The NCAA makes up for a bad call

Joe Paterno is dead. We can assume that, to the extent that final justice exists, he is getting whatever he deserves. His long time defensive coordinator and convicted predator Jerry Sandusky is in jail, where he can’t hurt anyone. Justice for him is delayed but inevitable.

The NCAA was right to reinstate the Penn State football wins which were stripped from the program after it was revealed Sandusky as a serial pedophile. It was a trivial penalty to begin with because the NCAA had no place in a scandal of this magnitude.

The scandal that rocked State College was unusual for big-time college football. This wasn’t under-the-table money to encourage recruits, or extra perks for current players; this was a legitimate question about whether a former coach was using his charity to abuse children – and whether the leaders of Penn State, including Paterno, swept it under the rug.

The sports czars have no authority over what was, and is, a criminal matter, but their actions are understandable. When big news breaks, people tend to look for immediate action. Penn State fired Paterno quickly and tore a statue of him down, despite little understanding of how or if he was involved. The NCAA stripped Penn State of its wins from 1998 to 2011, despite little understanding of how or if the school had moved to cover up Sandusky’s abuses.

But in a situation like this, that the scandal’s main actors are associated with the football program is irrelevant. Ultimately, Sandusky and any enablers had to answer to law enforcement, and Penn State’s board of trustees had to decide if the failures in leadership necessitated changes in leadership. The NCAA deals with sports, which really isn’t all that important.

Answering the Sandusky allegations with a football-related response doesn’t give the situation the attention and gravity it deserves. But I’m sure it made some people at the NCAA headquarters feel like they accomplished something.

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