By Adam Hoge-
(CBS) As far as NCAA scandals go, this is as bad as it gets.
It’s worse than the worst recruiting violation. It’s worse than free tattoos. It’s worse than top bowl officials skimming money off the top for themselves.
This is about the alleged sexual abuse of children and the ensuing cover up by Penn State officials, which yes, includes Joe Paterno. He may not have broken the law, but he had a chance to expose a child rapist and he failed to do so. It was only five months ago when Jim Tressel was forced out at Ohio State because he kept his mouth shut about tattoos. Paterno kept his mouth shut about a child rapist. Which is worse?
But Paterno is just a piece of this. After reading the grand jury report, it’s clear that if all the allegations are true, this is a systemic problem from top-to-bottom at The Pennsylvania State University. From a school president all the way down to a graduate assistant, Penn State allegedly covered up a crime that is right up there with murder.
The bottomline: This is the worst of all NCAA scandals and it needs to be handled as such.
Unfortunately, because no NCAA violations occurred, you likely won’t see any punishment come from NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis. Some have asked if Penn State deserves the “death penalty” if these allegations are proven true. The reality is that the “death penalty” doesn’t apply in this situation. First of all, it’s not even a formal NCAA term. It’s simply a tag given by the media to the NCAA’s worst punishment: eliminating a school’s sport for at least one season. But according to the NCAA, the death penalty only applies to “repeat offenders”. It’s only been used five times by the NCAA — most notably with Kentucky basketball in 1952 and SMU in 1987 — and all five cases involved schools repeatedly breaking NCAA rules.
Hoge: If True, Big Ten Should Kick Penn State Out
Baffoe: Paterno Shattered A Dream By Contributing To A Nightmare
MORE: Penn State Committee To Investigate Scandal
DiNardo: Everyone Involved Must Pay
And that’s another problem. NCAA rules. Technically there is no NCAA rule saying you can’t sexually assault a child. It’s a horrible crime, but it has little to do with sports so why would it be in the rule book?
But while Sandusky’s alleged crimes and Penn State’s cover-up don’t necessarily break NCAA rules, they certainly break a whole mess of moral codes. And one could argue that they violate the core values of both the NCAA and the Big Ten.
One of the NCAA’s core values is: “The supporting role that intercollegiate athletics plays in the higher education mission and in enhancing the sense of community and strengthening the identity of member institutions.”
I think it’s safe to say the sense of community and the identity of Penn State has been completely tarnished by a local coaching icon — I’m talking about Sandusky here — building a charity and using to it to find vulnerable boys to molest. The ensuing cover-up by everyone involved — whether they broke the law or not — only solidifies a systemic violation of one of the NCAA’s core values.
Meanwhile, the Penn State football program is a member of the Big Ten’s Leaders Division. In its media guide, the Big Ten refers to its Leaders Division as: “A hopeful and aspirational acknowledgement that we believe the college athletics experience helps to develop the characteristics that Big Ten student-athletes will need to become leaders for the rest of their lives – in their home, jobs and in their communities.”
As a coach, athletic director or school president, it is your job to help those student-athletes become leaders. That means acting like one. And it’s safe to say no one at Penn State that knew about Sandusky’s transgressions acted like a leader in this situation. Sure, Paterno and Sandusky probably developed many leaders over the years at Penn State, but all that work is meaningless and their legacies are completely tarnished from here on out if these allegations are true.
Quite frankly, Penn State continuing on in a division called the “Leaders Division” is nothing more than a joke and a giant hypocrisy.
In fact, if all the allegations prove to be true, NCAA President Mark Emmert and Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany need to take a hard look at the Penn State football program and reevaluate its membership within their respective institutions.
You might be asking, isn’t that basically the death penalty?
Well, in the NCAA’s case, yes, it basically is. As I mentioned before, that punishment doesn’t really apply to this crime based on current rules and previous cases. But given the severity of this situation, new punishments can always be handed out. After all, as the BCS reminds us every day, the NCAA isn’t a democracy.
But in the Big Ten’s case, we’re not talking about eliminating a football program, we’re talking about kicking an institution out of the conference. And, given the timeline outlined in the grand jury report, this is a punishment that would fit the crime.
Keep in mind, Penn State joined the conference in 1990 and started playing football in the Big Ten in 1993. Sandusky had been a coach at Penn State since 1969 and according to the grand jury report, his oldest known victim was sought out in 1994. That means that nearly the entire time Penn State has been a member of the Big Ten, the program has had a sexual predator on its coaching staff or had school and team officials with knowledge of the child abuse covering it up.
In other words, since joining the Big Ten, Penn State has done nothing but tarnish the conference’s reputation and represent everything the conference otherwise is not.
That is something Jim Delany simply can’t ignore.
Now, I’m not an idiot. I realize the Nittany Lions have brought a ton of money to the Big Ten and the NCAA. And considering how both institutions typically operate, I sadly doubt something as serious and despicable as child rape and the ensuing coverup would be enough for Delany and Emmert to sacrifice all those dollar signs to show the world that these actions are not acceptable.
I also realize that neither institution can really take action until the allegations are proven to be true.
But if they are, if Sandusky is really convicted on over 40 counts relating to the sexual abuse of children, and it’s proven that school and team officials — including President Graham Spanier and head football coach Joe Paterno — really covered up the sexual abuse of children, then Delany, at the very least, needs to take action.
Too many people have already turned a blind eye to what seem to be cold-card facts in this case.
Please don’t do the same, Jim.
Penn State has been playing football in the Big Ten for 19 years and these criminal actions allegedly happened over the course of the last 18 years.
If true, the Big Ten needs to tell Penn State to find a new home.
Adam is the Sports Editor for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, White Sox and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.