As you all know by now, the NCAA and B1G have rendered their decisions as to the future of football at Penn State. While we can argue about jurisdictional issues, those are irrelevant because the President of the Unviersity agreed to the sanctions. So, we are left with the reality that the Nittany Lions football team will be faced with a severe competitive disadvantage for at least 4 (probably 8) years. Below is an open letter to this community...
Dear PSU Community,
I have not had the privilege of graduating from, or attending, Penn State as a student. However, over the past several months, you have welcomed me as part of this community and I am honored by such acceptance. Our community is faced with a steep mountain to climb, in terms of our football team. But it is not insurmountable. By their actions today, the NCAA has, in their words, attempted to put academics ahead of athletics. Such asinine statements completely miss the point.
One of the reasons, in fact the main reason, that I am a Penn State fan is because, for many years, Penn State stood for something unique. It stood for the proposition that one could achieve the heights of athletic and academic success at the same time. While the proponents of such an idea may have been flawed, that idea is not. That idea is worth carrying on and emulating now and into the future. I believe, under Coach O'Brien, this idea will carry forward.
As to the vacated wins of Joe Paterno, much has been said of the blow to his legacy this scandal has levied against it. Yet, those who say so miss the point. While the powers that be can tear down statues and vacate wins, Joe's legacy isn't encapsulated by a building, a statue or a trophy. Joe's monument is enshrined in all of the young men he taught to be leaders. Joe's legacy is enshrined in each of those young men that we had the honor and privilege to cheer for and call our own. Whatever moral failings Joe may have had, he always managed to recruit the highest caliber of young men to play football for his team. This is evidenced by the graduation rates and GPA, at or among the highest in Division I Football. It is also evidenced by the large amount of players who chose, voluntarily, to give their time and efforts to Special Olympics and THON. This is how I choose to remember Coach Paterno.
Moving forward, fielding a competitive football team will be difficult for a few years. However, Coach O'Brien has stated that he is committed to this team, this university and this community for the long term. This is a testament to his character. Likewise, I have no doubt that Coach O'Brien will continue to recruit the highest caliber of young men, who will be committed to athletic excellence, academic achievement and community involvement. But he's going to need help.
We, as a community, need to show the world what the phrase "WE ARE...PENN STATE" really means. The world expects us to simply withdraw within our self-flagilating cocoon, never to be heard from again. I say we do the exact opposite. I say we make every single home game have the atmosphere of a bowl game. I say we support the young men who will represent this team, this university and this community more than we ever have before. I say we travel more to support these young men more than we ever have before. I say, when we can't travel, we make Penn State games the highest rated games on TV every single weekend. I say, we support RAINN, Special Olympics, Lift for Life and THON at record levels. These young men will do their part on the field, we need to do our parts off of it.
The NCAA/B1G have sought to cripple this team, this university and this community. To that I say, Cripple This! To you, the members of this community, I say we stand up, dust ourselves off, and with full-throated fury say "WE ARE...PENN STATE."