Collier: There's only one course for Penn State to take

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More than a week of national fulmination has left us with one area of general agreement: A thorough reading of the Freeh Report will make you want to take a shower, if certainly not in the Lasch Football Building at Penn State.

When former university vice president Gary Schultz wonders within the pages of former FBI Director Louis Freeh's meticulous report if indeed Pandora's box has been opened, neither he nor anyone else could foresee the astonishing volume of toxicity still flying from its depths day after disgusting day.

You may select your most stunning here's-how-bad-it-really-is slice of evidence of the entire Penn State scandal so far (so far!), but don't fail to consider this spectacle from, of all forums, SEC media days.

Alabama coach Nick Saban, when it was his turn to discuss the approaching football season in the Southeast Conference, offered a solution to Penn State's misery, something about a tax on tickets that would go directly to child abuse prevention initiatives.

Please make it stop.

Alabama has been off NCAA probation -- off NCAA probation -- for exactly six weeks, having served its third probation since 1995. Alabama was on probation in 16 sports. So there's Nick Saban, the public face of the University of Alabama, giving Penn State, one of a handful of schools in the country that has never been on probation, some encouraging advice.

And Penn State cannot say a word in response, having lost all moral authority to do so.

The NCAA could bring the death penalty to Happy Valley. The Big 10 could eject Penn State from the conference. There could be bowl bans and scholarship limitations and even prison terms for Schultz and former athletic director Tim Curley and you might expect, eventually, for former university president Graham Spanier, who chased sports agents off campus with enthusiasm but gave a suspected pedophile the keys to the kingdom.

Agents, after all, can cost a linebacker some eligibility. Pedophiles can merely kill the souls of little boys.

But no person and no collegiate, legal, nor government entity can fix what happened to Penn State in the wake of its almost unimaginably stupid response to the Jerry Sandusky pathology. No one should be able to punish Penn State more severely than it punishes itself. Only Penn State can fix Penn State, and Penn State can not cleanse its mortal soul by writing checks.

I don't care how many child welfare agencies get how many millions through how many different methods. I don't care how many different ways Penn State re-jiggers its power structure to ostensibly prevent what's been going on in Centre County for decades from ever happening again; it's all just the shifting of money and resources, which Penn State has in abundance.

That's eyewash.

The ways in which the university has subverted its mission for the glory of football are described exhaustively in the Freeh Report, but nowhere so damningly as in the process by which Sandusky was granted emeritus status after his retirement, which came a year after he admitted to showering with boys and hugging them from behind, a year after he was interviewed by an operative from the Department of Public Welfare and an officer from the campus police, but somehow was not charged with anything.

"Documents show the unusual request for emeritus status originated from Schultz," the report says. "[The request] was approved by Spanier, and granted by the Provost, who expressed some uneasiness about the decision given Sandusky's low academic rank and the precedent that would set."

In other words, Penn State's generally sterling academic reputation could easily and almost reflexively be compromised for the benefit of a former defensive coordinator.

That's where their sorry heads were.

And among the many privileges attendant to emeritus status: access to the university's locker room complex.

The often breathless analysis of the Freeh Report continues to magnetize to the damning emails, but that fails the big-picture focus. See Page 17, which emphasizes "a culture of reverence for the football program that is ingrained at all levels of the campus community. ... It is up to the entire [u]niversity community to undertake a thorough and honest review of its culture."

It is that culture that Penn State must tear out by its roots. This column first suggested in November that Penn State suspend the football program indefinitely, an opinion that was essentially laughed off the stage at the time but has lately produced some serious echoes, including that of the editorial board of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

For what happened to Sandusky's victims, at the hands of Sandusky's enablers, nothing short of dropping football will matter. Nothing short of dropping football would represent "an honest review of its culture." Nothing short of dropping football, by Penn State's own volition, can pass as serious contrition. genecollier


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