Poll Position: Proper penalty in Penn State abuse scandal?

This week brought new revelations in one of the most shocking scandals to hit a university in some time: the sexual abuse of multiple children, over many years, by former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky. The new information, contained in a report released Thursday by former FBI director Louis Freeh that was commissioned by university trustees, details the lengths to which Penn State officials went to keep Sandusky’s actions from being made public — enabling him to prey on more young people for another 14 years.

From ESPN.com’s article about the report:

“Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State,” said [Freeh] …. “The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized.”

After an eight-month inquiry, Freeh’s firm produced a 267-page report that concluded that Hall of Fame coach [Joe] Paterno, President Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz “failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade.”

Freeh called the officials’ disregard for child victims “callous and shocking.”

“In order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at the university — Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley — repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse,” the report said.

That adults in positions of responsibility would turn a blind eye to a serial child molester is disgusting enough. That they did so in part to protect the reputation of a football program and its legendary coach adds another disturbing patina to the whole thing — and I say that as someone who is a huge college football fan (albeit not for the Nittany Lions).

The question now, and the one before us today, is what to do about it.

What's the proper penalty for the Penn State sex-abuse cover-up?

  • PSU football deserves the death penalty (122 Votes)
  • As long as the individuals involved are punished, I'm satisfied (39 Votes)
  • Punish PSU football, short of the death penalty (21 Votes)
  • The broader university needs sanctions (specify in comments) (10 Votes)
  • Punish all athletics at PSU (3 Votes)
  • I'll leave this to others (2 Votes)

Total Voters: 197

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Sandusky, of course, was convicted last month of 45 counts of abusing 10 boys over a period of 15 years. The 68-year-old awaits sentencing, which will bring a minimum of 60 years.

Paterno died in January at age 86, two months after being fired due to the scandal. Spanier was also fired and Curley suspended last November. Curley and Schultz are awaiting trial, charged with perjury and failing to report abuse.

So, the justice system is doing its thing with regard to the individuals involved. But is that enough?

Already, there are calls for the NCAA to hand down the “death penalty” to Penn State’s football program — in short, shutting it down for a period of time. The only previous example of this penalty in major-college football was Southern Methodist University in 1986, which was forced to forgo the following season and ultimately went another season without playing football. That two-year hiatus was effectively a generation for the Mustangs: It took them 20 years even to make it back to a bowl game.

Penn State, with its greater tradition and cachet, might not suffer for that long after two years, and a longer ban might be necessary if the point is to make the institution suffer for its overwrought “culture of reverence” for the football program, as Freeh put it.

Should there be more? Should an institution that put its reputation and success in athletics above the lives of many young boys be allowed to continue any athletic programs? Should there be some kind of penalty on the university itself — even though this is not an academic scandal? If so, what might that possibly look like?

That’s this week’s Poll Position question. The nearby poll offers a few possibilities, but this is one where you’ll need more than ever to elaborate in the comments thread. (Just keep it clean — we might all agree Sandusky is a monster, but let’s not get carried away with our language about him. Your mothers, or your children, are more likely than him to read any gratuitous language here.)

– By Kyle Wingfield

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178 comments Add your comment

JDW

July 13th, 2012
8:14 am

While the Death Penalty seems appealing I am not even sure the NCAA has standing to act. Heinous as the crimes are they may not be in the NCAA’s purview. The legal system is addressing the individual actions and it will be up to Penn State’s board to decide what institutional action to take. If the four named individuals are solely responsible I am not sure I see a punishable institutional transgression.

The real problem is one we face every day, the people in power simply lost their ethical way. It has happened in business, banks and now education for all of us to see and to the significant detriment of our nation. This is bigger than Penn State, Citi Bank or a host of elected officials. This is a window into what our society is becoming and we as a whole must be the ones to address it.

I Report (-: You Whine )-: mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

July 13th, 2012
8:16 am

All they have to do is say that Bush made them do it and they could get a talk show on MSNBC.

carlosgvv

July 13th, 2012
8:17 am

I would punish the indivudials involved.

This is just another sad example(as if we needed any more)of how a pernicious mixture of money, power and sociopathy can cause untold harm to so many people.

I doubt this is an isolated case. Big Football exists in every State and, while this particular kind of crime may be rare in college football, money, power and sociopathy are probably way too common.

I wonder when and what the next sorry football scandal will reveal?

Aquagirl

July 13th, 2012
8:21 am

Shut down the football program permanently. If Penn St. can’t run one without child rapists operating rather openly, the university obviously has deep seated institutional problems that preventing it from running the program in a safe and sane manner.

