Just when I thought that talk of the Penn State molestation scandal (notice my choice of words, this is not a "sex" scandal) would start to fade after Jerry Sandusky was convicted on 45 counts ... the noise has fired up all over again with the release of the Freeh Report.
When you thought it couldn't get any lower for the Penn State football program, there's indications that Joe Paterno knew more about more things than most of us were led to believe. And the word "believe" is a tough one for college football fans, because it's not easy to transform your opinion of Joe Pa from beloved coach and winner to enabler of a felon and abuser of children in less than a year.
I mean no disrespect to his family, but Paterno made out best in this situation by passing away. It sounds like if he was still with us he'd be facing child endangerment charges ... and many, many, many questions.
He's not around to be accountable. Sandusky is headed to prison (by the way Jerry, rot in hell), and the school's high-ranking officials who swept this under the rug are facing their share of discipline, too. So who does this leave to deal with the ashes?
A group of players and coaches who had no part of this; a group of people who want to play and coach. And there's plenty of people across the land who don't want to give them that chance -- at least not in State College.
Assess the NCAA "death penalty". Kill the program. Scorch the earth. Someone I know spent the better part of Friday forming a case that the only proper course of action is shuttering the Nittany Lions program for a couple years. (That person is an Ohio State fan, by the way. I hope he realizes that eliminating a Big Ten team puts them back at 11 and ruins the whole two-division, conference title game model that finally got put in place this year, and the rest of the conference will be dragging PSU behind it for the 5-10 years it will be poison once it comes back.)
I'm outraged at what has happened, but I'm not advocating this. A college football program, in general terms, serves three purposes: to prepare football players for a possible NFL career (and serve as a vehicle for getting their education paid for for the rest of them), bring enjoyment and a sense of pride and togetherness for alumni and other fans, and to generate income for the school.
Players and fans pay the price, in their own distinct ways, for supporting their program, so let them pick up what they paid for, considering fans and the Nittany Lions who will take the field this year had absolutely nothing to do with Jerry Sandusky's actions (and the reactions from all those school officials).
Let them play. But if you want to make a difference, mandate to the school that any profits derived by the football program do not stay with Penn State, rather they are passed on to child abuse advocacy groups of the community's choosing for five years or so. Let the program be used for some good.
Others are mentioning probation, that the NCAA has to meter some sort of penalty. But they don't have to assess any penalty. Decent parents of prospective Nittany Lions can do that. If you are the parent of a recruited college football prospect, are you going to let him attend Penn State? Kids and parents are going to hesitate and think twice about the program for a few years to come. At some point, there will be 18-year-olds who make the adult choice to try to make a difference and lead a revival in Happy Valley, but like me, nobody will be able to forgot what has transpired for a long, long time.
The noise will so fade, but the silence is forever broken.