Joe Paterno was already an institution at Penn State in 1970 when he entered Dartmouth lore. He jested about playing the undefeated Green in a post season match-up. It was the last time an Ivy Leauge school finished in the top 20. Coach Bob Blackman sarcastically returned the jest pointing out he would rather play a team with better than a 7-3 record, Penn State's mark that year. Paterno would have to deal with Dartmouth's delusions of grandeur again in 1986 when he was asked if he thought he would have won that game as he testified on behalf of a Dartmouth coach. It is likely he wished that would be the last time he would see a coach in a court room.
The Jerry Sandusky case at Penn State is one of those stories that makes skin crawl. The tragedy only grows when a legend to many like Joe Pa knew what was happening.
College football has become larger than life at many schools. The love of the game can sometimes blind people to the rest of life. Penn State students demonstrated this blindness when Paterno was fired before the end of the season last year.
That love has jaded the perspective of a community as the punishment was handed down by the NCAA. There has been outrage about how the penalties will affect the students and the school as a whole.
The $60M fine plus the loss of $13M from Big 10 post season revenue sharing is about equal to one year of gross revenue of the football team ($72.7M). The school will also lose 10 of its 25 football scholarships for the next 4 years and be banned from post season bowls.
Players at Penn State can transfer to other schools without penalty. This includes players that have already signed to play there this year. It means there could be inconvienent but none of them is truly harmed from opportunity.
So what is the real pain?
There is little doubt that Penn State football will suffer on the field from the decision. There will be more losses. It may mean that their financial status, only secondary to the University of Texas, may fall. There will not be holiday trips to watch to the team play bowl games.
It may be that one of the stated goals of the NCAA with the punishment is achieved. The culture at Penn State that led protesters to forget the seriousness of the situation will change.
Dartmouth football has traditions. The team can go winless and alumni will still fill the campus every Saturday. The band will play the beer kegs and continue to be the best insulting unit in the Ivy League. And when the scoreboard shows UNH 42 Dartmouth 0, the alma mater will be sung just the same after the, "We won the toss!" chant is done.
Daniel Webster once said defending Dartmouth, "It is, Sir, as I have said, a small college. And yet there are those who love it!" The value of a school should not come down to the prowness of its athletic teams.
Penn State has a long list of famous alumni and most of them made their mark places other than the athletic facilities. The sad thing may be Nittany Lion fans might know all the football connections to the Pittsburgh Steelers and have no idea about the contributions of other graduates.
Big time athletics does bring attention to schools. That attention can be almost inappropriately important in attracting students. It is reality. It is why schools are willing to spend money to gain the prestige. It can get to the point where a university like Penn State can become the football team.
Penn State did not directly violate NCAA rules to achieve better results on the football field. This was more an issue of looking the other way rather than suffer immediate embarassment. The end result was more children were hurt and the scandal took down a legend and scarred a storied program. It is was a product of the culture and the culture needs to face the consequences.
The culture involves the students. It involves the alumni. It involves the professors. It involves the administors. It involves the surrounding community.
This is far from over for Penn State. There will be civil lawsuits filed. There still may be others who face legal action. The source for so much pride has become the source of pain and agony. It will not end soon.
There are many young men that will live with the horror of abuse because too many people remained silent. It was a silence caused by the culture. Every college sports fan in America should remember this as a cautionary tale. And every fan should realize that culture can lead to problems.
When I think of Dartmouth I think of Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss). I think of Jeffrey Immelt (CEO of GE). I think of Robert Reich (Labor Secretary for Bill Clinton). I think of Dinesh D'Souza (conservative writer). I think of C. Everett Koop (former Surgeon General of the US). And yes I might think of football players like Reggie Williams (Cincinnati Bengals) or Nick Lowery (Kansas City Chiefs) on occasion.
The Penn State community needs to start focusing on finding who may be their Dr. Seuss and less about the fallen legend. That starts by moving forward and accepting the consequences of the culture.
The Penn State leadership understands and has accepted the punishment. It is time for the rest of the community to follow. Unlike the wounds Sandusky inflicted, these can be healed.