Skip

July 13th, 2012
8:23 am

Didn’t this get done yesterday on the other guys blog?

That's Goofy

July 13th, 2012
8:25 am

For those calling for death penalty: Switch PSU to UGA (or other college) is death penalty still warranted?

I’m not in favor of the death penalty. It will hurt the entire community not just PSU. I think more people will be fired as the facts continue to come up. Sure JoPa knew – but nobody else did anything either. Football coaches are too powerful.

reality check

July 13th, 2012
8:25 am

The NCAA clearly has the authority to impose the death penalty and they should

Fred ™

July 13th, 2012
8:25 am

How does college football relate to politics? I can’t escape this damn Penn State thing on ANY blog.

Road Scholar

July 13th, 2012
8:28 am

I Report: So you make funny? I guess that means you are in favor of child molestation!

@@

July 13th, 2012
8:29 am

Give Sandusky the death penalty and throw his accomplices in prison…20 years of sexual abuse by their fellow inmates would be punishment enough.

@@

July 13th, 2012
8:31 am

Throw Sandusky’s wife in prison too.

I Report (-: You Whine )-: mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

July 13th, 2012
8:34 am

I Report: So you make funny? I guess that means you are in favor of child molestation!

That wasn’t a joke, Scowler.

There’s probably a pervert on MSNBC as we speak.

I Report (-: You Whine )-: mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

July 13th, 2012
8:35 am

Ooops! Misspelling at 8:34! I meant “Scholar.” :-)

Peadawg

July 13th, 2012
8:42 am

Like I said on Jay’s blog this morning…Mark Schlabach says it best:

http://espn.go.com/college-football/story/_/id/8160717/college-football-penn-state-nittany-lions-earned-wrath-ncaa

“If Ohio State can’t play in a bowl game this season because former Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel lied to NCAA investigators about his players’ receiving free tattoos, how can Penn State play in the postseason after former coach Joe Paterno helped cover up the horrific actions of a serial child rapist?

If North Carolina can’t play in the postseason this season because some of its players received improper benefits from agents and committed academic fraud, how can Penn State be eligible for the postseason after its former president and vice president, athletic director and legendary coach fostered a culture in which a pedophile used the school’s facilities, sideline passes to games and bowl trips like candy to lure the young boys he molested?

And if USC was banned from the postseason for two years and lost more than 20 scholarships because the school failed to oversee the compliance of its most high-profile players, how can Penn State go unpunished by the NCAA when the university’s most-high ranking officials failed to even do what was morally right when they learned young boys were violated and the victims and others were probably still at risk?

Let’s face it: If the 267-page report released Thursday by ex-FBI director Louis Freeh didn’t prove once and for all that Penn State displayed the dreaded “lack of institutional control” in its cover-up of allegations that former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky molested young boys, what in the world constitutes a major violation in the eyes of the NCAA?”

killerj

July 13th, 2012
8:42 am

Do not punish the kids who play for Penn St.,clean house on those in charge of the athletics dept.,anyone who had anything to do with joe pa,s helm.

Peadawg

July 13th, 2012
8:47 am

I was on Jay’s blog all afternoon yesterday…not sure I can do it again so this is the last thing I’ll say.

What people don’t understand about Division 1 college football is the coach IS the football program. Paterno WAS Penn State football for 40+ years and was involved in a 14 year cover up allowing this monster to use Penn State football facilities to molest little boys.

If that isn’t a lack of institutional control then I don’t know what is.

md

July 13th, 2012
8:53 am

The idea of shutting down the program is ludicrous……the crime was conducted by a handful of INDIVIDUALS, not the other hundreds of people involved in the program. They had absolutely nothing to do with it.

For folks like aqua above, that would be like shutting down the military because of the idiots at Abu Ghraib……….

Thulsa Doom

July 13th, 2012
9:00 am

If ever there was a case of lack of institutional control this would be it. A 1 year ban would be appropriate. A permanent ban would be just plain nutty though. Penn st has the third largest stadium in the nation and the football revenue generated funds almost all the other sports and especially the womens sports. So the call for a permanent ban is quite ludicrous.

Aquagirl

July 13th, 2012
9:01 am

Do not punish the kids who play for Penn St.,clean house on those in charge of the athletics dept

First, if your initial thought is for the guys on the field instead of the guys who would lose their jobs, you might want to detach yourself a bit from the young men living out your athletic fantasy.

Second, the entire university and community became so invested in the football program everyone lost their minds. Literally. The idea you can fire a few people at the top and replace them with “good guys” is not supported. The system is rotten through and through.

