Dave Zirin at SFGate:
This isn’t about Sandusky. This is about a culture that says the football team must be defended at all costs: a culture where the sexual assault of a 10-year-old is reported to Paterno before the police.
This is what happens when a football program becomes the economic and spiritual heartbeat of an entire section of a state. Nittany Lions football regularly draws 100,000 fans to Happy Valley. They also produce $50 million in pure profit for the university every year and have been listed as the most valuable team in the Big 10 conference.
Another economic report held that every Penn State game pumps $59 million into the local economy: from hotels to kids selling homemade cookies by the side of the road.
It’s no wonder that Paterno is revered. He took a football team and turned it into an economic life raft for a university and a region. When something becomes that valuable, a certain mind-set kicks in. Protect the team above all over concerns. Protect Joe Pa. Protect Nittany Lions football. Protect the brand. In a company town, your first responsibility is to protect the company.
Penn State has never been an “outlaw program.” It’s what every school aspires to become. Think about that. Every school aspires to be the kind of place where football is so valuable that children can become collateral damage.
If the allegations are true, if the school in fact knew this was going on, then the program should be shut down. If the allegations are true, Joe Paterno should be instructed to take his 46 years and 409 wins and leave in disgrace.
It’s tragic that it’s come to this for a legend like Paterno. But it’s even more tragic that protecting his legend mattered more than stopping a child-rapist in their midst. Dumping Paterno is not enough for what has to be seen as a systemic cultural failure by the university.
I am 51 years old. I was in kindergarten when Joe Paterno started coaching. Coaches are teachers and college athletics are supposed to build character, not corrupt it.
It would have been a hopeful sign if Penn State had to forfeit the rest of its games because every single member of the team was too ashamed to wear the uniform. Instead we saw students rioting over a perceived lack of respect shown to Paterno. There is a moral cancer that has metastasized in “Happy Valley.”
Penn State should announce it is forfeiting the remainder of this season’s games and that it is immediately terminating its football program for a minimum of ten years. All the coaches and other personnel associated with the program should be laid-off. The statue of Joe Paterno should be removed and all of the school’s football trophies, award plaques and banners taken down and placed in storage.
Any student currently attending Penn State on a football scholarship should be allowed to finish and graduate per the terms of that agreement. All recruiting offers should be withdrawn.
At most a handful of students might have their chances of making it in the NFL impaired. Boo-fucking-hoo. Penn State does not owe them the opportunity to audition for career in professional football. The ones who would be affected are already on the NFL radar screens anyway.
College is not about football, it is about learning. Terminating the Penn State football program will not punish the students, it will teach them a badly-needed lesson in values and leadership.
If and when the moral cancer that allowed the raping of children to go unreported has been completely purged from the school they can consider playing football again.