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Students Can Lead Penn State Back to Prominence

What has gone on at Penn State over the past eight months is unfathomable. I struggle each day to grasp how these enormous tragedies could have happened.

There is a myriad of adjectives to describe the conduct of Jerry Sandusky and those who chose to shield his horrible deeds from law enforcement and the public eye for years. Pathetic. Disgusting. Cowardly. Those are just a few that come to mind. And for those who think that Penn State students don’t grasp this — that includes Joe Paterno, a man I once idolized.

This week, NCAA levied an extremely harsh ruling to the Penn State football program including fines, loss of scholarships, bowl bans, and victories being wiped from the record books. Some of these penalties are justified. Some are a bit excessive.

The $60 million fine which will go toward child sex abuse prevention programs is the most important part of the ruling. The victims must not be forgotten or pushed aside. However, Penn State’s student-athletes do not deserve punishment for incidents they were not complicit in.

Do I understand why the NCAA chose this route? Yes. There’s no doubt that football drove the university and provided the backdrop for these atrocities to happen, this warrants punishment.

Do I think it is excessive? Yes. Let the football team play in bowl games and donate every last dollar to child sex abuse prevention causes. These student-athletes and the new coaching staff should not be penalized for the pathetic institutional failures of Graham Spanier, Tim Curley, Gary Schultz, and Joe Paterno. As strange as it sounds right now, football can be used for good moving forward.

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to attend The Pennsylvania State University. I am not ashamed to say that a large part of my desire to attend Penn State was because of the mystique of the football program. I wanted to be a part of over 100,000 screaming fans at Beaver Stadium. I was a part of that — and no matter what the record books will say — I will continue to be for one final year as a student and moving forward as an alum.

After living and breathing what it means to be a Penn State student, I know that it is far more than drinking beer with buddies and going to Beaver Stadium on Saturday afternoons.

At Penn State I met my best friends in the world. At Penn State I’ve been educated by world class professors. At Penn State I’ve witnessed millions of dollars being raised by students for pediatric cancer through THON. At Penn State I stood among thousands in the bitter cold to honor victims of child sex abuse with a candlelight vigil.

We are more than just a disgraced football program. Our leaders failed us. The students will be the ones to lead the University back to prominence.

As a student, it’s tough to juggle what is important here. I’m torn. In the grand scheme of things, football does not matter whatsoever. If football is what led to innocent children being sexually violated by a sociopath, then maybe The Nittany Lions should not be playing on Saturdays.

On the other hand, part of me is just ecstatic that I’ll be able to go to Beaver Stadium with my best friends and join them arm-in-arm and sing our Alma mater during my senior year.

Is that wrong? I don’t know. It’s a difficult time to be a Penn State student, but I know we current students can be a springboard, a foundation for the future — for the next chapter of Penn State.

About the Author

Sam Cooper

Sam is a senior originally from Newtown, PA who majors in print journalism and is a member of the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism. His athletic peak was age 11 so he decided to grow a beard and write about sports instead.

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