If we're going to start assigning blame to people outside Penn St for this horrible situation (as Jason Whitlock just did), then we need to think about who deserves that blame, and more importantly, why they deserve that blame (or at the least, why they share some responsibility).
With that in mind, let's talk about the NCAA as a whole. Not, as Whitlock as argued, in regards to their pursuit of money, but in regards to something far more insidious: the very definition of ethics and "righteous behavior" that the NCAA adheres to. The sad truth is that the very NCAA culture that defines "ethics" as "don't pay players, don't have recruiting violations, don't lie to the NCAA, have decent graduation rates" has absolutely contributed to this. When the NCAA defines the "right thing" as something fundamentally different than what any normal and reasonably moral person would define as such, they help create a broken culture.
When the NCAA chooses to care about and punish recruiting violations at UCF but not the death of Ereck Plancher at the same place;
When the NCAA chooses to care about and punish recruiting violations and improper benefits at Baylor but not the murder of Patrick Dennehy and subsequent cover-up that was the true scandal there;
When the NCAA chooses to care about and punish tattoos at Ohio St but not the death of Declan Sullivan at Notre Dame;
When the NCAA chooses to care about and punish Reggie Bush getting free housing at USC but can't be bothered to investigate the financial well-being of many players after they graduate;
When the NCAA chooses to care about and punish Georgia Tech covering up $312 worth of free clothes but but can't be bothered to investigate the long-term damage concussions incur;
When the NCAA chooses to do all of these things, they create and contribute to a fundamentally broken and amoral (if not outright immoral) value system that helps enable behavior like we saw at Penn St. The NCAA is like the man who makes a wish to a genie, in this case for a program that doesn't pay their players, that doesn't have recruiting violations, that doesn't like to the NCAA, and that graduates its players. Guess what? They got what they wished for; as far as the core values of the NCAA (established and reinforced time and time again by the actions they have chosen to take or not take, the people they have chosen to punish or ignore) are concerned, Penn St did absolutely nothing wrong in this situation. I repeat: AS FAR AS THE CORE VALUES OF THE NCAA ARE CONCERNED, PENN ST DID ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG.
There are some, perhaps many based on public commentary to date, who would interpret that, along with historic precedent of NCAA actions, as a good reason for the NCAA to continue along it's longstanding path, to simply act as it always has, to be concerned with not paying players and not much more. There are others who would say, if the NCAA has chosen to not care about all of those other horrible situations already, it would be insulting to the victims already ignored to change course now. I simply cannot agree with them. This is an opportunity for the NCAA to either disagree with the statement above and make it clear that Penn St did in fact violate the true core values of the NCAA, or at the very least re-examine and re-define their core values so that it is clear that actual, real-world crimes and actual, real-world human suffering is in fact something that they care about going forward.
Now, I should make clear that the NCAA is NOT in any way, shape or form directly responsible for this horrible situation. They did not have, and should not have had, direct oversight over this program. The blame and fault lie with the people directly involved in these horrible crimes: primarily Sandusky, but also those who so clearly enabled him: Graham Spanier, Joe Paterno, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz. And this is an important consideration that absolutely should not be forgotten or even diminished. But what is appropriate is to start looking at people who do have some indirect responsibility, who have helped create a culture that lionized the very people who were committing such heinous and unforgivable crimes. And (this is the important part) people who can take steps towards changing the culture in a more positive, productive way.
So should the NCAA sanction Penn St? Should they vacate wins, impose the death penalty, or anything else? I honestly don't know. There are reasonable arguments on all side of this debate. But what the NCAA absolutely, positively should do is to ensure that it's 100%, unmistakeably clear that what happened here is NOT acceptable under their core values and codes of conduct, and to whatever extent that isn't currently true, change their values and rules to make sure that it is clear going forward. The NCAA can't change the past, can't go back and undo the horrors that have happened. But they can help create a culture that condemns these horrors and that proactively works to prevent them from ever happening again, with as much (or hopefully more) vigor than is currently applied towards far lesser "crimes" (if even they truly are) such as free tattoos, improper phone contact with a recruit, or a player getting a bag of cash from some random booster. How they act (and their recent letter to Penn Stis a start) will determine whether they are willing to fix a fundamentally broken set of values or whether they're going to learn nothing from what has happened here and continue business as usual. And if it's the latter, then it's going to be very hard for anyone to take seriously anything they have to say on anything even touching morality or ethics, ever again.