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CLOQUET LAKE… Just little more than an hour ago, NCAA president Mark Emmert issued the most severe set of penalties ever levied by the governing body of collegiate sports. For the Jerry Sandusky incidents involving sexual abuse of children, Penn State University has been fined $60 mil, cannot participate in bowl games for four years, will have its football scholarships substantially reduced for those same four years, and will vacate all wins for the timeframe of 1998-2011. Yes, I say most severe because the NCAA “death penalty,” which would shutter the program for at least a season, would have been less harsh on the program than this.
Are the penalties too severe? I’m not certain. The acts of child molestation committed by the now convicted Sandusky are as heinous as can be. And considering that more than a few people of great importance to the university knew of the improprieties and failed to see through any investigations of Sandusky that would have led to his arrest years ago, or at least stopped him from any further abuse, it would be hard to say that the penalties imposed are too harsh. Sandusky’s victims, I’m certain, may never get over the shame and humiliation of what happened to them. The PSU football program will at some point have a chance to emerge from the ashes.
I struggled to comprehend the pain of the punishments that many innocent people on the current football team and in the athletic department are going to have to feel the full force of. But as my father pointed out in a debate about this, people at the upper reaches of the entire institution knew of these transgressions and failed to act, failed to follow through and put a stop to what Sandusky was up to, and thus, since they were the face of the school, and therefore responsible for its safe and successful operation, are culpable and punishable.
Former president Graham Spanier and former athletic director Tim Curley are still dealing with the fallout from many angles, and the late legendary coach Joe Paterno was fired before the end of the season. With all victories since 1998 removed from his record, Paterno goes from first on the all-time victory list to 12th. And for all Penn State diehards, the ultimate humiliation: the Joe Paterno statue has been removed from its place of prominence at the football stadium and put into storage.
There is a small part of me, though, that is saying, whoaaaaaa Baba Louie! Hold on a minute! There are some legal experts around the country who are concerned that the NCAA may be caught up in a rush to judgment. Some of these folks are wondering if all of those accused (excluding the now-convicted Sandusky) have received their due process. Honestly, I have been kind of wondering that as well. The PSU board of trustees were the ones who initiated the now-infamous Freeh Report. Within the report are the claims that Paterno knew of the problems with Sandusky and systematically ignored them to protect the integrity of the program. But I heard a “legal expert” claim today that nowhere in the report is there any corroborating evidence to support those claims in regard to Paterno. Additionally, the NCAA, instead of their usual practice of operating their own investigation prior to any hearing and/or announcement of penalty, is accepting the Freeh Report on its face as their own in-house investigation of the matter, and thus are basing their punishment phase upon its contents. In light of the severity of the penalties, this should hardly be acceptable to PSU. At a bare minimum, they should be allowed their day in court. After that, if everything sticks, it sticks.
Above and beyond everything, Sandusky’s victims should be first and foremost and should receive any and all counseling and support necessary to overcome the ordeal they have been put through. As Emmert stated when reviewing the punishment dealt to the program, “‘Football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing, and protecting young people.” As this matter will be heartily debated for months to come, and a lot of us may never level out the entire matter to a point where it will make any sense, all I can say to Emmert’s statement is “Amen, brother. Amen.” …. PEACE
MFAN EXTRAS: Former Minnesota Twin Jason Kuebel had a three-homerun performance yesterday in a 12-3 decision as his Arizona D-backs bested the Houston Astros… THE PHILLY FLYERS have offered a massive 14-year, $110 mil contract “offer sheet” to current Nashville Predators celebrated D-man and RFA Shea Weber, and Weber signed it. By all accounts, this has violated a gentlemen’s agreement amongst NHL GMs that they would not go after prized RFAs in this manner. UFAs? Yes, but not RFAs. This is the Flyers, though, and they are desperate. They used to be known as the “Broad Street Bullies” on the ice, and now, apparently, that is extending to the board room as well. It should be noted that no rules have been broken, but the Flyers never said they were gentlemen, right? Nashville has seven days to match the offer… OVER & OUT!
MFAN TOP FIVE AWA “JOBBERS” OF ALL TIME:
1. Kenny “the Sodbuster” Jay – CLEVELAND, OH
2. “Scrap Iron” George Gadaski – AMERY, WI
3. Jake “the Milkman” Milliman – NASHVILLE
4. “Precious” Paul Pershman – MPLS. MN
5. George “Puppy Dog” Peloquin – DULUTH
Honorable Mention: Tom “Rocky” Stone
Marc Elliott is a freelance sports opinion writer who splits time between his hometown in Illinois and Minnesota. Elliott grew up in the Twin Cities with many of his childhood neighbors working or playing for the Vikings and Twins. He participated in baseball, football and hockey before settling on hockey as his own number one sport. Elliott recently wrote “The Masked Fan Speaks” column for the Lake County News Chronicle for ten years and was a prominent guest on the former “All Sports” WDSM 710AM in Duluth.