Sunday, January 18, 2015

Another fine NCAA mess

So now JoePa's got his wins back, and people are running victory laps in Happy-Again Valley. Already they're calling for that statue that's no longer outside Beaver Stadium to be restored to its rightful place. And when it is, everything will be right with the world at Penn State University.

Why, shoot. It'll be as if Jerry Sandusky never raped a single kid, while Penn State University (and, yes, Joe Paterno) looked the other way.

I'm wondering how that kid Mike McQueary caught Sandusky with in the shower that day feels about that.

I'm wondering how all the kids Sandusky gifted with a lifetime of nightmares are feeling today, watching Pennsylvania State  Sen. Jake Corman all but high-five the media in announcing that the NCAA had "surrendered."  Yes, they're all young adults now, and, yes, Sandusky's behind bars likely forever. But you can't help thinking they felt violated all over again, watching all that highly inappropriate glee.

And here's the thing: I don't blame the Penn State people for that. I blame the NCAA.

Without its panicked overreach in this mess to begin with, there would have been no hurtful victory laps yesterday. Those 112 victories from 1998 to 2011 would never have been vacated, a decision the NCAA came to just 11 days after the Freeh report was released. Penn State could not have played the victim card, one more kick in the head to the real victims in all of this. In so hurriedly trying to put  Penn State on the rack for its crimes, the NCAA only aided and abetted them.

The great irony here, of course, is that the NCAA's judgment has always been as glacial as it has been capricious. Unwieldy and as slow to turn as the Titanic, it has struck its own share of icebergs as a result. That it's now sinking hard by the bow, just like the Titanic, has seemed inevitable for years.

What happened Friday won't help matters any.

Forget NCAA czar Mark Emmert's assertion that the settlement it reached with Penn State was not an admission that his organization overstepped its authority. Those were just empty words -- as empty as the part of the settlement in which Penn State was obliged to acknowledge that the NCAA had acted in good faith.

The restored victories -- which restores Paterno as the winningest coach in NCAA history -- spoke much more eloquently. And loudly.

So did the on-campus rally, attended by hundreds of students, that celebrated this latest victory. So will the ceremony that will undoubtedly accompany the resurrection of the Paterno statue, which was taken down because some school officials felt it would be an impediment to the healing process.

Well. Apparently the healing's all done now.

Sandusky's in jail. A $60 million fine earmarked for child abuse concerns is now on Pennsylvania's hands. And JoePa -- who may have known as far back as 1998 that Sandusky was up to something, and neglected to wield his enormous influence at Penn State to put a stop to it -- stands absolved.

Because what other message can you take from the restored wins? And if JoePa stands absolved, how does Penn State not also? Or at the very least appear to be?

How strange it all is. The NCAA thought it was putting the folks at Penn State on the hook for protecting their football program when they should have been protecting innocent children.

Turns out it was letting them off the hook. 

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