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National Columnist

Paterno family pursuit of record goes from insulting to irrational

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Scott Paterno and family tried to appeal the Penn State sanctions but were denied. (Getty Images)  
Scott Paterno and family tried to appeal the Penn State sanctions but were denied. (Getty Images)  

The victims of Jerry Sandusky want their lives back.

The relatives of Joe Paterno want their victories back.

Compassion? Looks like it skipped every generation of the Paterno family, which sent an indignant letter to the NCAA on Friday demanding an appeal of the sanctions levied July 23 against Penn State -- and against Joe Paterno. The NCAA swatted the letter down, saying the sanctions aren't subject to appeal.

That's justice, but so is this: Now the world knows that lovable ol' JoePa wasn't the only cold-blooded Paterno. Turns out it runs in the family.

Not two months ago, several young men testified about the unspeakable crimes perpetrated on them as boys by Sandusky. The victim of the shower assault at the Penn State football building has come forward, and like the others he is considering a civil lawsuit as he tries to put his life back together -- a futile exercise I'd compare to working a jigsaw puzzle without several pieces. Jerry Sandusky snuck around in the shadows and destroyed those pieces while Joe Paterno held the door for him.

And on Friday, the Paterno family said it wants the coaching record back.

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Compassion? Not in this family. We already knew compassion was missing from the head of the household, who learned more than a decade ago about Sandusky's abuse but didn't do anything to stop it. Sandusky hung around boys for years while Joe Paterno managed to coach, managed to eat, managed to sleep with that knowledge. It was monstrous, the wave of denial that Paterno rode to 409 career victories.

But it wasn't just Paterno who lacked compassion for Sandusky's victims. It was -- it is -- Paterno's family. His wife, presumably. His kids. Everyone responsible for the letter on Friday.

According to the letter, the Paterno family wants to soften "the enormous damage done to Penn State, the State College community, former and current students and student-athletes, Joe Paterno and certain others involved, as a result of the unprecedented actions taken by the NCAA."

Let's try that last paragraph again, because the part written by the Paterno family was misleading:

According to the letter, the Paterno family wants to soften "the enormous damage done to Penn State, the State College community, former and current students and student-athletes, Joe Paterno and certain others involved, as a result of the unprecedented actions taken by the NCAA."

That's what this was all about -- those 409 victories, a number reduced to 298 after the NCAA vacated the wins from 1998-2011. The Paterno family probably wouldn't mind if the school didn't owe $60 million in fines, didn't miss the next four postseasons, didn't face massive scholarship restrictions.

But that's not what the family is after. The family wants the record back.

Can you believe it? After everything that happened -- even the Penn State-commissioned Freeh report that affirmed Paterno's negligence -- they want the record back.

The family reaction to this scandal has been an affront to decency every step of the way, from its series of tone-deaf statements to Jay Paterno's "inspirational" tweets and nauseating interview on ESPN, but this letter to the NCAA broke new ground.

The Paterno family is no longer merely insulting. Now it's irrational.

Perhaps the NCAA should reconsider its no-appeal stance. Maybe it's time for the NCAA to speak the only language the Paterno family understands. The family clearly doesn't comprehend compassion, decency or accountability -- so maybe the NCAA should fight crazy with crazy.

Wipe out every single victory in Paterno's career, but what the hell -- keep the losses. The Paterno family wants JoePa to go down as the winningest coach ever? Here's your alternative: History will remember Joe Paterno as the worst coach of all time, an 0-136 loser.

On top of that, how about a lifetime show-cause penalty for Jay Paterno? Don't let him coach college football ever again. Part of me thinks Jay Paterno won't coach again anyway, because who would hire such a dislikeable cretin? But the coaching community is a closed circle, and Jay was born on the inside. Someone would hire him, but not if he has a lifetime show-cause ruling that would force any potential employer to sit before the NCAA and explain itself.

Would that be fair of the NCAA? Of course not. But this is no longer about being fair. This is about rebuking a family that shows no empathy or remorse for the victims of Jerry Sandusky, many of whom were victimized after Joe Paterno learned a decade ago what his longtime defensive coordinator was doing. Paterno didn't abuse those kids, no -- but he didn't stop it from happening. The NCAA wasn't able to sanction Paterno since he's dead, so it sanctioned his legacy by vacating those victories from 1998-2011.

And the Paterno family wants those victories back.

They've soared past self-centered defensiveness and entered despicable, cold-blooded territory. They didn't have a thing to do with the pain Sandusky inflicted on the victims, but they're contributing to it now. You're not a Paterno, so you probably have empathy, so imagine for a minute being one of Sandusky's 10 known victims. Imagine this constant barrage of denial from the family of the great and powerful Joe Paterno, the man who had the knowledge but lacked the conviction to stop Sandusky.

Imagine learning about the latest development from the Paterno family: They want the record back.

Imagine being a victim, wanting your life back.

Imagine being NCAA president Mark Emmert. Holding that letter in your hands, wanting to go Old Testament on the Paterno family.

Don't hold back, Mr. President. Hear their appeal. Then drop the gavel.


Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. 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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