Paterno’s New Legacy

Jul 23 2012 @ 12:20pm

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Coach Joe Paterno is not only responsible for turning Penn State into the most successful football program ever, he is also now responsible for almost completely destroying it:

The NCAA has given an unprecedented and harsh punishment to Penn State football, handing down a four-year postseason ban and a $60 million fine for covering up the sexual abuse crimes of former coach Jerry [Sandusky]. In addition, the school is on a five-year probation that slashes scholarships to unheard of levels and vacated all of its wins since 1998, when the cover-up began. The $60 million fine was determined as the equivalent of one-year of gross revenue for the football program, and that money will be used to set up an endowment to to benefit victims of child abuse.

James Joyner questions whether the punishment is warranted:

[A]s Jay Bilas and others have noted, Penn State didn’t actually violate the NCAA rulebook in this case. The Pennsylvania criminal code and universal standards of human decency, yes; NCAA rules, no. Indeed, it’s not even clear that the NCAA has jurisdiction here. The other problem—as is always the case with NCAA sanctions—is that the brunt is borne by those who had little to do with the infractions.

Drew Magary thinks the judgment is simply the NCAA grasping for relevance:

This was cynical shit.

I couldn't give two fucks what happens to the football team—dress them in white unitards and make them a French mime troop, for all I care—but there's nothing more ridiculous than watching the NCAA parade around its values and make frowny faces on national television, months and months after the scandal broke (and years and years after evil was allowed to take root). Blowing up Penn State gives perfect cover for every other big football school that is now, to use NCAA president Mark Emmert's phrase, "too big to fail," which describes all of them, and which describes the NCAA, too, while we're at it. It creates the illusion that everything is on the up-and-up again, and that other schools will see Penn State and totally get it now (they won't). In its own stupid way, it's the perfect end point for the Penn State scandal: rotten institution punishes institutional rot.

The economic effects for the Penn State community could be dire:

According to a university-funded study in 2009, Penn State football has an estimated annual economic impact of $161.5 million on the state of Pennsylvania. The study assumed that 15 percent of all Penn State football visitors came from outside the state and that each out-of-state attendee was accompanied by 1.5 people. Each group was assumed to spend, on average, 2.5 days in the state, $88 per night for a hotel room and $44 for meals and incidentals a day.

Update from a reader:

I would be remiss if I didn't offer a friendly correction to something you wrote today:  "Coach Joe Paterno is not only responsible for turning Penn State into the most successful football program ever, he is also now responsible for almost completely destroying it." (emphasis mine) Rather, it is Penn State's conference rival (and my alma mater – hence the mild umbrage), the University of Michigan, that is the most successful football program in college football history.  At 895 wins in the program's history, Michigan is almost a full four seasons of wins ahead of the number two school, University of Texas.  Michigan also boasts the best all-time winning percentage at 0.734.

(Photo: The site on which the statue of Paterno stood sits empty after it was removed by workers outside Beaver Stadium on July 22, 2012 in State College, Pennsylvania. Penn State's president Rodney Erickson made the decision Sunday to remove the statue in the wake of the child sex scandal of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. By Patrick Smith/Getty Images)