Penn State should cancel Saturday's game

Posted: November 11, 2011

Joe Paterno will not be in Beaver Stadium on Saturday.

No one else should be there, either.

The Penn State board of trustees, like so many others in the scandal of silence that has engulfed the university, did the bare minimum on Wednesday by firing coach Joe Paterno and school president Graham Spanier. Choosing which cuff links to wear to the meeting was a more difficult decision for them than that.

They stopped short of presenting tangible evidence that they consider the horror that took place on campus to be more important than a football game.

There should be no cheering on Saturday. There should be silence in the enormous concrete and steel edifice built to deify a program that has now been revealed as a false god. Tell the people not to come. Tell them there is nothing here to glorify. Encourage them to spend the fall afternoon with their children.

That didn't happen, and the people involved can invent a thousand plausibly correct reasons for why Penn State should play Nebraska on Saturday. They can cite fairness to the players, to the fans, to the spirit of competition, to whatever shredded hope there is that life should continue just as if nothing has happened.

It's all garbage, and it proves that the people in charge up there still don't get it. They still don't understand that, even at Penn State, even now, the football program shouldn't be the main focus of everything. That's how they got into this mess. Football ran the university and now it is running it into the ground.

Board of trustees vice chairman John P. Surma, who announced the firings Wednesday night and gamely answered questions during a horrendously organized news conference, said the board would act quickly to respond further to a situation that "is not in the best interests of the university."

"The current situation we're in, which has its roots within a certain organization within the university, is not in the best interest," Surma said.

A certain organization? It was as if he was referring to an underground cult that had brought this shame upon the school, a chapter of the Klan or neo-Nazis or something. It is almost incomprehensible that this is the point that has been reached. The football program has been one of the greatest sources of pride on this campus - not to mention the source of approximately $50 million in annual revenue - and now the school's trustees will not even speak its name. A certain organization.

Surma, the chairman and chief executive officer of U.S. Steel, donated $5 million in 2010 to endow a dean's chair in the university's school of business. The other members of the board all seem to be solid, well-meaning men and women as well. What they have wrestled with this week has been difficult for them all, but the board is still in denial, still practicing damage control.

They missed the opportunity to prove this will be something more than business as usual. In silent honor to all the rape victims who suffered because the moral compass within the football program was broken, the stadium should be empty on Saturday.

Lock the gates and let Nebraska stay home. Forfeit the game. Write a check to the Cornhuskers to make up for whatever lost revenue they would be missing, either from the telecast or shared gate receipts. It would have been good practice. When the civil suits filed by the alleged victims that include Penn State as a defendant come to court, the school will be writing a lot of checks. Make sure you practice the zeros.

The board said it would form a commission to study what happened, to root out additional wrongdoing, and to put measures in place that will attempt to prevent future "situations." Let's be very clear about this. The university should not be allowed to investigate the university. However well-meaning that investigation might be, the university cannot be trusted any longer. If the governor has any sense, he will make that point and see to it that the investigating committee does not have any conflicting interest in the outcome.

What else? Ah, yes. The football game. The football game that is so important it must be played, even as people who were complicit in allowing the rape of children to continue are front and center as participants in the spectacle. Yes, that game.

If Penn State loses, as it should on football merit alone, it will be said that the distractions of the week were to blame. There might be some truth to that. The board of trustees will still have given the school its weekend worship service, though. They do so because of all those logical, meaningless reasons for the game to take place.

In the end, however, perhaps somewhere far down this ugly road, the school will echo the most telling valedictory of the coach and, with the benefit of hindsight, will wish it had done more.


Contact columnist Bob Ford

at bford@phillynews.com, read his blog at www.philly.com/postpatterns, recent columns at www.philly.com/bobford, and follow @bobfordsports on Twitter.

 

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|