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WHEELER: NCAA Gets It Wrong On Penn State

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(Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

(Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

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The NCAA just sent Penn State back to the Stone Age with the punishments handed down today and a lot of people are happy about it. People wanted to see Penn State pay and they got their wish.

But they’re wrong.

The irony here is that innocent people are the ones being punished for the failures of a handful of men who should have been protecting the innocent young boys who were victimized by Jerry Sandusky.

Yeah, let’s punish the innocent because a few men failed to protect other innocents.

Where is the logic in that? Where is the justice in this course of action?

Before I go any further, I’d like to point out that I’m okay with some of the sanctions. I have no problem with wiping out all of the team’s wins since 1998. It’s more symbolic than anything, but okay I get what they’re trying to do. But anything that punishes people who had nothing to do with the scandal is flat wrong.

I am a strong believer in a simple concept – the innocent should never suffer because of the guilty. I realize that history hasn’t always agreed with me, and clearly the NCAA doesn’t either, but that is a core belief of mine that I will not compromise on. The innocent should never suffer because of the actions of the guilty.

How does any of this “send a message” to the rest of college football? Do you honestly think this situation is comparable to regular old NCAA rules violations? Are we to believe that coaches who cheat will now stop cheating just because of these sanctions?

Come on now, we’re smarter than that.

I’m all for symbolic action that sets a tone for everyone else to follow but when will there ever be a case similar to this one again?

The NCAA effectively turned Penn State  into a bottom feeder for the next 10-20 years, at least. For what purpose? Who will bear the burden of these punishments? Will the people who actually committed the crimes even feel this?

Don’t take the line that I’m somehow on the side of the pedophile here, either. That’s an intellectually weak argument and if you go there then you are by definition intellectually challenged. I want those who committed the crimes (Sandusky) and those who helped cover for the criminal (Spanier, Curley & Schultz – Paterno has passed away so we can’t punish him) to pay the highest price possible as prescribed by our legal system and anyone else who knew anything should be fired and banned from ever working in the NCAA again in the future.

No, the innocent will suffer.

The football players who came to Penn State to pursue football careers, and in many cases a good education as well, will now suffer. Sure, they can transfer elsewhere but that comes with a whole new set of challenges and, by the way, there will be players at  other schools who will eventually lose starting jobs and/or scholarships because of an incoming Penn State transfer. Even kids at other schools will pay for this. Believe it.

Current and future students will pay for it, quite literally I’m afraid. Just where do we think Penn State will make up for the loss of $60 million? Where do we think they’ll get the money to fund the 28 other varsity sports at Penn State when they stop turning a $70 million profit each year from football?

They’ll increase tuition, placing a greater burden on students and families of both current and future Penn State students. All because of the actions of the few.

The business owners in Happy Valley will lose revenue. Lots of revenue. Penn State football is no longer going to be a story. There will no longer be 110,000 fans coming to games 6-7 times during the Fall. That will equal lost revenue and over time people will lose their businesses. All because of crimes committed that they had no knowledge of.

If you’re one of the people who thinks this kind of draconian punishment was called for, ask yourself this: Would you be okay with it if you were chosen to suffer punishment for crimes you had nothing to do with?

If you wouldn’t want it for yourself then it shouldn’t happen to Penn State.

Mark Emmert is trying to do something positive for the future of the NCAA but in doing so he’s sacrificing a lot of innocent people. To me, that’s not acceptable.

Punish the guilty and protect the innocent. That’s what our legal system is set up to do. It fails from time to time, we all know that, but the goal is noble. Heck, forget the legal system. That’s something I think we all agree on at a moral, fundamental level.

I’ve rambled on enough…so I’ll leave you all with a pair of quotes that come from sources that have much greater authority than I do on this subject:

“It is better and more satisfactory to acquit a thousand guilty persons than to put a single innocent one to death.” - 12th Century legal theorist Maimonides

And finally we go all biblical…

Genesis 18:23-32 -

23 Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare[a] the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing —to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

26 The Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

27 Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, 28 what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five people?”

“If I find forty-five there,” he said, “I will not destroy it.”

29 Once again he spoke to him, “What if only forty are found there?”

He said, “For the sake of forty, I will not do it.”

30 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?”

He answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”

31 Abraham said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?”

He said, “For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.”

32 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more.What if only ten can be found there?”

He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”

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