Monday, July 23, 2012

An Open Letter to Penn State Football Players and Fans


Today, we are all astonished by what the NCAA determined as sanctions starting in 2012 for alleged cover-ups by senior leaders in the Sandusky child sexual abuse crimes. 

It is not our purpose here to comment on the appropriateness of those sanctions or formulate an opinion on whether or not the Freeh Report is the right basis for making those judgments.   Others are making those sorts of statements elsewhere.

What we do know, and perhaps it’s ALL that we know, is that none of this had to do with you, the Penn State football players.  And we wish to personally thank you for your great conduct over the past several months.

You have withstood so much.  You had to suffer the initial shock with the rest of us about the Grand Jury presentment.  You watched as your coach Joe Paterno was fired by the Board of Trustees without any due process.  Then a week later you learned he had lung cancer.

You finished out the season – the toughest part of your schedule against Nebraska, Ohio State, and Wisconsin – with Interim Head Coach Tom Bradley, losing two of those games, and then you went to the Ticket City Bowl in Dallas against Houston, a lesser bowl than you deserved, and suffered a loss there, perhaps because the situation was disheartening, or maybe Houston was the better team that day. 

In January, all but two of your former coaches were gone and you had to adjust to a brand new coaching regimen under newly arrived Bill O’Brien.   You attended Coach Paterno’s funeral and grieved as we all did.  And six months later you grieved again with us as we watched his statue be removed.

Through all of this trauma, you went to class, you got good grades, and you stayed out of trouble and out of the limelight.   You have had to work very hard and you have had to prove yourself all over again to this new coaching staff.  It hasn’t been an easy time for any of you.

On the other hand, it seems like you are quite excited, as we are, about the new coaching staff and the more aggressive style of offense you are working on, as well as the new training regimen.

And just two weeks ago, you raised $110,000 for kidney cancer research at Lift for Life.  We have been so proud of you.

And then, the slap in the face for nothing – nothing you did.  Today, you were told that you will not be able to play in any bowl games for four years, you learned that scholarships will be reduced for future players, and you suffered the indignities of watching Coach Joe Paterno’s wins – WHOSE wins??? – be stripped from 1998 to 2011.

The death penalty has been avoided. Penn State can play twelve games in the regular season and is also still part of the Big Ten conference.   

We know that’s small comfort to you.  You are a competitor and this is your time, and the opportunity to compete at the highest level, to potentially win a championship or go to a bowl game, is being denied to you. 

You have to make a decision that’s right for you as to whether or not to transfer based on how you feel about Penn State, about where you are with your academic major, about your potential in other programs at this late date, your current expectation of playing time here vs. there, and your personal needs such as family desires.  In other words, this is completely ridiculous for you as a player, even if the NCAA allows you to transfer “without penalty”.

We hope that you will stay.  But if staying does not make sense for you we will understand.

What we would like to tell you is that if you stay, we will be there for you.  That we support you through thick and thin, because you are the great team players you have shown to us this year.  This year and beyond, we plan to continue supporting Penn State football.  Not because of Coach Bill O’Brien, who we believe is the right person to lead you through this situation, but because of you, the players.

You see, that’s the point that everyone seems to be missing here.  College football is not about the coaches.   College football is about the players, and about the team.   It’s about the life lessons that come from playing a team sport while getting a solid education that will prepare you for the future.  It’s not really about who makes it into the NFL, because so few players actually will on any team.

We go to Penn State football games to watch YOU perform, not the coaches.  And nothing has changed our minds about that.  We go there to applaud your great plays.  We groan at your mistakes.  We notice great execution on every first down made.  We bemoan a miscue that could have produced a great play.  We love winning, but we also recognize that sometimes the other team is better than you. 

It is the symphony of eleven players working together in precise maneuvers to march down the field that makes college football the great game it is. Yes, a coach conducts you on the sidelines, but without your execution, the game is nothing.  And we look forward to watching you play this fall, to watching this new style of offense and defense you have been learning but we as fans have very little clues about yet.    

We love seeing you develop your skills, from the first time you take the field at your first Blue-White game to Senior Day when we can celebrate your contributions.  We like to observe how you progress both as a player and as a person over the four to five years you are here.

Personally, we will attend EVERY game, both away and home, to watch you play this year. And we look forward to every down, every stadium, every good play and bad that happens. Nothing has changed our commitment to that, not even these NCAA sanctions. 

