In light of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal, there have been recent calls for Penn State University to face the same fate as SMU’s football program suffered twenty-five years ago. It is known as the ‘death penalty’, and would prevent a school from competing in sports for one year.
While no decision has officially been made regarding a possible ban, enough damage has already been done, and I think it will be a long time before Penn State fully recover and can once again be competitive.
Sandusky is currently awaiting sentencing, after being found guilty on forty-five counts of sexually abusing underage boys over a fifteen year period.
What makes things worse for Penn State is the recent allegations of a systematic cover-up at the University that allowed Sandusky to carry on abusing children. Former University president Graham Spanier has been accused of knowing about the allegations against Sandusky, but not alerting the authorities.
This was an incident that rocked college sports to its very core. It made national and international headlines, and it begs this question; can Penn State ever fully recover and be a force to be reckoned with in college football?
How on earth are they going to be able to recruit top high school players? When young players hear the words Penn State, their first thought will no longer be Joe Paterno and a great college football heritage. There will instantly think of a program that was involved in an awful crime, and should have done more to put an end to it.
What recruit, unless they have no other choice, will want to be associated with Penn State football. I firmly believe that this will be the case for at least the next five years or so. The wound will take time to heal. People will not forget easily, and forgiving will be even harder.
The Big Ten conference has some good football programs, and each team needs high calibre recruits if they want to remain competitive. The only way Penn State can avoid a disaster when it comes to recruiting is if they somehow manage to spin this whole affair into something of an opportunity.
Imagine if they sell it to a recruit as a chance for them to be part of a new era. They admit that things went wrong and acknowledge there are lessons to be learnt, but this is a time for a new Penn State football program, and it would be a good thing to be part of.
That is the only way Penn State might be able to avoid the years of insignificance they are be currently facing.
I think there is a strong case for banning Penn State from playing football this coming season. All other cases of the NCAA handing out the ‘death penalty’ has involved teams who have broken rules to gain a competitive advantage. And while this was not the case in Pennsylvania, the scandal has been so huge that I think the NCAA really needs to consider this as an option.
But like I said, even if they do play this year, the damage is already done. And it will be a long time before people forget what happened, and remember what a great organization Penn State once was.