I know it's a tiny, tiny part of the human tragedy of the Penn State football scandal, but something strikes me wrong about retroactively erasing the program's wins from 1998 to 2011.
It's not a question of the strictness of sanctions; I can't really say if the various fines, scholarship cuts and post-season bans are too severe or not severe enough. (It does, however, indicate that the NCAA's "death penalty" sanction of shutting down a team for a season is now an empty shell, never to be used again.)
The intent of the retroactive forfeit penalty seems to be removing Joe Paterno's name from number one on the all time coaching wins list. But it's somehow Orwellian to go back in time and rewrite history. You can take away the trophies and statues, sure, but you can't take away reality. Do the Hawkeyes now go back to last season, get the W over Penn State, and a retroactive invite to a one notch better bowl game? (Well, actually, we probably did get a better game than we objectively deserved, since the scandal broke before bowl
invitations went out, and Penn State was already a pariah.)
If sports governing bodies now have the power to travel back in time to 1998 and change events, we should go repair all the home run records from the steroid era. Or maybe Paterno could retroactively retire, like someone else we know.
Or maybe we could go back in time and protect all those kids?
And isn't pretending things didn't happen really the whole problem here?
There's no do-overs in life, someone once told me. I don't want to draw a false equivalence between cheating with drugs and enabling serial child abuse. But Joe Paterno's name should stay at the top of the wins list in the way Barry Bonds tops the home run list -- as a blot of shame on a whole culture's misplaced values.