Hand unlimited money and power to men and bad stuff follows. Politics is the best example at hand, plenty of folks go off to D.C. intending to act nobly and wind up slimy politicians. It’s not evil fairy spirits or something in the water, it’s the same stuff that turned Joe Paterno into an enabler for a child rapist.

md

July 13th, 2012
9:01 am

And for the record, I also think the way the ncaa handles it’s other abuses is ludicrous too……..it makes no sense for a coach to commit an infraction, get fired, go to another school making millions, while the kids at the old institution do the penalty for his crime……..

Ludicrous………

Aquagirl

July 13th, 2012
9:02 am

Oops, close italics fail. My coffee slave will pay dearly for his tardiness.

md

July 13th, 2012
9:03 am

“Second, the entire university and community became so invested in the football program everyone lost their minds.”

So, everyone was aware of what went on for all those years?? Link please.

Rafe Hollister, suffering through Oblamer's ineptocracy

July 13th, 2012
9:06 am

I actually agree with JDW, believe it or not. The individuals responsible should be punished to the full extent of the law. Penn State should get some sanctions, but punishing the other 50,000 students, faculty, alumni, support staff, and community is unproductive. It does not help the victims and it does nothing to punish the guilty parties.

The onus is on the new Penn State Board of Trustees to set a proper atmosphere for healing, compassion for the victims, prevention of future episodes of moral failure, and advocacy for child abuse prevention. They should start by voluntarily placing their sports programs on probation and decline any post season trips.

Thulsa Doom

July 13th, 2012
9:07 am

MD,

The cover up which was done for the purpose of protecting the football program easily meets the NCAA definition of lack of institutional control far more serious than other penalties handed down too other programs. A one year ban is appropriate. Anything further just hurts the school and all the other sports programs that football funds.

Bob Loblaw

July 13th, 2012
9:09 am

Peadawg speaks for me on this one.

Aquagirl

July 13th, 2012
9:09 am

everyone was aware of what went on for all those years??

That’s what the report says. It’s quite clear the people in charge had clear, undeniable evidence. They didn’t decide to look the other way because they were worried about paperwork. They were worried about Penn St. Football. It was too big to fail.

td

July 13th, 2012
9:12 am

This is what happens in America when our institutions are run by leftest that see nothing wrong with murder of unborn children and support unnatural human acts.

md

July 13th, 2012
9:14 am

“The cover up which was done for the purpose of protecting the football program easily meets the NCAA definition of lack of institutional control far more serious than other penalties handed down too other programs.”

And as I explained, I think the whole system is nuts…….it makes no sense to punish everyone for the actions of a few. That ’s kin to putting the whole family in jail because the Dad went out and robbed a bank………..he’s the “institutional” leader….correct?

td

July 13th, 2012
9:14 am

Aquagirl

July 13th, 2012
9:09 am

“They were worried about Penn St. Football.”

Not true. They were worried about all the money coming into the University from the due to the Football team.

Middle of the Road

July 13th, 2012
9:15 am

It would be far more painful; but no, it wouldn’t matter to me even if my beloved Yellow Jackets were involved. This was a school-wide scandal that endured well over a decade. Penn State should be punished and severely. Yes, the community will suffer but that would be the fault of Penn State and not the NCAA.

Oh, and Kyle is bringing up an important nonpartisan issue here. Let’s leave the humor and politics out of this conversation just this once, okay?

md

July 13th, 2012
9:19 am

“It’s quite clear the people in charge had clear, undeniable evidence.”

And the “people in charge” hardly constitute “the entire university and community”.

Individuals commit infractions…….not entire groups of associated people.

And again, for the record…..I think the same should apply to corporations…….if I’m going to defend “we are corporations”, I also think when a corp commits a crime, the individuals that made those decisions should be held accountable……and for the most part they are…..ie Enron.

Peadawg

July 13th, 2012
9:19 am

“A one year ban is appropriate. ”

A 1-year ban is what SMU got for players getting paid…this is far far worse. 3-5 years at least.

Call It Like It Is

July 13th, 2012
9:20 am

The NCAA will have to give them the death penalty. They have no choice. If this doesnt deserve it what would? Fire all involved, don’t allow them to teach, work, coach at another school. Heck most if not all should serve prison time for looking the other way. Release the players and let them go to another school, take down Joe’s statue and remove his name from any and all buildings and from all records. In other words clean the campus.

Peadawg

July 13th, 2012
9:21 am

“Individuals commit infractions…….not entire groups of associated people.”

Read my 8:47.

I Report (-: You Whine )-: mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

July 13th, 2012
9:21 am

I’m surprised Penn State hasn’t just told everybody they were “born that way.”

