Tuesday, July 24, 2012

On Joe Paterno And How The NCAA Got It Right

The news story, ICYMI, is that yesterday the NCAA hammered Penn State with what some consider to be exceedingly harsh penalties for not responding appropriately to a number of incidents of sexual abuse of young boys by Jerry Sandusky, an assistant football coach under Joe Paterno.

Penn State must pay a 60 million dollar fine, is banned from post season play for the next four years, has had vacated all 112 wins from 1998 to 2011, including 111 by Joe Paterno--removing him from his position as winningest coach in NCAA history.  These penalties, and a reduction in the number of scholarships Penn State can carry, will do significant harm to the football program at the University for the foreseeable future, a bitter pill for some given that the football program was one of Penn State's most significant assets.

On Sunday, Penn State officials also ordered Joe Paterno's statue removed from the university grounds.

Joe Paterno, a very powerful and influential figure as a result of his tremendous success coaching the team, knew about Sandusky's abuse but decided not act on the information. 

What I like about this judgement is that it punishes not just the individual abuser, but also punishes individuals and institutions that effectively sided with the perpetrator by failing to act decisively in support of the victims of that abuse.

This reminds me too of the final scenes in a Few Good Men, where the two soldiers, PFC Downey and LC Dawson, who were ordered to execute the code red against the victim, PFC Santiago, didn't understand, after Col. Jessep was found to have ordered the code red, why they were still dishonourably discharged.  Eventually it dawns on Downey, and he explains to Dawson, that they "failed to stand up for those too weak to stand up for themselves."

Congratulations to the NCAA on having the courage to recognize the severity of the violation and breach of trust, and to respond with clarity and decisiveness.

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