Parents on Penn State
Headlines everywhere have rewritten the legacy of Joe Paterno and Penn State.
The late icon is no longer college football’s winningest coach, following NCAA sanctions imposed Monday. And Penn State may be forever branded as a university that protected sports instead of children.
Crimes committed by Jerry Sandusky, a former Penn State defensive coordinator who was found guilty of sexually abusing young boys, led to an investigation by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, who determined university officials covered up the wrongdoing and enabled the abuse for more than a decade.
Nittany Lion victories during that period have now been vacated, Penn State has earned a $60 million fine, the football program is ineligible from playing in bowl games for four years and will lose 20 scholarships in each of those years as it also faces a five-year probation.
Additionally, the NCAA is allowing any current or incoming football players to transfer and immediately compete at another school.
People of varying ages have reacted to the news differently. JoePa devotees have cried at both his seven-foot-tall statue and the vacancy left behind after construction vehicles removed it Sunday, claiming the wrong people are being punished for Sandusky’s heinous acts. Others have said Monday’s punishment isn’t enough.
And yet some are purely idiotic. During the postmortem of yesterday’s news, sources on broadcast programs questioned how the sanctions would affect the psyche of the football fans.
I immediately turned to a coworker and shared a longer, explicative-ridden version of “Who cares?”
That anyone would ask that question is exactly how sex crimes against children were allowed to continue on Penn State property for so long. Nobody should have ever worried about the psyche of football fans. They should’ve worried about the psyche of the victims.
Football fans will find a way to live without watching their team compete in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s bowl.
Children of abuse, however, are prone to suicide.
And this scandal hasn’t just affected the children who were abused in State College. The constant news has likely brought to the forefront painful memories for anyone who has suffered at an unwanted hand.
It has also affected parents, causing them to take pause and reevaluate all the choices they previously made with confidence, doubting community leaders they’ve called friends.
During a recent book signing for “Game Over: Jerry Sandusky, Penn State, and the Culture of Silence” by Bill Moushey and Bob Dvorchak, a parent discussed how she had sent her son to many athletic camps while he was in grade school. It never occurred to her that he would be in danger.
Sure, she knew the world was an unpredictable place, but she trusted the coaches. She trusted her son would be safe.
When she thinks of other parents and guardians who entrusted their child’s care to Sandusky, she feels sadness. And when she thinks of the Penn State leadership that essentially looked the other way, she feels anger.
If her child had been the victim, she would want every person who enabled the crimes to face justice.
Eliminating the football victories gained while victims suffered in silence won’t undo the abuse of innocent children.
But by taking away its wins, maybe Penn State will learn from its losses.