FILS: Let the Lions live

Manny Fils

Manny Fils

There's a big protest brewing at Penn State University about whether to keep the statue of former head coach Joe Paterno outside of Beaver Stadium. A lot of people, including former Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden (the only opinion that matters as far as I'm concerned), feel that the statue should be taken down in light of the evidence that JoePa was involved in the cover-up of assistant coach Jerry Sandusky sexually abusing those kids despite the Paterno family wholeheartedly disagreeing with the findings of the Freeh Report.

It's not that I blame them for feeling that way. If I had a family member who I loved and cherished and was accused of hiding such a heinous crime I would disagree with the findings too, despite what the report by former FBI director Louis Freeh said. Seriously, a former FBI director wrote the report. I mean how much more thorough could a report like that be?

I feel the statue should be taken down and melted, except for the head. That part should be put on a spear in front of the stadium to appease the masses. But no matter what happens to the statue, Joe Paterno's reputation and importance to the school will forever be diminished just like the good name of Penn State. Unfortunately, that is not enough for some of his critics. There are some people who are calling for the NCAA to censure the football program and the university as well with a death penalty.

The NCAA has imposed a death penalty to a sport five times since 1952, with the SMU football program being the most famous as to what a death penalty can do to a program. When a school is given a death penalty by the NCAA, the school is banned from competing in that sport for a period of at least one year.

The first program to have the death penalty imposed against it wasthe University of Kentucky's basketball team. In 1952, three of its star players were arrested and charged for taking bribes from gamblers to shave points during the NIT game against the Loyola Ramblers four years earlier. The coaches of the other schools, University of Southwestern (basketball), Southern Methodist (football), Morehouse College (men's soccer) and MacMurray College (men's tennis), were all guilty of paying players, academic fraud or playing illegal players.

In all those instances the athletic program benefitted from the illegal actions except in the case of Kentucky. Their infraction occurred on the field of play. Neither the football program nor any other sport at Penn State benefited from the actions of those involved. In all the other cases where the death penalty was enacted, the sports gained an unfair advantage. What Paterno, Sandusky and the other university officials involved did was a criminal matter. That's a big difference.

There is no doubt that what happened to all those young men is tragic. But to ask the NCAA to overstep their authority is just wrong. Penn State has done a lot to get its house in order. They fired Paterno, but more importantly they didn't do it on his terms. He wanted to wait until after the season so he could go out with his head held high. But the board of trustees let him go with a few games left proving that JoePa was not above the best interest or the image of the school. The board also got rid of 16-year Penn State president Graham Spanier for not telling the proper authorities about what he knew and what Sandusky did as well as putting athletic director Tim Curley on leave. I would say go ahead and pull the trigger and let him go, but since he has been diagnosed with lung cancer, that's like kicking a man when he's down. But considering that he kept quiet, it may be justifiable.

Now I read where the Big Ten conference is considering giving its commissioner the power to punish schools even going as far as the ability to fire coaches. I feel that people are reacting rather than thinking things through. If they give control to an outside agency, in this case the Big Ten Conference or the NCAA, then that agency ultimately holds the power. Before someone else dictates what should happen under your roof, you should have the opportunity to handle it yourself. The Penn State board of trustees had everyone who had knowledge of Sandusky's action dismissed or their ties to the school severed. I feel that they did everything to punish the guilty parties. By involving the NCAA, or the Big Ten commissioner when and if that day comes, the only people being punished would be more innocent people.Manny Fils is a sports writer for The Citizen. Fils can be emailed at manny.fils@newtoncitizen.com.