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Any punishment of Penn State handed down by the NCAA was always going to be inadequate. The sports body doesn’t have the authority to deliver what would be justice for Jerry Sandusky’s unspeakable crimes and those involved in the cover-up. The $60 million fine seems fair. But what about vacating past wins?
Michael Brendan Dougherty writes:
Basically the NCAA will pretend (and ask everyone else to pretend) that Penn State football didn’t win those games. Consequently, we must pretend that Joe Paterno is no longer the college football coach with the most wins. And that is supposed to make everyone feel good about themselves.
Usually this punishment is reserved for cases when an athlete or sports program is alleged to have engaged in activities that call their wins into question or make them illegitimate: cheating, in short. But Sandusky’s monstrous behavior gave the Lions no advantage. The players who won those games may not have had even the slightest knowledge of Sandusky’s inclinations.
The logic runs roughly this: Paterno helped hush up Sandusky because he was concerned about his reputation and that of the Penn State football program. Take away his status as the winngest coach in college football history and that reputation takes the hit they endangered children to preserve.
But Paterno and Penn State’s legacy would have deservedly taken a hit without vacating those wins. And everyone knows that Penn State really won those games. This is an act of make-believe, not of justice. Prosecuting the living people complicit in covering up for Sandusky accomplishes something. Punishing innocent student athletes — including those now banned from postseason play under Bill O’Brien, without any connection to Sandusky or even Paterno at all — does not.
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