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Columnist: NCAA Wrong to Ease Up on Penn State

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USA TODAY
September 25, 2013 Wednesday
FA CHASE EDITION
SPORTS; Pg. 1C
464 words
NCAA wrong to ease up on Penn State
Christine Brennan

The NCAA is telling us that Penn State is behaving better now. That's certainly good news, because, for many years, no college football program ever behaved worse.

We all hope and believe that the despicable crimes that got Penn State in so much justifiable trouble are no longer happening there. Child rapist Jerry Sandusky is in prison, serving a 30- to 60-year sentence on 45 counts of child abuse, and all of the men who enabled him in an effort to protect the Penn State brand are long gone, with three of them still awaiting trial.

So, yes, on that awful issue, we believe Penn State has cleaned up its act. Thank God.

But the NCAA's appropriately severe sanctions dealt with more than the crimes against those young boys. They were meted out against a culture -- a way of life, actually -- that had put football far ahead of everything else, including the act of helping the most defenseless among us.

The tough penalties were meant to teach Penn State, and any other institution that might go so far astray, that we might tolerate a lot from the game of college football, but not this. Not what Penn State had become. And if those left behind were punished, too, well, sadly, so be it. It might not be fair to them, but it was right for all.

So now that the NCAA is starting to give Penn State a taste of its softer, gentler, Johnny Manziel-style punishment, there's a big question worth asking today:

Has Penn State learned that larger lesson, that football must be put in its place? That this state-supported institution can no longer hold such an unseemly death grip on one sport?

I hope so. We all hope so. But I'm not as convinced as the NCAA that it is so.

There is a significant part of the population of Pennsylvania that just can't seem to live without football the way it was before. Just look at the lawsuits. In January, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett embarrassed the state by announcing he was suing the NCAA to overturn the sanctions on antitrust grounds. In June, a federal judge dismissed the suit. If the people of Pennsylvania complained about that ridiculous waste of time and money, I didn't hear it.

There are two other active lawsuits brought by those who apparently just can't bring themselves to accept the school's punishment either. And then, of course, there's the shameful whining of the Paterno family, especially son Jay. Can't somebody tell them that for the sake of whatever is left of Joe Paterno's legacy, they should show some class and accept their fate?

They want to be forgiven, to forget and to move on. That's understandable in most cases, but not in this one. The point of the groundbreaking NCAA sanctions was that Penn State -- and all of us -- would never forget. Moving on should be extremely difficult. The punishment was right the first time.

September 25, 2013

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