Posted: Wednesday July 18, 2012 1:16PM ; Updated: Wednesday July 18, 2012 1:16PM
Stewart Mandel
Stewart Mandel>COLLEGE FOOTBALL MAILBAG

Penn State punishment debate, Kings/Barons fallout, more mail

Story Highlights

The NCAA should leave the Penn State case to the state and federal governments

Notre Dame is still a 'King' for now, but a few more 8-4 finishes could change that

Difference in NFL, MLB drafts show the need for changes to NCAA's agent rules

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I swear we'll start talking actual football soon, but my inbox was flooded with reactions to last week's Kings/Barons Mailbag and the Penn State Freeh Report. I'll do my best to address both here. Maybe by next week we'll be ready to start breaking down Michigan-Alabama.

Hi Stewart. NCAA President Mark Emmert has said that he won't rule out any punishments for Penn State up to and including the Death Penalty. I like to consider myself a rational human being, and I consider the actions of the dozen or so included in the Freeh Report as being independent of both the football program and the university as an institution. With that in mind, is the Death Penalty really an option?
-- Kyle Tennant, Franklin Furnace, Ohio

I'll give Emmert this: He's far more candid publically than his predecessors, and in theory that's a good thing. The NCAA could certainly use a strong voice. The problem is that he has a penchant for espousing things he can't personally deliver.

You may recall that last year Emmert tried to flex his muscles and hurry through legislation to provide a $2,000 scholarship stipend for athletes. The membership overturned the measure a few months later. Emmert also raised eyebrows last fall by saying the Death Penalty was not "off the table" in the Miami/Nevin Shapiro investigation, and while that's technically true, it will ultimately be up to the Committee on Infractions. The same holds true with Penn State. It's not his call to make, yet he's now put the NCAA in position to look cowardly if it doesn't take action, which is unfortunate considering it still remains incredibly murky if Penn State actually violated NCAA bylaws.

I've maintained for some time now that the NCAA should leave the matter of punishment to more important bodies, in this case the Departments of Justice and Education and the State of Pennsylvania. But in the wake of the Freeh Report there is now considerable pressure for the NCAA to do something severe, even if it means bucking all precedent and protocol. Personally, I think the Death Penalty would accomplish little besides vengeance. While I strongly disagree with Kyle that the actions of Paterno/Spanier/Curley/Schultz were independent of the university -- they made decisions on behalf of the university -- shutting down football at Penn State would not directly punish any of them. The people that would suffer most would be innocent athletes, both in football and other sports; Penn State's opponents, in and outside the Big Ten; and local businesses that depend on Nittany Lions game weekends.

It seems to me the people calling for the Death Penalty primarily want to punish the Penn State community for caring too much about football. News flash: We all care too much about football. That warped culture presumably contributed to the cover-up, but it was not the actual crime. If the NCAA feels the need to step in, it needs to come up with a punishment that doesn't bring so much collateral damage. Personally, I'm struggling to come up with one that doesn't seem trite.

However...

Stewart, with all the rumors floating around regarding the NCAA stepping into the Penn State mess, what do you think of forgoing the usual penalties (scholarship reductions, bowl bans or the dreaded Death Penalty) and letting Penn State play but take ALL its revenue (including a bowl, if the team makes one) and donate/distribute it to the victims and families?
-- Bill Van Iden, San Francisco

Now that would actually accomplish something productive.

Note that Penn State did donate $1.1 million from its bowl revenue last year to the newly formed Center for the Protection of Children. But that didn't stop USA Today's Christine Brennan, a vocal Death Penalty proponent, from writing that: "... eschewing even a modicum of class or dignity, the school accepted a bowl bid after last season." Apparently allowing the 2011 players to finish their season meant the school wasn't "serious about the Sandusky scandal," even though it had just paid $6.5 million to the Freeh Group to find out everything it did wrong.

These are the kinds of leaps in logic people are making in their thirst for blood. Kudos to Bill for actually thinking of something that goes beyond pure vengeance.

Stewart, you are improperly labeling yourself as "na´ve" when it comes to your original response to the Penn State scandal. You weren't na´ve at all; in fact, your response was (and still is) absolutely proper. We didn't know the details, and too many people were ready to jump to conclusions. Now that the facts are known, you are properly and appropriately repulsed by the actions of the Penn State power brokers. I commend you for taking the right initial approach in light of the serious allegations, and I also commend you for your response when the facts came out.
-- Ken Waite, Indianapolis

That's very kind of you to say, Ken, and I can assure you my approach to sensitive stories that involve criminal aspects will not change. But I was most definitely na´ve about some things, in particular Joe Paterno. While I never held him up as some saintly figure, it wasn't until the Freeh Report revelation about Paterno's knowledge of the 1998 investigation that I truly believed he was capable of such a heinous and intentional cover-up. And I really have no good excuse for why.

The deification of Paterno began long before I started covering the sport, and in fact before I was even born. The notion that he was morally superior to the typical coach was never something I personally witnessed. The man I observed over the last 12 years of his life was stubborn, surly and defiant of anyone who dared question the way he ran his program, in particular the way he disciplined his players, despite a rash of issues in the 2000s. At the same time, he was also increasingly senile, and in the early stages of the story I figured that might explain some of Paterno's inaction regarding Sandusky.

Now, of course, it's crystal clear that Paterno knew exactly what he was doing. Maybe he didn't comprehend just how disturbed Sandusky was, but he had two clear warning signs and still chose to keep the matter in-house. The coach I observed would absolutely have been power-drunk and paranoid enough to put his program above the safety of children. At some point over the years I must have internalized the mythology that Paterno was nobler than the typical football coach, despite myriad evidence to the contrary. I deeply regret that.

I looked up all the sportswriters and you made the Peasants list. I guess we're the same now!
-- Mike, Louisville

Hmm. I wonder what that's referencing.

 
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