In World War 2, whenever our planes went on a big bombing run it was assumed there would be collateral damage around the target.
That kind of mass destruction was carried out Monday when the NCAA leveled its punishments against Penn State for the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal. The devastation to the football program and to the State College business community will be felt for years, perhaps decades. Although the newly-seated current regime was braced for expected "unprecedented" sanctions that were to come down, the scope of the punishment staggered many inside and outside the university.
NCAA President Mark Emmert was right in redirecting the priorities not only on the PSU campus, but for all of college football.
"The fundamental message here, the gut-check message is, do we have the right balance in our culture?" he asked. "Do we have, first and foremost, the academic values of integrity and honesty and responsibility as the drivers of our university? Or are we in a position where hero worship and winning at all costs has subordinated those core values?"
The worshipping of teams and individual players has indeed gotten out of hand in our culture, and not only at Penn State. There usually comes a day of reckoning for individual sports stars or big-time sports programs with that "too big to fail" mentality.
The NCAA penalties gutted all segments of the Penn State program and for all the former and current athletes who had nothing to do with the scandal, it's especially hard to take.
If, a year ago, someone had said that within a 24-hour period Penn State would remove the Paterno statue and that the NCAA would then take away 112 of his coaching wins, we have thought the person was crazy. By erasing all the football victories from 1998-2011, the NCAA made a direct hit on the Paterno legacy.
Players of that era who gave their all on the field during that 14-year period have reason to be upset. After Monday's announcement, Adam Taliaferro, who recovered from a paralyzing hit on the field in 2000 and is now on the school's board of trustees, tweeted about the NCAA attempting to erase games that means so much to the players who gave it all on the field.
" ... I got the metal plate in my neck to verify it did..I almost died playing 4 PSU..punishment or remedial?" he noted.
The financial impact both inside the university and on the outside, where so much of the State College economy is dependent on Saturday football in the fall, is enormous.
The loss of 10 scholarships a year for four years, is equally brutal. Attracting top recruits to Penn State will be especially hard and providing the roster depth required to be competitive in the Big Ten Conference is severely impacted by the loss of scholarships.
The NCAA may have spared Penn State the "death penalty", such as what SMU received in 1987 when it had to cancel its entire season after a pay-to-play scandal but in some ways Monday's punishment against Penn State is worse since the effects will linger for years to come. It's been 25 years since the SMU penalty was handed down and that program has never fully recovered.
No facet of Penn State's football-rich tradition past, present or future was spared by the NCAA judgment on Monday. One writer accurately termed it "a slow-death" penalty.
By Jim Zbick