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.
Penn State's football crimes were not the typical win-at-all-cost variety. Not what you've found at Ohio State and Southern Cal and Miami in recent years. Not what you found in the SEC and the Oklahoma schools and the Southwest Conference in yesteryear.
The Penn State offenses were status-at-all-cost. Protect the image. Protect the legend. Protect Paterno's grand experiment.
SMU got the death penalty for paying players, which allowed the Mustangs to win football games they might otherwise have won. Penn State should get the death penalty for turning a blind eye, in the name of football reputation, to the emotion and physical safety of vulnerable, fatherless boys.
The corruption is in the water in State College. The only tonic is dig a new well. Self-banishment.
Penn State's new leadership — whoever that might be; my lands, what a vacuum — should stand united. Tell its legions that the culture that allowed Jerry Sandusky to roam and prey and keep keys to the Penn State locker room as recently as last November, can be extricated only by scorched Earth.
A do-over. By walking away from football and coming back later and starting from scratch.
Sounds like the NCAA is at least considering such an act.
Emmert told PBS he's "never seen anything as egregious as this in terms of just overall conduct and behavior inside a university.” He said he doesn't want to “take anything off the table” if the NCAA determines penalties against Penn State are warranted.
Like I've written, this isn't the NCAA's business. This is out of the NCAA's league. And it wouldn't help anyway.
The Penn State culture would only be galvanized by outside interference. Penn State was the ultimate closed society. It can only be changed from within.
I don't know who has the clout to push through such a mandate, though my pal Matt Pinto suggests the Pennsylvania governor should get involved.
Maybe it needs to go that high. I mean, Penn State football, even post-Paterno, didn't have the common sense to turn down a trip to the TicketCity Bowl last winter.
It would take impressive leadership to do what's right. But without impressive leadership, the culture of reverence for Penn State football is not going to change.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.