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Dr. Saturday

Suspending Penn State for the 2012 season hurts everyone, not just Penn State

Graham Watson
Dr. Saturday

As more information continues to surface regarding the Penn State's role in covering up child sexual assault by former coach Jerry Sandusky, many have called for university to suspend its football program for the foreseeable future, including veteran broadcaster Bob Costas on Meet The Press on Sunday.

"I think now, in the aftermath of the Freeh Report, the powers-that-be at present at Penn State ought to have the good grace to suspend their football program for at least a year, perhaps more, without the NCAA stepping in," Costas said. "But if they don't, it's a pretty good bet that the NCAA will step in and render it's version of the death penalty, which is to suspend the football program for at least year, possibly longer than that.

"Some people will say, well, wait a minute, that's not fair to the players involved. There's always collateral damage when justice is meted out. If a team is suspended, let's say, from the NCAA basketball tournament, that's not fair to the kid at the end of the bench who's a good student and had nothing to do with it, but that's what happens. So, if that happens, then you can fairly say to members of the present Penn State football team, you are free to transfer anywhere you want, you don't have to sit out a year or your scholarship is extended beyond this. After you wait two years, you still have that eligibility to fall back on. And all the members of the staff have to be paid by Penn State. You can mitigate the damage that way. But if they play football come September at Penn State, something's wrong."

It's hard to argue with Costas' point and others have made similar arguments, including NCAA bylaw guru John Infante, who thinks the NCAA should just kick Penn State out of its club. But the ramifications of pulling the plug on Penn State's 2012 season would not only affect that university, but the rest of the country and possibly throw the BCS into chaos.

If Penn State were to nix its football program for the 2012 season, 12 teams would be missing a game with no way to fill the open date with just two weeks before fall camp starts. Included on that schedule are a couple Big Ten teams that have the potential to play in BCS bowls. But — outside of the automatic bid — how does one determine whether an 11-0 Big Ten team is a better at-large candidate than a 12-0 or 11-1 team from another conference? It becomes an impossible — and unfair — decision.

I understand people are upset and want action and I don't necessarily disagree that a good place to start is disbanding the football program for a year or two, but that punishment has to wait until 2013. Even though the Nittany Lions have nonconference opponents lined up for the next three seasons, those opponents will have time to find replacements for their schedules. Announce the penalty now, let Penn State have a farewell year, give players a chance to find new teams and then enforce it. Jumping the gun on this makes no sense and would do more harm than good to college football as a whole.

So even though some of the most respected sports minds in the country are pushing for Penn State football's suspension, it needs to be done in a smart way that leaves as little mess as possible.

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