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No winners, but Penn State sanctions first step

Monday - 7/23/2012, 8:30pm  ET

AP: 7a1dc7ac-6f12-48d8-9682-dcdccf344b0d
Laura Lovins, a Penn State University sophomore from State College, Pa., , center, reacts while listening to a television in the HUB on the Penn State University main campus in State College, Pa., as the NCAA sanctions against the Penn State University football program are announced Monday, July 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Rob Woodfork, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Before I weigh in on this, let me be clear: There are no winners here. There's no penalty that will undo Jerry Sandusky's horrible acts against his victims. No amount of vacated wins will erase the pain endured. No punishment can be on par with the crime.

That said, I applaud the NCAA for its sanctions against Penn State University.

This whole situation is very difficult to navigate, not just because of it's unprecedented nature, but because the NCAA's task was to level penalties that would be felt by the bad actors within the university during the time of Sandusky's crimes without unjustly nailing the new infrastructure being put in place.

Mission accomplished.

Let's be honest: Joe Paterno's career wins record was a large part of why Jerry Sandusky's heinous crimes were swept under the rug to begin with. While I've always felt the practice of vacating wins is stupid (can we really say something we saw and have historical record of never happened?), in this particular case it's more than fitting.

The only way to hit Penn State without too much collateral damage was to hit them with Joe Pa's record. I've spent the last 5 years in Central Pennsylvania and I've had a front row seat for what Penn State football (and Joe Paterno in particular) means to that community. Trust me: seeing Bobby Bowden's name light years in front of Joe Pa's hurts bad.

Though the Nittany Lion football team continues to play despite a groundswell for the so-called "death penalty" hitting them in the wallet and nixing their ability to compete in bowl games ensures that program won't see the light of day for quite some time. In some ways, that's worse.

Furthermore, I find the death penalty would ring hollow in this case without it being self-imposed. What greater gesture could have come from State College than to voluntarily go dark for a year in order to further weed out the bad apples and focus on changing the culture of the program? Waiting on the NCAA to weigh in only makes PSU look every bit as defiant as we assume them to be.

To me, the sign of a good compromise is seeing both sides coming away feeling ripped off. Today, many Penn State supporters feel cheated. Those who wanted Penn State to burn feel like this penalty wasn't enough.

What can't be overlooked is the shame this program will have to live with from now on. For years, PSU was the school that did things "the right way". Now they're viewed in a worse light than Ohio State, Florida State or SMU ever was. The sterling Nittany Lion reputation has been replaced with the proverbial scarlet letter, something far worse than losing a hundred or so wins.

Again: nobody calls themselves a winner on this day. The victims can't have their unspeakable pain taken back and State College can't aptly be called Happy Valley for a long, long time yet.

But this was a necessary step in the right direction. A step toward closure. And hopefully, a step toward healing.

For everyone.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)