Fiutak: Penn State, Tear It All Down
Posted Jul 12, 2012

The Freeh report should be seen as an opportunity for Penn State to have a fresh start.

The Freeh Report

Time to start over 

E-mail Pete Fiutak

- The entire Freeh report

Okay, Penn State. As a university, as a football program, and as a community, now it's time to finally start doing the right thing.

It's time to tear it all down. Literally.

In a lot of ways there isn't anything in the Freeh report that wasn't already known and uncovered by the Pulitzer-winning work of Sara Ganim along with dozens of other stories and exposés on just how deep and just how high the cover-up of the Jerry Sandusky situation went, but finally, once and for all, there are no other arguments to be made. For those who blindly ignored the facts and chose to believe that Paterno had nothing to do with allowing the horrors to go on, and for those who made excuse after excuse, it's over.

Now that the legend and the lie is completely demolished, and now that there's absolutely no other reasonable case to be made by Paterno's unwavering believers, it's time to start from scratch and it's time to finally show that Penn State gets it. It's time for Penn State to show that it really and truly wants to change.

There will be calls for the death penalty, but that might only embolden those who were so focused on winning at all costs and failed to see how this all could've happened in the first place. The football program would go dark, and then two years later there would be a renewed and resurgent effort to crank things back up again with the misguided belief that equating winning football games and healing a reputation go hand in hand. Instead of changing the football program and the university, a death penalty would only put the focus on how quickly Penn State could get back to creating a successful football team again.

There will be calls for the Big Ten to give Penn State the boot. For all practical and reasonable purposes that won't happen. The league will let the legal system play itself out with the several different lawsuits and investigations about to get even more intense, especially with the federal government taking a hard look at the school itself. No, it's finally time for Penn State to take action on its own, and it's time to make amends by showing it can.

What did the most vocal chunk of the Penn State community do when the scandal first blew up? Did it riot against the horror? Did it demand that everyone involved be held accountable? Did it try to take a step back before more facts were uncovered? No, it rallied around football.

If Paterno had simply and respectfully said he was going to take a week or two off to let the scandal breathe instead of defiantly exhort the revved up base to "beat Nebraska," he almost certainly would've been allowed to finish out the season. Instead, it was his belligerence that only flamed the fires leaving no choice but to let him go, and ever since then the pro-Paterno crowd hasn't flinched.

Instead of having a grasp of the situation and the scope of the scandal, Penn State was so tone-deaf and so focused on its football, football, football mentality that it went and played the creepiest and most depressing game ever against Nebraska, as if a few moments of silence and a couple of supportive signs were good enough. After all, the football team was deep in the hunt for the Big Ten title and it needed to win.

Did the school pull a Miami and choose not to go to a bowl game? No, instead there was whining and pouting about not getting a good bowl bid, and then the team went out and got obliterated by Houston.

And then, even after Sandusky was found guilty in a slam-dunk ruling, and even after everything was exposed and all the ugliness was out there for everyone to see, what was the general reaction in interview after interview with former Penn State players and dignitaries? Let's focus on football and start winning again so the pieces could be picked up and the healing could begin.

For new head coach Bill O'Brien, yes, his job is to solely focus on football, recruiting and trying to win games, because that's what he's supposed to do. However, it's time for the entire Penn State community to make the changes needed to show the outside world that the culture that allowed the most horrific scandal in the history of college sports to happen is gone.

You Are … Penn State, and this can be repaired.

Obviously the Paterno statue has to go … NOW. As in the students should be rioting for the reputation of their school and in the name of righteousness by demanding that the monument to everything that can go wrong in big-time college athletics is taken down. Replace it with an eternal flame in honor of the victims and in recognition that what happened at Penn State under Paterno's watch can be a catalyst to a massive effort to help those who cannot help themselves.

Change the name and change the colors. Get rid of the Nittany Blue and change to something completely different like brown, maroon, or better yet, light blue as a constant reminder of what can happen at a place that could've symbolized everything that was supposed to be right about college athletics.

Tear down the stadium. Tear down the facilities. Tear down any and all things attached to Penn State football as it was, and eliminate everything tangible that contributed to a culture so out of whack that it not only allowed children to be raped and violated, but angrily and violently defended those who allowed it to continue.

Penn State, look at the Freeh report as an opportunity. Wield this report as a sword against those who'll continue to fight for an ideal that never actually existed. Use this to go forward against those who'll continue to battle against any form of progress. Use this against anyone and everyone who continues to make excuses for Paterno and how the Penn State football program operated, and use this to show once and for all that everything has to change.

Penn State, the chance is there now to be a leader. "The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized," according to Freeh. Now the most powerful men and women at Penn State have to prove to the world that the university can take the steps to make it right.