Those who insist that the NCAA spared Penn State's football program from the so-called "death penalty" don't know Penn State.
The unprecedented NCAA action against the once-vaunted program for its unconscionable part in the child sex abuse scandal is tantamount to the "death penalty" on a State College, Pa., campus where winning football games rules above all.
Penn State University football will never be the same. To that we say hallelujah and thank God.
College football's governing body fined the university $60 million, stripped it of scholarships, exempted it from postseason play for four years and voided its victories for the past 14 seasons. The last item means former head coach Joe Paterno -- who died of lung cancer in January -- is no longer the NCAA's winningest football coach and the university even removed a statue of Paterno from campus. Both are trivialities considering the devastation caused by this scandal.
We think the NCAA penalties were severe, but well-deserved.
According to a university-commissioned report from former FBI Director Louis Freeh, Penn State officials knew about allegations of child sex abuse by former top assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky and failed to take required legal action. In fact, we believe they covered it up ostensibly to protect its football revenues.
The university allowed Sandusky to retire, but continued to give him access to its facilities to run a football-related
Based on the evidence in its own report, we think the university should give itself the death penalty.
Sandusky, 68, was found guilty in June of sexually abusing 10 boys over 15 years. He awaits sentencing and could be given as many as 373 years in prison.
In 2001, Mike McQueary -- then a graduate assistant -- saw Sandusky assaulting a boy in the showers at the Penn State athletic complex. McQueary told Paterno, who told Athletic Director Tim Curley, who told then-university Vice President Gary Schultz and university President Graham Spanier. No police report was filed.
Spanier and Paterno were fired in November. Curley and Schultz have been charged with perjury for lying during a grand jury investigation and for failing to report suspected child abuse.
NCAA President Mark Emmert said, "One of the grave damages stemming from our love of sports is that the sports themselves can become too big to fail, indeed too big to even challenge."
That was true at Penn State. But that note is profoundly flat when played by the NCAA, which has been a willing facilitator of such a culture for decades. Major college football is about money, pure and simple. Anyone who thinks differently hasn't been paying attention.
Penn State was long considered one of the cleanest programs, a model that always registered high graduation rates and clearly articulated high ethical standards in its recruiting.
But that image, apparently, was just that -- an image.
We hope that this tragedy will awaken universities, the NCAA and fans alike to the notion that winning at all costs is a losing strategy. But we fear that is naive. As we said, it is all about the money.