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Dan Shaughnessy

Penn State should shut down football program

Shut it down. No more football at Penn State. Not for a while, anyway. And please don’t wait to be sanctioned by the NCAA, which moves at a glacial pace.

Now there can be no doubt. The sycophants, enablers, and excuse-makers can go away and stay away. The Penn State Board of Trustees can finally do the right thing and kill the school’s football program. Effective immediately. Football can come back to State College, Pa., someday. Not now.

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This is not a hard decision anymore. Nor is it radical. It’s the decent thing to do, after a decade and a half of institutional indecency.

Please. No weeping for the players and coaches who are at Penn State now. We know they did nothing wrong. But they can transfer. Coaches can get jobs at other schools.

Football simply cannot go on after what we heard Thursday from former FBI director Louis Freeh.

Hired by Penn State’s Board of Trustees in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal, Freeh concluded that for more than a decade there was total disregard for the safety and well-being of children/victims by the most powerful men at Penn State. And that includes the fabled Joe Paterno.

Penn State needs to give its football program the death penalty. The pompous NCAA, ever reluctant to sanction big-revenue, elite members, will eventually figure out what to do about the obvious lack of institutional control in State College. The Big Ten could also step forward in the wake of Thursday’s disclosures. In the meantime, Penn State needs to stop the nonsense of attempting to play its 2012 season.

An internal report sanctioned by Penn State said late football coach Joe Paterno was partly to blame as the school failed to protect victims before Jerry Sandusky was convicted of sexual abuse.

AP

An internal report sanctioned by Penn State said late football coach Joe Paterno was partly to blame as the school failed to protect victims before Jerry Sandusky was convicted of sexual abuse.

The games cannot go on. Playing football this fall would be just another demonstration that the vaunted football program is more important than protecting innocent children. Happy Valley needs some silent Saturdays to ponder how this happened and to make sure nothing like it could ever happen again.

As of this moment, the Nittany Lions are scheduled to open at home against Ohio Sept. 1 at noon. Two weeks later, the United States Naval Academy is slated to play at Penn State. It’s “Military Appreciation Day.’’ Disgusting. If Penn State doesn’t do the right thing, the Naval Academy should refuse to send its team to State College.

The NCAA, quick to sanction phone calls to recruits or booster-paid tattoos, says Penn State needs to address four key questions regarding institutional control and ethics policies. The collegiate sports governing body says Penn State’s response will help decide what action needs to be taken.

There wasn’t much ambiguity in Freeh’s 267-page report, which was compiled over eight months and included interviews with 430 current or former college employees.

“In order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at the university . . . repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse.’’

The four men cited are former school president Graham Spanier, former athletic director Tim Curley, former school vice president Gary Schultz, and the late Paterno.

The facts are the facts. With their appalling inaction, grounded in the belief that they were saving football from disgrace, these men allowed child rapes to go undetected and unreported for 14 years after they were first alerted of Sandusky’s crimes. They concealed facts and failed to go to authorities to protect the football program from “bad publicity.’’ They allowed rapes to continue in order to preserve King Football.

Joe Pa brought Penn State 409 wins, five undefeated seasons, and two national championships. He put the school on the map and was honored with a statue that stands outside Beaver Stadium. Today it stands as a monument to the worst scandal in the history of college sports. The statue needs to come down.

According to USA Today, donations to Penn State are on the rise since the news of the scandal broke last year. More than 190,000 contributors have donated $209 million, which represents the second-best year in school history. Way to rally. Ya-hoo.

Penn State is going to need a lot of money to settle the lawsuits certain to follow Thursday’s report. Shutting down football for a few years will be another financial hit. No football means no TV money and a drop in alumni pledges.

Too bad. The Nittany Lions need to close shop for a while. No tailgating. No boola-boola. No homecoming game. No Senior Day. There is no price tag to measure an institution’s lost soul.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.
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