There's simply no mistaking it: The downfall of Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal stands as one of the biggest (and most depressing) stories in not only college football history, but American sports history as well.
As a result, then, it's hardly surprising that so many pundits, columnists and commentators found it necessary to weigh in once the NCAA delivered its crushing sanctions against Penn State in July of 2012.
Those sanctions included a four-year bowl ban, massive scholarship reductions and a $60 million fine. In total, the punishment seemed certain to set the Nittany Lion program back for at least a half-decade.
Below is a sampling of the response to those sanctions from sportswriters around the country.
♦ Dan Wetzel, Yahoo! Sports: "This was clearly a vengeful, hard line NCAA on display Monday. It's a reversal from so many soft penalties and bizarre rulings. Instead, it delivered a cannonball to the chest of Penn State that both strips the program of parts of its past and complicates its future. Of course, there will still be games. There will still be players receiving educations. There will still be teamwork and hard work. There will still be tailgates and beautiful fall days in Happy Valley and the band playing the fight song. That much remains and that is worth remembering. Losing a few more football games than you are accustomed to isn't, in the grand scheme of things, an insurmountable penalty. On this day for Penn State and its football fans, it just seems that way. It just seems worse than death."
♦ Bob Kravitz, Indianapolis Star: So who else wants to pile on Penn State? Who hasn’t extracted their pound of flesh from a football program and a university now left reeling after a punitive broadside that was, in many ways, worse than the “death penalty?” This is like some giant ritual cleansing, as if pounding Penn State into athletic submission will somehow make Jerry Sandusky’s victims whole. But aren’t we all just trying to make ourselves feel better about ourselves? Aren’t we all trying to show how good and righteous we are? How delicious is it to hear the NCAA talk about college football as part of the larger mission of the university, when schools are changing conferences to chase the dollar, when football coaches are paid dozens of times more than biology professors, when an unhealthy percentage of black football and basketball players are failing to get a degree?"
♦ Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com: "As statements go, a $60 million fine, 40 scholarships, a four-year bowl ban and 112 vacated wins is right up there with the Magna Carta. The [NCAA] presidents put down new stakes on their property line. They are in charge. The importance of that principle supersedes any other consideration."
♦ Stewart Mandel, CNNSI: "And so, for the sins of Joe Paterno, Graham Spanier, Gary Schultz and Tim Curley, the NCAA dropped the hammer on Bill O'Brien, Matt McGloin, Silas Redd and 20 players who won't be able to receive scholarships from Penn State over the next four years (the NCAA stripped the school of 10 scholarships in each of the next four seasons). It assured that the Nittany Lions won't be a contender in the Big Ten for half of a decade -- if not longer -- and that their idol-worshipping fans will no longer cheer for a winner. Justice has been served, assuming your idea of justice for rape victims is to deprive a school of its next four Outback Bowl invitations."
♦ Gregg Doyel, CBSSports.com: "Penn State football will lose games but make money, which is the best possible result. The local community needs Penn State football, needs it more than Dallas needed SMU in 1987 or more, really, than just about any small college town needs its big college football program. State College, Pa., would have been devastated by the death penalty. Emmert was aware of that when he said the NCAA considered but rejected that sanction because it "would bring unintended harm to many that had nothing to do with this case." Current Penn State football players and recruits will feel "unintended harm," but they have an out. They can leave and play immediately elsewhere, or they can stay at Penn State on scholarship -- whether they keep playing or not."
♦ David Jones, Harrisburg Patriot: "Also, at least, [Penn State fans] can take a smidge of solace that Penn State football will be visible on TV throughout. With all the different broadcast entities involved in televising so many games these days, it's become too cumbersome for the NCAA to use its old TV bans it tossed around in the 1980s. And hey, Penn State's huge half-million alumni throng can still be milked for ratings and the resultant TV advertising dollars. Funny how neither the NCAA nor the Big Ten was too outraged to twist that spigot dry."