The whole matter brings back bad memories of those dark days for Southern Methodist University, when a 1985 investigation showed the school was paying its players illegally. The NCAA imposed the infamous “death penalty,” which effectively shut down the football program for years. It wouldn’t field a team again until 1989 and didn’t play in a bowl game again until 2005.
SMU’s crimes were egregious; 21 players had received at least $61,000, provided by a booster, the investigation found. The coaching staff was complicit. And when a player blew the whistle, SMU attempted a cover-up.
For all of that, Penn State’s crimes are potentially worse. We’ll know just how much worse soon.
At least one of Sandusky’s victims has filed a lawsuit against the school.
“To hold the school liable, a victim would have to show that Penn State — through its employees — owed the boys a duty of care and that they failed to uphold that duty,” Reuters explains.
But the matter shouldn’t end with Penn State merely writing a few checks. It must go far beyond that.
When SMU’s football program disobeyed the law, at least no one was hurt. The pain and suffering and psychological damage inflicted on the (so far) 20 victims who have come forward is undeniable. The case cries out for the NCAA to step in and demonstrate that when you break the rules, you lose. Isn’t that the point of college sports?
Penn State has lost its storied head coach, its university president and its reputation. But that’s getting off light.
It’s disturbing to us that even as Sandusky’s sentence comes down and two more trials are set to begin, Penn State is “trying to move the focus back to football,” according to a recent AP story. Its season starts on Sept. 1, in a game against Ohio University.
The NCAA’s investigation, led by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, is still ongoing. But it should quickly wrap things up — what more could it need to know, that didn’t come out in that painful trial? And it should make a ruling before that opening snap.
There’s still time to do the right thing here. SMU endured a much harsher penalty than anything Penn State, as a school and as a football program, has yet to face. And SMU is a better school for it. Penn State would likewise benefit from having its football program plowed under for a season or so.