Commentary: Welcome Back Penn State – You Should Have Never Left

America is the land of second chances, or so they say, and in this case, the students and the student-athletes of Penn State were unfairly punished. So, even as we welcome you back, we still question why you had to leave in the first place.Monday, a well-timed NCAA release announced the restoration of Penn State footballs bowl-eligibility, and a short time later, the Big Ten also restored the school ability to participate in the Big Ten Championship game. Many, I included, never thought the team should have been banned to begin with. The NCAA’s argument in the O’Bannon case is that student-athletes are students first, and athletes second. By reducing the number of athletic scholarship to punish adults who are dead or otherwise no longer connected to the school flies in the face of that edict. Let’s be real for a moment: was there a lack of institutional control at Penn State – yes. Should Joe Paterno have been fired – probably. Should the wins of the football team been vacated – no. Should Paterno’s statue have been removed – I can go either way, but I’ll say no for now. There was a lot of crap going on at Penn State. The football program was led by a living legend. We can debate for hours if Paterno should have stepped down years before, but the truth is, his teams lulled for awhile then began to win important games again. When the news about former assistant Jerry Sandusky surfaced, many were outraged. Justifiably so. What Sandusky did was despicable and humiliating. He caused serious amounts of pain to an unknown number of people. Sandusky, was later sent to prison for the rest of his life. At that point, the NCAA decided it needed to step in. Fine, I understand the need to make a statement in situations like these, and I get the need to remind everyone that there is a body that oversees collegiate athletics in this country, but give me a break. What the NCAA did was wrong. Why punish people who had nothing to do with past crimes? Easy, because they feel someone has to be punished. The long and short of it is that neither we, nor the NCAA had ever seen anything like this before. And while telling Penn State they could never play football might have been the “easiest” solution, it was far from the best solution. Penn State rose to the challenge, and won a lot of football games. Kemp: The Big Ten Debacle The crimes committed at Penn State were a legal issue to be settled by the justice system. Mark Emmert and the NCAA had no place in this argument, and still don’t to this day. It’s obvious the Big Ten, and NCAA by extension, are in a much better position when a legacy program like Penn State is healthy and bowl eligible, but let’s not pretend like we needed to be here in the first place.

It is clear to everyone involved, that the NCAA should have let the justice system run its course and followed its own enforcement policies before handing down a unilateral punishment that did nothing but hurt innocent students. Penn State should live in the present, and never forget the past: good or bad, and vow to never repeat what put it in this position.