Monday was a day for justice. First, James Holmes—the movie theater mass murderer from Friday morning—had his first day in court. But since much more is to come of this, I am going to focus on another case of Monday justice, the NCAA's sanctions against Penn State.
Punishment had already being thrown (and even more yet to come) at the many individuals involved in the horrendous cover-up of Jerry Sandusky's sexually abusive acts. Nothing had yet been levied toward the institution that facilitated all of this cowardly evil—the Penn State football program. That's where the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) comes into play. The NCAA is the regulating body of all the major universities' athletic programs. As such, the association felt compelled to discipline Penn State for its negligence.
Slate lists the sanctions as being:
A $60 million fine, a four-year bowl ban, and the vacation of all wins dating back to 1998. The penalties also include the loss of 20 scholarships per year over four years and a five-year probationary period. The NCAA likewise announced that any current or incoming football players will be free to immediately transfer and compete at another school, a decision that is sure to deplete the Nittany Lions squad moving forward.
The severity of such a penalty is unprecedented but the situation prompting them is also unprecedented. Previously, all of the NCAA's sanctions towards a university athletic program had been because of "cheating" in its various forms. That all changed on Monday.
Many have already asked, what right does the NCAA, a body that is supposed to focus on athletic violations, have in disciplining a program that had not "broken" any NCAA rules? Every right. They had every right, because Penn State had neglected to protect the children, allowing a monster to continue in his rampage unseen, and instead opted to protect a football giant-of-a-program and a football god. The NCAA had the right to judge this sports program because the program had gone too far.
Penn State had created a world and culture in which the highest good was not loving God and loving your neighbor, but loving your team and loving to win. You cheer for your team. You adore your team. You protect your team. You die for your team.
But to be honest, this is not just a Penn State problem. What happened there was bound to happen sooner or later somewhere else in some other form because we all kind of let this happen. As Americans, we have created a culture of football, sport, and celebrity that is larger than life—larger than God.
Our team, our coach, our star can do no wrong and how dare you for suggesting otherwise. If the situation had occurred in Eugene, I shudder to consider how our university, football program, and community would react.
Next time you attend a college football game, look around, and try to prove me wrong. They are worshiping.
I am speaking from experience; in the past I have been caught up in this hysteria too. Don't get me wrong, I love football but we have taken this too far in the name of championships and bowl games. And it doesn't just have to be football. Any time we elevate something above morality, truth, and God, we are setting ourselves up for trouble.
May this Penn State situation be a wake up call to the rest of the nation that football is not more important than a human life—than a child's well-being. This is precisely the message the NCAA is trying to send to the other institutions of this country.
"Football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing, and protecting young people," NCAA President Mark Emmert said. Let us hope he is right.
Outside Penn State's football stadium was placed a 7-foot tall bronze statue of Joe Paterno—the former winningest coach in history, the coach who should have done more. It has now been torn down by the university.
Let us make sure that we tear down our idols too, lest we fall with them.