The Freeh Report came out exactly one year ago today and may well be remembered as the most controversial document in Penn State history.
The report, based on an investigation into the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal led by former FBI director Louis Freeh, was later used as the sole basis for the NCAA's sanctions against Penn State. Those sanctions included a four-year bowl ban, a cap of 65 scholarships for four years beginning in 2014 and a $60 million fine.
The Freeh Report was also hardly the last word in the case. Lawsuits have been flying around, and there have been indications that the school will appeal to the NCAA for a lessening of the sanctions. Head coach Bill O'Brien said last week that the football program was doing everything the right way, and he hoped that the NCAA would "meet us halfway" on the penalties at some point.
So should the NCAA consider reducing some of the penalties against the Nittany Lions? It's a hot topic for debate. The arguments for and against go something like this:
For: No one would argue that the NCAA broke all precedent with the way it issued the penalties, basically forcing Penn State to agree with them without any investigation except the Freeh Report. And the Freeh Report is certainly not anywhere close to a perfect investigative document. The men who are most condemned by the report --- former school president Graham Spanier, ex-athletic director Tim Curley, former administrator Gary Schultz and the late Joe Paterno -- are all no longer involved with the school, which has implemented nearly every one of the Freeh Report recommendations. Penn State had no history of NCAA violations, and the program's continued high graduation rate and off-the-field successes hardly represent a "culture problem." The school has worked with child abuse charities and paid out a reported $60 million in settlements to victims of Sandusky. The football team will likely play with only 65 or fewer scholarship players this season, so it is starting that phase of the penalties a year early. The people most being punished by the sanctions are players who had nothing to do with the scandal whatsoever.
Against: Don't forget just how horrific the Sandusky scandal was or how many lives were damaged by the school's inability or unwillingness to stop him. Many people thought the penalties were either justified or not harsh enough when they were handed down last summer. The school's own leaders commissioned the Freeh Report and later signed off on the NCAA penalties while agreeing not to appeal. How remorseful is the university, really, when trustees and others continue to file lawsuits and dispute the Freeh Report findings, while others vociferously support Paterno? The NCAA has rarely shown much leniency after issuing penalties, and to do so in this case could open the floodgates for other schools who want to appeal sanctions they see as unfair (hello, USC). Sure, players who weren't involved in the scandal are being affected by the sanctions, but that's usually the way it is with all NCAA penalties. The Big Ten, remember, also came down hard on Penn State, and one could argue that a few years of competing with restrictions in football is a small price to pay compared to the that of the Sandusky victims.
This is a very heated issue, one where tempers can flare quickly. We want to know where you stand, though we're not really looking for long pro- or anti-Penn State diatribes in our email inboxes. Instead, we're asking for a simple yes or no stance in our poll as an indication of how you're feeling one year after the Freeh Report came out. Vote now.