National Columnist

NCAA shouldn't punish Penn State; let's leave that to the civil court system


Jerry Sandusky is in jail, but there will be more dark days ahead for Penn State University. (Getty Images)  
Jerry Sandusky is in jail, but there will be more dark days ahead for Penn State University. (Getty Images)  

Penn State football doesn't deserve the death penalty, which is not the same thing as saying "Penn State football should be allowed to go about its business as if Jerry Sandusky never happened."

He happened. Everyone knows it. And Penn State will pay, over and over and over. As well it should.

Listen, if you're a Penn State fan and you read the first eight words of this story and kept reading because you thought this would be supportive, well, you thought wrong. This story is not going to be supportive of Penn State.

But this story isn't going to go too far in the other direction, either, and tap into the rage out there, rage that I understand. No need to compare my rage to yours, but likewise I'm not going to give in to the mob mentality out there that wants anybody and everybody associated with Penn State to burn in hell.

The death penalty for Penn State football? That's illogical. Literally, it makes no sense. The NCAA's death penalty is appropriate when a school has broken NCAA rules, not state laws. I wrote that on Twitter on Monday and instantly was peppered with some manner of the following:

You saying the NCAA shouldn't care about raped children?

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No. I'm not saying that. I'm saying the NCAA has no jurisdiction here. The court system does, and the court system is acting. Sandusky will spend the rest of his godforsaken life in prison. Various Penn State officials who had the power to stop Sandusky years earlier but passed the buck higher and higher until it just sort of disappeared? They're facing criminal action as well. That list might well have included Joe Paterno himself, had he not died in January.

As for the school itself, it's about to be hammered with civil lawsuits. How high can you count? Multiply that number by six, stick a dollar figure in front of it, and now you're looking at the amount of money Penn State stands to lose in civil trials.

The death penalty for football? Man, that's nothing. Penn State is about to lose everything it has, and everything it ever will have. I'm telling you, as an institution, Penn State is about to fall and it might never get up. Not if the juries in these civil cases do the right thing and send a message to Penn State -- and to all of us, every last one of us -- that it is never OK to look the other way when a child is being hurt.

Don't read the first eight words of this story -- Penn State football doesn't deserve the death penalty -- as support for Penn State. Believe me, it's not.

At the same time, fair is fair. And hitting Penn State over the head with the NCAA's rulebook, when Penn State didn't break any NCAA rules, is not fair. Again, I wrote that Monday on Twitter and instantly was hit with something along these lines:

The school covered up rape. Isn't that the definition of "a lack of institutional control?"

Well, sure. But not as it relates to sports. I'll allow that Sandusky's apprehension and conviction years earlier would have hurt recruiting then -- as it will hurt Penn State's recruiting now -- but Penn State officials weren't gutless years ago because they were afraid of a recruiting hit. They were afraid of Joe Paterno. This was his program, his school, and if he wasn't going to punch Sandusky in the nose and call the cops every hour on the hour until they started investigating that monster, well, neither were they. It wasn't about some schoolboy quarterback from Altoona; it was about the revered, feared old man running the show.

The school was lacking moral fiber in a way that soars well above the NCAA's jurisdiction, and believe me, the school will pay for that. There's the civil suits that are coming, and there's the loss of reputation that is here now. A few years ago the phrase "Penn State" meant excellence: great school, great football, great coach. Today Penn State means "Sandusky." That's all it means, and that's all it will mean for decades. You think that doesn't sting? Imagine being a Penn State grad. There are hundreds of thousands of them, all over the world, and they've seen their alma mater become synonymous with a pedophile.

But none of this is enough for some folks, and listen, I understand your rage. I'm not taunting you, mocking you, anything like that. You think you're disgusted today with Penn State? Imagine being on campus in November, arguing with JoePa apologists on Paterno's lawn and even bawling in front of a Penn State classroom because this story was just too heartbreaking to comprehend.

It still is that heartbreaking. It always will be. But it's not an NCAA matter, no matter how many sportswriters muster up outrage and non-sequiturs to call for the NCAA to give Penn State death.

That sort of populist preening might work at the local pub, but it's not fair, and yes, fairness is important. Look, even war has a sense of fair play. It's called the Geneva Conventions, a series of treaties and protocols among almost 200 countries about what will -- and will not -- be allowed even as one country tries to destroy another.

Fair play matters, no matter the stakes, and the death penalty for Penn State would not be fair. It would be worse than double jeopardy, because Penn State is already getting hammered on multiple fronts -- and I'm fine with that. Criminal cases for school officials. Civil cases, sure to come, for the school itself. The court of public opinion. Guilty, guilty, guilty.

But how many organizations should take a bite out of this bitter apple? Should the IRS audit everyone at Penn State just to show the IRS doesn't abide by pedophilia? Should the post office stop delivering mail for the same reason? No more cable for you, Penn State, because the cable company cannot sit idly after the atrocities committed on campus by Jerry Sandusky.

Where does it stop?

It stops here. With the NCAA backing away. Go find a cheater, NCAA.

The courts will deal with the criminals and cowardly scum at Penn State.

Gregg Doyel is a columnist for He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.

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