As for Penn State fans everywhere, here’s what I suggest:  come to games this fall. Don’t sit home and watch it on TV if you can come.

If you’ve been thinking about season tickets and have been on the fence about ordering them, get off the fence. If you can’t make all games or season tickets are not possible for you, come to a few games. 

Individual tickets are available for many games and we need to show this team they have our support.

As a Penn State community we need to show the world that we will stand together in support of this football team that did not deserve the penalties they received today.   We need to support our players and our new coaches, and we also need to do our part to support efforts like the Penn State Blue-Out on September 22, which will be a special stadium effort to create awareness about and raise money to combat child sexual abuse.

Penn State is, and always has been, so much more than a “football culture”.  And for anybody who knows anything about Thon, they know that Penn State cares deeply about children and we fans are abhorred by the crimes that Sandusky committed.

But if you have doubts about the “football culture”, please look at the graduation rates of Penn State players to know that we have done some things right for a long time, and will continue to do so in the future. 

We can’t allow the heinous crimes of Sandusky and the alleged cover-ups by four senior leaders who have not yet been able to defend themselves under cross-examination in a court of law to define us all.

All eyes will be on Beaver Stadium this fall.  Will you be there to show the world and the media we stand united behind this team?   We hope so.

This is a huge crisis, but by being calm, and by rallying together to support all that we know is good about Penn State and this football team, we will somehow manage to forge a new future. 

We hope you will all be a part of it including especially our current players.

42 comments:

  1. This was very inspiring! PSU class of 2012, are you in??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. THIS MESSAGE SHOULD TOUCH EVERY ALUM AND FAN EVERYWHERE. I PERSONALLY THANK THE PERSON WHO WROTE THIS. WE ARE AND ALWAYS WILL BE,GO LIONS.

      Delete
  2. Thank you ... beautiful, touching, and very important message to share

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you for this....

    ReplyDelete
  4. just remenber no matter what WE R PENN STATE and proud

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you all for your reads and your comments.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you very much for taking the time to write so eloquently. My family and I usually don't travel often to PSU for the games, living in southern NJ, but this year requires greater effort and commitment. You really said it well.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Best thoughts on the NCAA sanctions I've heard or read yet. I will be there!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I, brokenheartedly,, commend this writer.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I am going to share this from Jupiter, FL in hopes that the idiots around the world who blame the players, the fans and the people of State college for Sandusky's mess can see that it is not ! Also, to get the Penn Stater's around the country thinking this wasy!
    Vicki Prato Rearick

    ReplyDelete
  10. yeah, the trauma these players went through.. oh, how terrible.. what could be worse? Oh, I know, being raped in their locker room shower.. disgusting article. Get your priorities straight.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What have YOU done to help the victims except spew hate?

      Delete
    2. No reason to spew hate. It is possible to pray for the victims, hate Sandusky, and still support Penn State football. Sandusky's heinous crimes had nothing to do with the current football players or the current coaching staff.

      Delete
    3. I agree that you can still support PSU football, but let's not think of the current players as victims who went through trauma... it's minimal in comparison to the real victims. No, the crimes had nothing to do with the current players or staff, and they are just collateral damage in a no-win situation for them.

      Delete
    4. Good point. Thanks for the clarification.

      Delete
    5. anonymous---do you get up every morning looking for something or someone to hate???? are you that hate filled???? might I suggest CHURCH!!!! PICK ONE!!

      Delete
    6. I don't think the article paints the players as victims of the crime, but rather of the circumstance. There are players whose only chance for a quality education from our school was via funding from scholarship. That is now a real world item for them. It is possible to detest the criminal(s) and all that was done and yet feel badly for these young men who had the rug pulled from them.

      Delete
    7. Anonymous is not spouting hate. He/she is simply providing their point of view (that I do happen to agree with). How can Paterno be both in control of his entire program and not culpable in this situation? By Penn State's own creedo of "we are Penn State" the university needs to own this disgrace. The players will be able to find other schools to transfer, the NCAA was explicit on that point.

      Correction. Division I college football is NOT about the players. It's about money. Anyone thinking otherwise doesn't acknowledge the reality of collegiate economics.

      Delete
    8. Your correction is a valid one for sure. Money is very important in college football and for supporting a ton of non-revenue sports that wouldn't survive without it. In this article though I was trying to turn the focus back on the players and away from the coaches. We don't travel to college football games to watch the coaches. We travel there to watch the players, and that's what makes college football so different from professional sports. Thanks for your contribution to this discussion.

