COMMENTARY| The Freeh Report shed light on the Jerry Sandusky sexual-molestation scandal at Penn State University. The report's findings, made public Thursday, suggested that former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno could have done more to prevent Sandusky's attacks on young men.
Paterno, among other high-ranking officials, could have taken more action. That much is clear. The report cited incidents in 1998 and 2001 as possible events that could have put Sandusky's reign of terror to an end. But Paterno, and others, looked the other way to save face and maintain the football program's prestige.
From janitors who were afraid to come forward, to others in the know that failed who failed to report Sandusky's actions, there is plenty of blame to be spread. Paterno wasn't the only one who could have stopped the sexual assaults but, he was, without question, the most powerful entity at Penn State.
The cases slipped through the cracks, pushed aside for well over a decade until this past fall, when further investigation by the NCAA and Penn State prompted the firing of Paterno. Sandusky was eventually put on trial and found guilty of 45 counts of sexually-related attacks on innocent young men.
Sure, Penn State's officials, presidents and big-timers need to punished. The university itself should face sanctions, too. But what was the NCAA's role in the matter? As the governing body of programs under its umbrella, the NCAA should have delved deeper into the matters in 1998 and 2001.
The NCAA took swift action against Ohio State when word of memorabilia-for-tattoos was made public. The University of Michigan punished itself after allegations of too much practice. The Wolverines took it upon themselves to self-report what now seems as a trivial violation. Penn State, aware of the scandal taking place, failed to do so.
And during the troubles for Ohio State and Michigan, the NCAA attentively cast its attention toward the programs, making sure they did the "right thing" and complied with rules and regulations. Where was this type of attention to detail in 1998? Where was it in 2001? There were several reports indicating that something wasn't right in Happy Valley, home of the Nittany Lions. There was reason to believe that, despite contradictory evidence, Sandusky had inappropriate contact with young male members of his charity group, The Second Mile.
Of course, putting the nix on improper benefits, whether it be cash from boosters or tattoos for golden pants necklace charms, is of prime importance. Stopping players from practicing too much is no laughing matter, either. Phone calls to recruits and other "inappropriate" contact must be stopped -- and immediately.
What about the kids at Penn State? What about their lives? What about their mental scars? Were those kids important? Why did it take 14 years before the NCAA finally stepped in? Why did it take Penn State years to address such monstrous behavior?
College football is a business. Scandals, no matter how big or small, can put a dent in the pockets of those who run one of America's largest "corporations." Putting the well-being of young men before a football program should have been a given -- 14 years ago. Today, it seems as if Penn State and the NCAA are simply controlling the damage, limiting the aftermath in an attempt to move forward and forget.
Kids will continue trading school-related mementos for shoes, clothes, tattoos and other merchandise. Players will probably continue practicing just a little more than the NCAA allows. Those actions -- just like other "trivial" acts -- are quickly noticed, and swift justice is dealt within months.
Does that seem logical? No.
The NCAA can learn valuable lessons from the Penn State scandal. It can reference the Freeh Report, using it as a basis to conduct investigations about other potentially serious matters. Not only did Penn State fumble on this one, but so did the NCAA.
There was no higher power than Paterno at Penn State. True enough. But in the world of college football, there is no greater entity than the NCAA itself, which has the power to overrule authority at any of its institutions and conduct investigations at its discretion.
Think about that. And while Paterno, Sandusky, ex-Penn State president Graham Spanier and countless others are to blame for what happened -- for years, at that -- at their school, NCAA officials should ask themselves this question: "What more could have been on our end?"
Adam Biggers has followed NCAA football for over 20 years, specifically the Big Ten Conference. He can be found on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.