Sports

Stretching the Field: Has the NCAA seen the light?

(SportsNetwork.com) - Isaac Newton declared for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

That wasn't more evident when the NCAA took Penn State University to the woodshed with heavy sanctions in July 2012, stemming from the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

The general consensus from those who bleed blue and white was outrage, and that the penalties handed down from NCAA president Mark Emmert were superfluous. Why did the football team have to suffer for the abominable actions of a convicted child molester?

As a Penn State graduate and enthusiast, that's a question I asked myself while strolling the beach in Ocean City, Maryland, on a typical gorgeous July morning behind the high-rise hotels. A text message from one of my two older sisters sent my relaxed, high-spirited demeanor into a tailspin.

Emmert slammed his gavel to the tune of a four-year postseason ban, which was lifted this season, reduced scholarships, a hefty $60 million fine and players having permission to transfer elsewhere without penalty for one year. Illinois set up camp in Happy Valley and tried to recruit players as if they were enlisting in one of the armed services. Only nine players left.

It seems the university accepted the sanctions without hesitation and opted to fire legendary coach Joe Paterno via a telephone call. Makes sense. The man dedicated his life and some of his earnings to the school, so let's show some class by moving him along with a phone call. Why not send an e-mail, a text message or use skywriting?

This past November, the NCAA released internal e-mails written in 2012 that show it was questioning its right to sanction PSU. With jurisdiction or not, the NCAA overstepped its boundaries and now looks foolish.

Paterno was deemed as an enabler to Sandusky for allowing the monster on campus and taking advantage of innocent lives through his underprivileged youth organization known as The Second Mile. We all know the story. Sandusky took miles to horrify children and deserves to rot in his cell, but the discipline levied by the NCAA was too harsh.

Yes, I am obviously a staunch supporter of Penn State, but I can separate my feelings for the school with reality. Did Paterno do enough to stop his former defensive coordinator from his lewd acts? No, he didn't because mentioning it to his superiors doesn't suffice in this day and age. Paterno, who was criticized for missing or ignoring signs of Sandusky's behavior, ran University Park and pretty much still does. He would have been more of a hero had he cut ties with Sandusky.

I'm not trying to open old wounds that may have slightly healed. I feel the NCAA is trying to backtrack with a recent report it will eliminate the sanctions entirely and restore Paterno's 111 vacated wins. Taking away wins was utterly embarrassing for the NCAA. How are you going to tell Michael Robinson and the rest of the Nittany Lions they didn't beat Bobby Bowden and the Florida State Seminoles in the Orange Bowl?

How can the NCAA tell the Paterno family, which is still pushing for a lawsuit, the 409 wins are no more? Paterno, who passed away after a bout with lung cancer shortly after his dismissal, compiled more wins than any other Division I football coach.

What Sandusky did was awful. Terrible. Disgusting. But it didn't give Penn State an advantage athletically. There are other schools in the country with student-athletes who cheat in class, trade items for other goods, do drugs or run into the wrong arm of the law, and receive lesser sanctions.

Well, apparently the NCAA feels it was too harsh on Penn State and it was reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer it may wipe out the sanctions. Former FBI director Louis Freeh led the investigation, saying top Penn State officials conspired to keep the abuse allegations under lock and key.

The NCAA seems to have opened its proverbial, and seemingly blind, eyes with the latest news of replenishment. I couldn't be more happy for the university, the players, the students and alumni.

Bill O'Brien couldn't have done a better job in his short tenure as Paterno's successor and knew what he was walking into. He was Penn State's Moses to the Israelites before taking an NFL gig with the Houston Texans. You can't blame him for that. A statue in O'Brien's likeness is deserved.

Paterno had a statue once. True story. It was located alongside Beaver Stadium, which should be called Paterno Field when all is said and done. Perhaps one day the bronze version of Paterno will reappear alongside a stadium that holds more than 100,000 fans.

Penn State coach James Franklin runs the show now in Happy Valley and maybe one day he will be immortalized by the creative hands of a sculptor. I may be going overboard here with the icons.

Franklin, though, has the Nittany Lions headed in the right direction and is living up to the recruiting moniker "Dominate The State." Franklin guided the Nittany Lions to a Pin Stripe Bowl win over Boston College a few weeks ago.

It's been awhile since Penn State dominated college football, but it feels even longer with what happened there a few years ago.

If this recent report of the NCAA realizing its mistake is true, Penn State can breathe more life into the program and restore its pristine reputation.