Too soon to let Penn State off the hook

Penn State head football coach Bill O'Brien took over a program in shambles after the sanctions from the Jerry Sandusky child sex scandal.

On July 23 of last year, the NCAA levied unprecedented sanctions against Penn State following the horror show that was the Jerry Sandusky case. Now, just over one year later, the NCAA has decided that the sanctions should be scaled back. The Penn State football program will have 75 scholarships in 2014 as opposed to the 65 they were supposed to have as a part of the sanctions. They will also have 80 scholarships in 2015 and the full allotment of 85 in 2016.

NCAA president Mark Emmert announced that Penn State was doing much better now, and that this is a recognition of the progress the university has made.

I sure hope they have made some serious progress. I sure hope that what was happening there is no longer happening. I sure hope that nothing even close to that is happening anywhere else in the world.

Last year, we all saw the complete breakdown of the hierarchy that is supposed to step in and end wrongdoings by school officials. Instead, football was placed above the law, above morals and above common sense, when respected men in the world of football and academia both decided not to go to the authorities regarding one of their employee’s heinous acts.

There is no way they could not have made progress, because where Penn State was a few years ago was the bottom of the barrel.

But this is not about discussing what Penn State did wrong, that has been discussed plenty. This is about the NCAA’s step back, and why they made the wrong move. Yes, the NCAA’s punishment was unprecedented and incredibly harsh. So was the crime.

There is no way that Penn State was not going to improve, but to reward them now says that even the worst of crimes can be overcome in 14 months. 14 months is not long enough. Three years was long enough.

The $60 million fine, the vacated wins, the postseason ban and the reduced scholarships were a message that allowing football to be placed above the law would not be tolerated again. It takes a resolute person to hand down a strict punishment, and abide by it for the duration of the punishment in order to send a clear message. Emmert is not standing resolute, but he is sending a clear message of “if you mess up, you’re in trouble, but not for too long.”

I have tried to live my life by the motto of forgive and forget. Moving on is important, and letting bad feelings over past wrongdoings fester can cause a lot of harm down the road.

But the point of sanctions that last for years is to ensure that no one should forget. None of us, and especially no university officials anywhere should ever forget what happens to schools who put football on a pedestal.

The idea behind unprecedented sanctions is to send a message that will continue to resonate for long after the verdict is handed down. The NCAA needed to stand resolute on this matter, and they dropped the ball.

The NCAA caught a lot of flack over the summer for what many perceived as letting Johnny Manziel off the hook. This was their chance to show that they have teeth, that they can make people face the music. Instead they bowed to the pressure to alleviate the penalties. While a lot is tolerated in the name of football at universities across the nation, this was supposed to be the line.

The NCAA is not done with this either. While they maintained that Penn State would not be bowl eligible this season, they stated that more reductions would be considered around this time next year. This is a perfect example of how not to stand strong on an issue.

Forgiveness is important, but it is not the NCAA’s place to forgive Penn State. Their place is to say, loud and clear, that football is not the king. Rules are rules, and what Penn State did is an insult to rules. It is an insult to leadership. They deserve what was given to them, and rewarding them for doing what was required of them makes no sense.