you understand as such meets the even worse of things.
I moved to the end of it, to the emails- the ones that were being thrown around the Penn State campus as if electronic footballs. The emails- coded vignettes meant to protect the Penn State brand- exchanged between Schultz and Spanier and Graham with Paterno overseeing matters from the sidelines.
Jay Paterno’s appearance on the Today Show this morning was a page right out of the old man’s handbook. Stay defiant, keep the message thick with generalities and when confronted with the facts, push the product.
I’ve argued the idea on several occasions that the program has to go away for a couple years. They threw the death penalty at SMU once upon a time when it was discovered that a slush fund existed which paid players under the table. Well, what took place up in Happy Valley makes that scandal look like a bingo night controversy in comparison.
Of course, every time I bring up the idea of shuttering the program for a spell, I’m greeted with responses that make me feel as if I’m suggesting we turn the Vatican into a mall. The prevailing counter is that the University has a cash cow program whose milk feeds all the other athletic programs. Fine. But I always have to remind these people that this kind of brand recognition helped to aid and abet a child rapist.
And it’s always helpful to remember that as much as the Penn State football program has given its athletic underlings, it has also taken away several sports as a result. When alumni money goes thin, the program doesn’t suffer in the least while other athletic endeavors go away, is what I’m saying.
Maybe they can’t be shuttered, so maybe it’s up to those of us who aren’t drinking the kool-aid to shame someone, somewhere into doing something. For a change.
Maybe they take away football scholarships for two years. Honor the “Grand Experiment” by guaranteeing that student athletes- and only student athletes- will represent the program for the next couple years. It’s a short term hit for a team that plays in a power conference, but it’s not the death penalty for a state run school whose roots depend on Saturday afternoons in the fall.
To say that things will never be the same again isn’t a sad fact.
It’s a start.