Jefferson

July 13th, 2012
9:23 am

Jail time for the remaining 3 implicated.

Jimmy62

July 13th, 2012
9:23 am

Killing the football program means you are punishing innocent people. Get rid of everyone involved (assuming they aren’t already facing criminal charges), but don’t punish current students and players.

curious

July 13th, 2012
9:25 am

This isn’t about football; it’s about the law.

Thulsa Doom

July 13th, 2012
9:25 am

Peadawg,

Be for real. As much money as the psu program generates for the NCAA, the big 10, and itself do you honestly think the NCAA would ban them for more than a year? On top of that you would just be punishing future students and athletes. In other words it would simply be counterproductive.

Peadawg

July 13th, 2012
9:28 am

Thulsa Doom
July 13th, 2012
9:25 am

So it’s about money. Got it. You’re no better than Paterno and other who covered it up.

Bless your heart.

md

July 13th, 2012
9:30 am

“Read my 8:47.”

I did, and I don’t agree. And I’d hazard a guess those young adults on the field busting their butts every week/end wouldn’t agree either.

Coaches come and go….they committed the crime, not the kids on the field.

By the logic I’m hearing here, let’s say a coach commits an infraction at a school, doesn’t get caught, moves to another school where he now gets caught for his past infraction……should the new kids get punished because they play for him??

If not, why should the old kids get punished merely because they played for the guy??

Thulsa Doom

July 13th, 2012
9:33 am

MD,

It may not make sense to punish the whole university but its the only tool the NCAA has to punish and hopefully deter future misdeeds. And besides the NCAA has never been about true fairness anyway. Its an arbitrary, capricious, and corrupt organization that is accountable to no one and which would not be able to stand up to public or congressional scrutiny.

Peadawg

July 13th, 2012
9:34 am

“let’s say a coach commits an infraction at a school, doesn’t get caught, moves to another school where he now gets caught for his past infraction……should the new kids get punished because they play for him??”

Look what’s happened at USC and Ohio State. You have the punish the football program someone. Kids can transfer. Coaches will find new jobs. I’m not worried about them. I’m worried about a football program that covered up child molestation for 14 years.

K Mom

July 13th, 2012
9:38 am

The football program should be shut down for a “to be determined” number of years. Right now, even when those boys play, there will be major distractions everywhere they go. Also, the kids that have committed to the school for the football program should be allowed to go elsewhere without penalty. As mentioned before, this is a lack of institutional control and I’m not convinced that all of the culprits have been identified. Happy Valley seems more concerned about quickly moving on and getting back to football. Those boys lives were changed forever and they can’t move on so quickly.

DawgDad

July 13th, 2012
9:40 am

I do not believe the NCAA has any jurisdiction in this matter, and I’m not certain about the Big Ten. If they do, fine. Otherwise, it’s a matter for the State of Pennsylvania to decide.

When the teachers and administrators in APS conspired to deprive thousands of kids of their rightful education did we shut down APS? No, we cleaned house at the top and worked within the structures of the institution and State, because the institution has an important mission.

Also, two wrongs do not make a right. Shutting down the football program would have a rippling economic impact on a lot of people, not to mention the players, coaches, etc. Is it any more just to trample on these people than it was on the kid victims?

Thulsa Doom

July 13th, 2012
9:40 am

Peadawg,

For the NCAA and others it is indeed about money. But its more than that. Psu hands out 85 schollarships for football, mostly to young black men from poorer backgrounds. This is their ticket to college. Should they be punished for 3 to 5 years of banishment for the actions of as few? How about all the womens sports that would lose funding. Easy for you to be mr. moral high and mighty. When your opportunity to attend college is not at stake.

curious

July 13th, 2012
9:43 am

If the President, Athletic Director, and Asst. to the President are involved, this is more than Football.

The NCAA has nothing to do with it.

Peadawg

July 13th, 2012
9:43 am

“For the NCAA and others it is indeed about money.”

And that’s very sad.

ragnar danneskjold

July 13th, 2012
9:43 am

I write a one who cares nothing about college athletics. If everyone in the department, alleged to be involved in covering up heinous crimes, is fired, killed, or otherwise removed from society, there is no rational reason to “punish” the department further. A 100% turnover rate is fully sufficient to cleanse the corruption.

ByteMe

July 13th, 2012
9:45 am

Hit ‘em where it hurts: their wallet and their freedom. Let the courts inflict maximum civil and criminal penalties on the individuals and institution.

The NCAA doesn’t need to do anything at this point. PSU is already suffering worse than anything the NCAA could hand down. And further cases in court will just keep the pain coming.