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Penn State needs to shut down football program on its own

Berry Tramel: Cleansing is needed in Happy Valley. It's not the NCAA's job to do so. Penn State should voluntarily walk away from football for a while.
by Berry Tramel Published: July 17, 2012


photo - FILE - In this Sept. 6, 2008 file photo, Penn State coach Joe Paterno surveys the field before an NCAA college football game against Oregon State at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pa. NCAA president Mark Emmert says he isn't ruling out the possibility of shutting down the Penn State football program in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.  In a PBS interview Monday night, July 16, 2012,  he said he doesn't want to
FILE - In this Sept. 6, 2008 file photo, Penn State coach Joe Paterno surveys the field before an NCAA college football game against Oregon State at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pa. NCAA president Mark Emmert says he isn't ruling out the possibility of shutting down the Penn State football program in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. In a PBS interview Monday night, July 16, 2012, he said he doesn't want to "take anything off the table" if the NCAA determines penalties against Penn State are warranted. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File) ORG XMIT: NY160

Critics keep talking death penalty for Penn State football. NCAA president Mark Emmert himself declined to rule it out, in a Monday interview with the Public Broadcast System.

But the death penalty — elimination of the Nittany Lion football program for a period of years — is not the question. Of course Penn State football needs to go away for awhile.

The question is, who declares the judgment?

It should not be the NCAA. It should be Penn State.

Penn State does not need punishment. Penn State needs change. Penn State needs a cultural overhaul, and a scandal as diabolical as the Jerry Sandusky case is not absolved merely by the removal of leaders who let it happen.

Penn State needs a cleansing that only could come with a few seasons dark from football.

And that cleansing can come only from self-imposed exile.

Taking itself out of the sport for, say, two years, would be a well-delivered message. Evidence that Penn State leadership gets it. An admission that the Nittany Lions drove horribly off track and lionized men to the point of horrific results. A pronouncement to administrators, students, coaches, alumni and fans that things will change, not because they're being forced to, but because it's the right thing to do.

If the NCAA brings down Penn State football, Happy Valley just assumes a victim's mentality.

We've already seen some of that fester through Joe Paterno's family, which keeps jabbering about how Paterno has been wrongfully portrayed, that he was like everyone else, just duped by a trusted lieutenant.

That's nonsense. The Freeh Report clearly shows that Paterno and Penn State leaders committed not sins of omission, but sins of commission. They engaged in a cover-up after hearing that young boys were being raped.

Six months after his father's death, Jay Paterno continues to show the arrogance that eventually brought down the Penn State facade.

Former Penn State vice president Vicky Triponey, one of the few people in Happy Valley to stand up to Joe Paterno over the decades, lost her job for doing so, over discipline of football players.

Now, Triponey has been vindicated. She told CNN that Penn State has a “culture of reverence for the football program … ingrained at all levels of the campus community.”

Exactly. Which explains the Paterno apologists.

For this cover-up to occur, the “culture of reverence” runs deep. Triponey called it a “cocoon” and a “bubble.” It runs deeper than individual leaders. It runs deeper than even the earthly existence of Joe Paterno. Go back to your European history; monarchal influence lasted long after a king's death. New regimes chased down the descendants of dead rulers, just to make sure the roots of the past were forever severed.

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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