Two points of view, then.
"People can make their own opinions," said James Gamble, a student from Harrisburg. "I think some of it could have been warranted, some of it shouldn't have been. But the NCAA has made their decision.
“When you think of Penn State, you think of the exact opposite of this. This was a big surprise to everybody. But I hope some people get a little bit of closure from this now."
"I've lived here all my life," said Madison Lippincott, a freshman. "To just be hit by this, all of a sudden. My freshman year, all of this stuff is just happening, all at once . . . A nightmare, obviously. An awful, awful nightmare . . .
“It's going to cripple my experience completely. All I'm ever going to hear, instead of people being proud of me when I say, ‘Oh, I'm from Penn State,' I'm going to hear, ‘Ooh, really, you're from Penn State? That's disgusting.' It's not only crippling the institution. It's crippling my life . . .
“Penn State games won't be the same. I doubt the same number of people will be there. Everybody is just going to be focused on, ‘Ooh, what's going on down there? I wonder what's happening behind our backs now.' Instead of actually focusing on the game, which is, like, important . . .
“People we were with when we first saw [the sanctions] couldn't even speak."
They are . . .
Penn State . . .
All of them.
Reasoned and rabid, furious and philosophical, they come in all sizes, shapes and levels of outrage. To pretend that there is a single reaction to the NCAA's sanctions against the football program is to do just that: pretend.
They are people who were let down by a leadership group that they had every reason to trust. They are people who now have witnessed the NCAA's version of rough justice. The court system was not enough for the NCAA in this horrible business. The NCAA needed to act, too, because to fail to act would be to fall even further into irrelevance behind the BCS.
The purpose of punishment is supposed to be deterrence. But, really: The next time somebody in college athletics is faced with the prospect of covering up a crime involving an athlete or a coach, do you really think that fear of jail time if they get caught will now be trumped by fear of bowl sanctions?
And then there was the decision to vacate 14 years of victories. It was only symbolic, and maybe spiteful, and it touched a nerve. Freshmen Thomas Mangan, of North Wales, and Sam Rocktashel, of Milton, were in class when the sanctions were announced, and got the highlights walking around campus, and Mangan said, "To me, it's sort of weird that the NCAA felt the need to take action. I think it's more of a matter for the courts."
But what about taking away the wins?
"Wait," Mangan said. "They did what? I don't agree with that at all."
The years of bowl sanctions and scholarship reductions will likely make Penn State a football irrelevance for a period of time, and smart people will debate how long that might be. But why was this necessary? Paterno is dead. The administrators involved in failing to act against Jerry Sandusky, the sexual predator who used to coach football, are either fired or indicted. The people most directly affected by these penalties are players and coaches who had nothing to do with any of this. Again, why?
Listening to Cory Giger's radio show Monday on ESPN 1450 in State College, he took phone calls for about 45 minutes starting at about 5:15 p.m. It was hard to know what to expect. We all think we know how wrapped up everyone in that area is in the university and the football program, and the expectation was for outrage.
Instead, by my unofficial scorecard, there was only one call I would classify as angry. Another thought the penalties were overdone. Two callers were analytical, already trying to game out the scholarship limitations and how the team might be able to weather them. And three callers were what I would call philosophical. One said, flatly, "I think they got what they deserved."
Because here is the suspicion: for every person upset that the Paterno statue was removed, there are at least as many who feel so horribly and completely let down. For every stalwart who takes notes as the Paterno family, seemingly every day, continues to shout into the wind, there are at least as many who feel terrible for Sandusky's victims and desire some silence now, and some kind of a fresh start.
And, well, they are getting it – even though the NCAA has salted the earth. But you wonder how many of them will stay through the process. The fence and the blue tarp will be removed soon enough, and the grocery-store bouquet shoved into the chain-link will wither and die, and they will play football games.
The team will be fine for a while, and then it will be terrible – and, well, 106,000 is a lot of seats. And you wonder.
The only certainty is that no one will ever enter Beaver Stadium blindly again, even as they all come to terms with the new realities in their own way.
Contact Rich Hofmann at firstname.lastname@example.org or read his blog, The Idle Rich, at www.philly.com/TheIdleRich, or folllow @theidlerich on Twitter. For recent columns, go to www. philly.com/RichHofmann.
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