Penn State football program crippled

Penn State football program crippled

Credit: Getty Images

STATE COLLEGE, PA - JULY 22: An area of the statue of former Penn State University football coach Joe 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. It's believed that Paterno had detailed knowledge of Jerry Sandusky sexually abusing children before and after Sandusky retired from coaching at Penn State. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

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by TED MADDEN

WFAA-TV

Posted on July 23, 2012 at 10:59 AM

Updated Monday, Jul 23 at 5:11 PM

Poll:
What do you think of the NCAA sanctions?

Was there anything the NCAA could have done this morning that would have been too severe?

Probably not -- not when you think about the number of victims who could have been spared. Not when you consider the number of years Jerry Sandusky was allowed to continue to prey on them after Penn State officials first learned what he was doing.

The NCAA came down hard on Penn State this morning, deservedly so. For a list of all the sanctions, I suggest going straight to the source.

NCAA President Mark Emmert announced the sanctions this morning. The highlights -- a $60 million fine, to be paid over a five-year period. A significant loss of scholarships available for incoming student-athletes (only 15 per year instead of 25, starting in 2013 and lasting four years). Current scholarship football players are allowed to transfer without losing a year of eligibility. And Penn State won't be allowed to participate in any post-season games for the next four years, although in light of the other sanctions, this probably won't be an issue anyway.

This is the most severe penalty any college sports program has received with the exception of SMU's "death penalty" 25 years ago. We won't be able to measure the true severity for a few years, when we see just how hard it is for Penn State to recruit top-level football players, in light of the lost scholarships and the school's new reputation.

This whole storm began with a moment in time, back in 1998. At that moment, Joe Paterno and the other officials at Penn State chose to do nothing. Whether they recognized just how significant that moment was at the time is a mystery. But their action -- or inaction -- has caught up to them and they are all paying a big price. And so is the university that they undoubtedly loved so much.

We all have small moments in time where we either act, or we freeze. Most, if not all, are insignificant when compared to what happened at Penn State in 1998, and the collateral damaged that followed when those officials chose to do the wrong thing. A few years ago at the Colonial golf tournament, I was there as a patron. It was wet and slippery because of some recent rain, and a few feet in front of us and older man slipped and fell into the mud. I did what almost everyone else did at that moment -- nothing. But I learned from it, and a few years later at the DFW Airport, when a woman on an escalator behind me lost her balance and ended up laying on top of her bags as we continued to ascend, I moved quickly to hand my bags to my wife and help the lady to her feet before we reached the top.

These are obviously small examples, but the point is that it's important to recognize these kinds of moments, because you only get one chance to do it right. Sometimes you only get a second or two to make this decision; Penn State officials had at least a few days to make theirs. But I've learned that a big step to making the right decision is to recognize the moment when it comes.

I don't know what Joe Paterno was thinking when his former quarterback and current assistant coach Mike McQueary went to Paterno's house and told him what he saw Sandusky doing. After escorting McQueary out, I don't know if Paterno sat down and really considered what he had been told, and whether allowed himself to realize just how awful this thing was. Did Paterno take a moment to consider the young victim and what he had just gone through? I'm guessing he didn't, because if he had, there's no way he could have allowed Sandusky to continue to operate for another 13 years.

And because Paterno and the other Penn State officials chose to ignore that moment in 1998, the program is forever sullied. Just like SMU will always be remembered for the "death penalty," Penn State will always be linked to this scandal. It didn't have to be this way, and more importantly, there didn't have to be more victims.

E-mail tmadden@wfaa.com

Twitter @tedmadden

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