Penn State insanity calls for radical surgery


Photo credit: Nathaniel C. Sheetz

The Pennsylvania State University Board of Trustees should have announced cancellation of the football team’s Saturday game at the same time they fired Coach Joe Paterno and the university president. Further, the appropriate response to this unfolding atrocity, in my opinion, would be for the board of trustees to suspend the Penn State football program for two years, following an appropriate period of investigation and careful review.

[pullquote]This is not a case of misplaced priorities; it’s insanity. [/pullquote]They should terminate the employment of the entire coaching staff and petition the NCAA to allow all Penn State football players wishing to transfer to other college teams to be able to do so with no waiting period, and honor one more academic year of financial scholarships to those players who do not transfer.

What brings me to this view is not just the horrific facts still emerging, but the reaction of many of the students: rioting because “Joe Pa was denied the opportunity to coach the last home game of the season.”

Seriously? At least eight boys raped and abused by a university-employed assistant coach, including at least one on university property, the actuality of which has been known to multiple university employees and administrators for over a decade; a college-sports culture sufficiently drunk on fame and money that it tolerates such depravity – and even with all this, large chunks of the student body and university community are miffed that the coach (who had received an eyewitness report of sodomy in the shower and was content to have merely reported it to his superior and then done nothing further) can’t be carried out of the stadium on the shoulders of his adoring fans?

This is not a case of misplaced priorities; it’s insanity.

Spare us the talk about “it’s time to start a healing process.” Actually, no; it’s time to begin the intervention. What is called for in response to this nightmare is not a few strategic firings and momentary institutional introspection. It’s time for an adult-sized time-out as a means of making unmistakably clear that what has festered and putrefied for nearly 15 years is categorically unacceptable. The heads rolled to date are but a beginning. Following subsequent similar and necessary surgeries, the Penn State trustees should insist on the full regimen of chemo and radiation required to achieve remission.

Those who would suggest that suspension of the Penn State football program would unfairly harm the student-athletes and jeopardize the reputation and financial viability of the university might want to reconsider those arguments – and recognize that they are the same justifications that prevented otherwise intelligent adults from proclaiming outrage and insisting that sexual abuse is heinous and will not be tolerated.

Once violated, fundamental cultural boundaries must be reaffirmed and re-established by, first, not interfering with natural consequences, and by the unapologetic application of punishment and sanctions proportional to the personal carnage and cultural damage inflicted. Would anything less than full suspension of the football program suffice?