Opinions vary on multiple sanctions against PSU

Monday morning's imposition of sanctions against Penn State by the NCAA has been a popular topic among area residents. From alumni to diehard and casual fans to those who never liked the team or its longtime coach, the late Joe Paterno, everyone seems to have an opinion regarding the fairness of the fine, postseason ban, vacated wins, and scholarship losses the school will now face. The NCAA imposed the sanctions following a report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, who was hired to investigate conditions at Penn State in the wake of allegations against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted last month of 45 of 48 counts related to the sexual abuse of boys over a 15-year period, some on the Penn State campus, in hotel rooms and in the basement of his home. In the report, issued last week, Freeh said he found evidence alleging that Paterno, Athletic Director Tim Curley, former Penn State President Graham Spanier and former Penn State Vice President Gary Schultz concealed allegations of child sexual abuse against Sandusky to protect the university and the football program. While it has been common to hear groups of people debating these issues amongst themselves, many were hesitant to share their thoughts with The Ridgway Record. A survey of a number of area college students turned up no one willing to publicly share their views. All echoed the same sentiment: Regardless of their own personal opinions, several stated that they knew their views would conflict with those of "half the town." All seemed well aware of the controversial nature of the topic, which has spurned debates regarding whether the sanctions were not enough or if they even went too far. Others, however, were willing to speak out, and although opinions varied on the severity of the sanctions, most people still retain the feelings of sadness, shock, anger, and confusion over the entire scandal, as well as heartbreak for Sandusky's victims that they had when the allegations against him were revealed following his arrest in November. Following are the thoughts posted on Facebook of current and former area residents on the events that have unfolded at Penn State since that time: Mary Pat Fritz, formerly of St. Marys and a SMAHS graduate - "I am not a student, nor [do I] watch PSU football. I agree with the taking down of the statue, but disagree with the actions taken on the team's stats and hard work through the years. It was teamwork that got them the status they achieved, and for it to be taken away because of one man not possessing the conscience to come forward when he should have is wrong. Why should the rest of the university be punished? This is a great learning experience for everyone to realize that standing up for what is right when you need to stand up is far more rewarding than waiting until countless people are suffering consequences because of silence."Lyndsey Garner, 26, of St. Marys, originally from Ridgway - "I am a PSU alum. I graduated in 2010. When news of the story broke originally, I was heartbroken. I've loved Penn State since I was a child and it's that love that ultimately had me attending the university over any other. I don't think all of the NCAA sanctions were fair. The NCAA punished all of the football players that were present on the team after [the] incident took place. Those players now essentially have nothing to show for their college football careers. The NCAA should have preformed their own individual investigation versus relying on the Freeh report. At this point in time, I'm not sure what to believe about this whole situation. I'm not sure taking down Joe's statue is going to make any difference, either. It was a statue of a man [if], from what I'm reading, could have done more in the past to bring light to a horrible situation. Never mind all that he did for the school otherwise. But if that will help those families heal, then so be it. "Regardless, Penn State is and always will be more than football. I didn't go to PSU because of their football program, it was great to watch, but I went to get a worthwhile education. And no one will ever be able to take away my Penn State Pride... We Are... And always will be.."Tami Catalone, 42, of St. Marys - "I am a PSU alum (2000 - branch campus). I believe the sanctions handed down from the NCAA were more than fair, and I also support the Paterno statue being removed. For anyone to believe that Joe Paterno had no idea what was going on 'behind his back' is absurd. It was no secret that Joe was the heart and soul of the Penn State athletic department. I believe that Joe handled himself appropriately legally, but morally he was sadly lacking. He had the duty to serve the children who were being horribly mistreated while in the care of his staff. The Paterno statue staying where it was would be nothing but a bitter reminder of all the years children were being abused in the same building where people cheered on the man who was abusing them (Sandusky). It is time for the entire university to stand up for what is right, not comfortable, no matter what the cost."Whitly Branigan, 21, of Johnsonburg and current student at Mercyhurst University in Erie - "I was born and raised a Penn State fan and will continue to be one through this. I do not believe the NCAA sanctions were fair. I do not see the point in the NCAA punishing the current staff and players who were in NO WAY involved in this scandal. First of all, the current players were in elementary school when this happened. Second, PSU didn't gain a competitive advantage from this 'cover-up.' I also do not understand why the NCAA tried to say that PSU put athletics over academics. Maybe they should check the graduation rates. The state has more evidence than the Freeh report, yet they never charged Paterno with a thing. "I don't really understand why so many people are taking this as the last and final word. Unless I see direct proof that Paterno did wrong in this, I will not support the statue removal and the slander of a dead man's name. I pray for the victims, and the fact that Sandusky is going to rot in prison is a sign of justice. Penn State has always been a family. It's more than football and it always will be."Noah Bauer, 25, of Montoursville and Penn State alum (formerly of DuBois and a 2005 DuBois Central Catholic graduate - "I was born bleeding blue and white and grew up idolizing Penn State and JoePa. All of that being said, I may be biased and I acknowledge that, but this tragedy had nothing to do with the football team. I'll say it again-- this had nothing to do with the football team or athletics. The NCAA had absolutely no business handing sanctions down on Penn State or the athletic department. This gave Penn State no advantage in any way. "Then, to fine Penn State and to take away all of the wins and Big Ten championships since 1998 is ridiculous. They did this to spit on the legacy of a man that did more for STUDENT athletes than any other coach in college football history. In the Freeh report, it stated that the first incident in 1998 was investigated by the police and Children Youth Services and they found nothing. Joe and the university must have done something if it made it that far, but I'm getting off topic. The NCAA needs to learn where its limits are and not cross them just because of the media pressure. The NCAA is doing the exact same thing they accused Penn State of doing-- by giving Dr. Emmert complete control. Second, I don't mind that the NCAA used the Freeh report because it's better than the NCAA would have done. Lastly, I totally disagree with the removal of the JoePa's statue. It was only removed to keep the media (ESPN) from hammering Penn State and ruining Joe's reputation. It was a rush to judgement from the president and the board. They should have waited until the trials of Curley and Schultz are done and see what new information came out of them. The Freeh report wasn't allowed to talk to them. The Freeh report also didn't speak to the Paterno family or any witnesses or people on the jury from the Sandusky trial." Pick up a copy of the Wednesday, July 25, 2012 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.