For Penn State fans, the last eight-plus months have been a sickening whirlwind of one piece of bad news after another.
The charges against Jerry Sandusky followed by the charges against Tim Curley and Gary Schultz.
The firing of Joe Paterno and Graham Spanier and subsequent rioting.
Sandusky's conviction on 45 counts of sexual abuse of children he groomed from The Second Mile.
The damning Freeh report, which implicated Paterno, Spanier, Curley and Schultz for "failure to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade. These men concealed Sandusky's activities."
Now that the Freeh report has been released -- delivering a body blow to the Paterno legacy and the further damaging the Penn State brand -- focus is shifting to NCAA sanctions that will likely follow.
NCAA President Mark Emmert said Monday he doesn't want to "take anything off the table," including the death penalty, if the NCAA determines penalties against Penn State are warranted.
Emmert said he's "never seen anything as egregious as this in terms of just overall conduct and behavior inside a university. What the appropriate penalties are, if there are determinations of violations, we'll have to decide."
Penn State President Rodney Erickson conducted media sessions on Tuesday, and in one, he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "There will almost certainly be some sort of action of some kind that's taken by the NCAA."
Erickson is bracing himself. So should everybody else.
National pundits have been split between extending Penn State the death penalty -- which would suspend the football program for at least a year - and saying this is not an NCAA matter.
Clearly, this is uncharted territory for the NCAA, which typically addresses rules violations such as illegal recruiting and improper inducements.
Penn State's case, of course, goes way, way beyond a rules infraction: Penn State's judgment was a gross violation of human life, and it's therefore impossible to criticize whatever punishment the NCAA hands down.
The penalty, whatever it is, will not exceed the crime.
The balancing act is that Penn State has already paid in blood. Of the four administrators criticized in the Freeh report, Curley and Schultz could well be headed to jail, Spanier should be, too, and Paterno is dead.
The entire case could cost Penn State, in one form or another including civil suits, $100 million or more.
A university that allowed the football program to operate independently for so many years moved quickly once all it was exposed and now has established the necessary priority.
New coach Bill O'Brien and his staff, other than holdovers Larry Johnson and Ron Vanderlinden, never met Sandusky. The current players had nothing to do with the scandal and have already suffered.
Further, an entire region that has come to rely on Penn State football - hotels, shops and restaurants throughout central Pennsylvania - would be unfairly darkened by a death penalty.
The NCAA most often punishes by implementing bowl or TV bans and scholarship reductions. Of those, knocking the Nittany Lions off TV, particularly for longer than a year, would hurt the worst because it would negatively affect recruiting.
When Ohio State ran into trouble last year with a few of its high-profile players caught trading memorabilia for tattoos, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany advocated for the Buckeyes, whose culprits were permitted to play in the 2011 Sugar Bowl.
Will Penn State get similar internal support? Here is the statement the Big Ten Council of Presidents released in December:
"It has been approximately one month since the initial release of the Grand Jury report in the Penn State matter and a number of federal, state and institutional investigations have been launched. While it is premature to reach any conclusions regarding civil or criminal liability arising out of these events, there does appear to be sufficient information to raise significant concerns as to whether a concentration of power in a single individual or program may have threatened or eroded institutional control of intercollegiate athletics at Penn State."
That lack of institutional control - or total institutional control, as a Pitt fan reminded me - has left Penn State at the NCAA's mercy.
All it can do it now is beg and then hope for forgiveness.
Mirror Managing Editor Neil Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.