The NCAA version of a vedict on the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal resulted in Penn State University being made the poster child for what happens when a school allows a coach to exert power and have an impact on decisions that should be made by other school officials.
The punishment handed down to Penn State will take years for the football program to recover from: A $60 million fine, loss of Big Ten bowl revenue, vacating of wins from 1998 to 2011, loss of 10 scholarships a year for four years and a four-year postseason ban.
But as heavy as the punishment is, Penn State must also reconstruct its image, a reputation of a school that does things right, particularly in the tricky business of combining athletics and academics.
Make no mistake, the NCAA had no choice but to levy some punishment on Penn State. Even though the wrongdoing didn't fit the standard areas where the NCAA typically gets involved, the wrongdoing was so over the top that the some action had to be taken.
We won't quarrel with whether the NCAA had jurisdiction to act, but we think other versions of punishment may have been a more accurate measure of punishment that fits the correct people.
Perhaps the fine could have been doubled with all proceeds going to child abuse causes in return for fewer cuts in sholarships and a shorter term on the postseason ban. Those scholarship cuts and the postseason ban punish student-athletes who had nothing to do with the scandal.
As for the vacating of wins, this smells like a punishment against late Coach Joe Paterno for failing to act more aggressively once he know of Sandusky's atrocities. If the NCAA wanted to punish Paterno, it should have named him specifically and stripped him of recognition for the wins.
By vacating the wins from the school's record, the NCAA again is besmirching the student-athletes who won those games, robbing them of their achievements. This, too, is punishing the wrong people.
But while we quarrel with the unprecedented nature of the penalties, let us never forget that the cause for the action also was unprecedented as far as all available evidence indicates. A coach and several other people in the highest positions of authority knowingly allowed a sexual predator to roam the campus for more than a decade and did not take the allegations to the proper authorities. Kids were irreparably harmed, it would seem, to preserve a football program's image.
Those in positions of power who were part of the "cover-up" should be specifically singled out by the NCAA and never allow to set foot on any college campus, anywhere, ever again. Their pensions, and special retirement packages should be ended and returned to Penn State to help pay the for the fines and lawsuits that are just around the corner.
These individuals are responsible for the downfall of Penn State as we know it. By protecting Sandusky, they damaged the university forever.
These penalties will sting the football program and university for years to come, but while we disagree with some of the specifics, we can't deny the necessity.
Our hope is that the football program and university will emerge from the punishment improved and that the correct cautionary tale has been written to all other colleges in the nation.