So Jerry Sandusky has finally been convicted on child abuse charges. Awaiting sentencing, he is likely to spend the rest of his life in prison. And when the verdict was announced late Friday night, cheers went up in the town of Bellefonte, a sleepy community in the heart of Happy Valley.
But even with the conclusion the trial, and even as a jury of central Pennyslvanians can say that they put Sandusky away for good, this much is clear: Penn State isn't out of the woods yet.
Yes, Sandusky is now locked up, and in a sense that should bring some sense of closure to those who have suffered because of his actions. At the same time, however, investigations into what went wrong at Penn State--who knew what, and when, and why certain decisions were made along the way--continue. Civil suits are almost guaranteed. More disturbing revelations are possible. And yes, major questions remain about the future of the Penn State football program.
Some will and already have begun calling for the program to get the "death penalty," and those calls will likely only grow louder if Penn State's internal investigation turns up any evidence that there was a football-focused cover-up of Sandusky's actions. As such, one can bet that the NCAA and even the Big Ten will feel the pressure to do something to show their concern for what happened up in State College.
In the end, however, it seems unlikely that Penn State football will face any serious sanctions for the scandal. After all, Sandusky is in jail, the university president and athletic director have effectively lost their jobs and may soon face massive legal troubles of their own, and former coach Joe Paterno passed away several months ago, weeks after he was fired for his role in this mess. In other words, the men whose actions or lack of action allowed Sandusky to terrorize the region have been removed from the equation; the university's internal investigation will certainly pinpoint anyone remaining who may have played a part. They will be removed as well.
Bill O'Brien is now in charge, and the players who will play for him, of course, had nothing to do with any of this. Then there is the fact that the Sandusky scandal is a legal issue--one that falls far outside the purview of either the NCAA or Big Ten.
This is why, despite the understandable calls for severe punishment, sanctioning the current iteration of the Penn State football program makes no sense. That's also why it's quite likely that the football program will emerge from this thing mostly unscathed, save the stigma that it will carry for years and years to come.
The university as a whole, though? Well, let's say that its troubles aren't over yet--not by a long shot.
More questions will be asked, and answered. Many more millions be spent. And years of hard work will be needed to even begin to earn back a shred of the public trust. Indeed, it's fairly safe to say that Penn State will never be viewed the same way again. This scandal will scar the university for decades, because it will not soon be forgotten, nor should it.
So much of this story has focused on football, and that's unlikely to change; college football these days is too easy a target. I mean, we are living in a time when otherwise intelligent individuals seem to think that college football is so awful, so rotten to the score, that it ought to be banned entirely. Hence, it was inevitable that some would use the horrible events up at Penn State to further their anti-college football agenda.
But this Sandusky story isn't really a football story, and never really was. This was a story about a sexual predator leveraging his power and local fame to harm the innocent, and a story about an institution and a few powerful men who failed their community, and failed it miserably.
And yes, that institution and those men will pay--will pay for years and years, in fact--for their failures.
That's what matters here: Justice being served.
Photo: Getty Images