Flag on the plays: The Penn State scandal can't heal for interference

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After the NCAA issued stiff penalties to Penn State University over the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, Gov. Tom Corbett, a Penn State trustee, had some good advice. He said part of the "corrective process is to accept the serious penalties."

Of course, he did not take his own advice. The penalties were serious enough that many politicians -- Mr. Corbett included -- could not resist making political hay to impress aggrieved Penn State fans.

The sanctions included wiping out all football wins by late head football coach Joe Paterno from 1998 to 2011, a ban on bowl appearances for four years and a fine of $60 million to fund programs to help child abuse victims nationwide. The university agreed to these punishments to avoid a more serious penalty, suspension of the football program.

But the politicians proceeded on the basis that a deal is not a deal. Mr. Corbett brought a federal lawsuit challenging the NCAA's power on antitrust grounds only to have it ignominiously thrown out of court. He also signed a law earlier this year requiring that the $60 million fine be spent in Pennsylvania. The NCAA has counter-sued to block implementation of the law.

So the scab on wounded pride can't heal because it keeps being picked.

Two more examples occurred this week, one the result of a lawsuit filed by two public officials, Republican state Sen. Jake Corman, who represents the State College area, and Democratic state Treasurer Rob McCord, who is expected to announce a run for governor. The lawsuit is trying to ensure that the $60 million be spent in Pennsylvania pursuant to the new state law. Commonwealth Court ruled that the lawsuit could proceed.

Although it would be nice if the $60 million could be spent in state on child abuse programs, child abuse is not limited to Pennsylvania and the NCAA is a national organization.

Maybe it is no different from trying to let Joe Paterno completely off the hook when it is clear that his reputation will never be fully rehabilitated. The prosecutor in the Sandusky trial, Frank Fina, said on Showtime's "60 Minutes Sports" that he didn't believe coach Paterno contributed to the cover-up -- a comment that doubtless encouraged his die-hard supporters.

Well, yes, but that's not so surprising -- he was never charged at the time. A person does not have to be a criminal to have made a bad mistake. As the prosecutor noted, the coach did admit he didn't do enough.

Except perhaps to advance some political careers, none of this really helps. Mr. Corbett gave good advice the first time.



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