With the new Penn State penalties in place, Bobby Bowden is now the winningest coach in NCAA history.
Except he’s not.
As one of their punishments, Penn State and Joe Paterno “officially” lost 112 wins from 1998 to this past season. However, what does this penalty actually accomplish?
The answer: a whole lot of nothing.
Now, I have to preface this argument by stating that I neither support what happened at Penn State, nor am I justifying or defending it. I think what occurred there is disgusting and deplorable to the highest degree, and Sandusky deserves everything that’s coming to him in prison (his kind are the lowest of low).
HOWEVER, it all comes down to one basic fact – Penn State won those games. Those players beat the other teams. It already happened. There’s no way that people will just magically forget that. There’s no way that you can actually delete that from time.
In short, the athletes themselves did not commit those crimes, and Paterno and other staff members coached them there. Within the realm of straightforward athletics, they WON.
The sick acts that were allowed to happen did not somehow gain them yards, touchdowns or otherwise. It gave them no unfair physical or athletic advantage as –say – steroids would.
Now, some people argue that sanctions like this communicate a strong message to all of the other schools and programs in the NCAA. That’s all fine and good as far as intention goes, but – yet again - everyone still knows that Penn State was the victor. Because no one can actually take those wins away, warning teams of this through example won’t be an effective motivator. If it doesn’t ultimately fix anything, so why would it be seen as a punishment to other players and coaches?
Now, $60 million in fines and bowl suspension, those are some deterrents.
Losing potential wins and titles in the future can really damage a program. Not only will it prevent a team's success, but it will also affect recruiting. No one wants to go to a school where, even if their team is the best in the NCAA, they will not be allowed to earn the wins and titles they deserve. They won’t be able to show NFL coaches how they perform at the highest level - a sad and unfair effect on innocent players.
In the end, penalizing former and current players by “voiding” their past achievements does nothing to rectify such awful, disgusting and tarnishing acts that some of the coaching staff allowed to happen. I’m just glad that they gave the poor players who are exceedingly talented and NFL-draft worthy a chance to escape the bowl/post season ban. Sadly, those athletes who have the potential to grow and succeed who aren’t taken by other schools will not have the opportunity. What a shame. What a worthless gesture.