      Delete
    9. You can change the record books, but you cannot change reality. We will always know about the 112 wins. Every time this topic arises, the memory of those wins, achieved by the players of Penn State, will again be brought to mind.

      Delete
  11. Great link for PSU Alums! Check it out. Not only for Alums, but all PS fans. We are working on replacing the BOT members. Plus much support given!

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/ps4rs/

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thank you for this.....you are totally right and I agree with everything you said

    ReplyDelete
  13. Well said, although I will harbor resentment for the NCAA forever. These sanction have nothing to do with justice, and everything to do with small people destroying a man and an institution that has stood tall and proud forever.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thank you! I will be there to support the team as I have been every year since 1974. We will show everyone that we are a family that is there during good times and bad times. We will get through this and we will do it with class and dignity! Fight on State!

    ReplyDelete
  15. I sympathize with the current players at PSU. They had no knowledge or control over what has happened since Sandusky was arrested.

    Sadly, I truly believe the cover up was caused by a small group of administrators at the university that put the culture of big money football before the welfare of children. These men did not want to rock the boat. They wanted to quietly sweep Sandusky away and keep Penn State and Coach Paterno from getting a black eye. Keep PSU in the win column. Keep the millions of dollars rolling in.

    Instead of reporting Sandusky, their inaction allowed him to continue his crimes and the discovery of the cover up has been far more damning to the University and the team than if they would've done the right thing from the start in 1998.

    If the administrators would've turned Sandusky in when they had the knowledge, the administrators would've been heralded as heroes for helping bring a monster to justice. No fines, no sanctions, Coach Paterno's record and legacy left in place. Team still winning. University still making money.

    NCAA Football is worth billions of dollars, and I truly believe at the heart of this problem is that the big money culture of college football was placed before justice and safety.

    I am heart broken that my school and my team is at the center of this controversy, but whether we support the NCAA or not, we as a society must learn a hard lesson... Football is not bigger than justice and the safety of children.

    I do not blame these players or the new coaches. I do not blame the university, city of State College or alumni.

    I am truly truly sorry for the players that must endure these hardships. I commend them for their class and strength witnessing these terrible stories play out in front of them. I'm sorry these sanctions hurt you and made your life more difficult, however we all as a country and society must learn the hard lesson. We all put football and money before the people that needed help the most.

    I wish our university and our team the best of luck during these trying times, but let us never forget...We are suffering because our leaders let us down, and we have all forgotten what is truly important in this world.

    Best of luck Penn State Football. Continue to conduct yourself with class during these hardships. We the fans, students, alumni and family will have your back. No matter how low we fall and how high we climb after...We Are Penn State.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We are all heartbroken. Thank you for your thoughtful comments.

      Delete
    2. Just a clarification - Sandusky WAS turned in. The year was 1998 and all the agencies involved cleared him to continue working with and adopting children. Check out this article: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/10/sports/ncaafootball/aftermath-of-1998-sandusky-investigation-raises-additional-questions.html

      Where would we be today if those people had done more in 1998? Hindsight is 20/20.

      Delete
    3. You are correct peggy. And if this so called recent investigation was allowed to run it's course as the law declares, I am sure a lot of evidence will be revealed and there will be many who will rue rushing to judgement against Paterno and PSU. I honestly believe Joe did his part and hid nothing. I worked at PSU for 20 years and my husband taught there. We all had to adhere to procedures and PSU policies. When an important issue came up one went to their superiors and it was then sent to superiors in charge. BUT PSU will survive, PSU has and still contributes in countless ways to our nation--look at the medical breakthroughs etc., that came from PSU. We stand tall as PSU grads and will continue. Truth will out when the trials are over.

      Delete
  16. Well said, this is the path to healing!

    WE ARE... STILL ... Penn State

    ReplyDelete
  17. Thank you for writing this. It was forwarded to my by a Penn State friend and I will be forwarding the link to others. Well said! I hope the current players read this and know the fans are behind them always, no matter what.

    Amy (class of '91)

    ReplyDelete
  18. Very well written!!! My heart breaks for all the players involved. I am a Texas Aggie but have always enjoyed watching Penn State Football. God Bless the coaches and the players.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Thank you! A friend of mine posted on his FB page "RESTORE THE ROAR!"

    ReplyDelete
  20. Again, thanks to everyone for your comments. So many positive thoughts...there was one comment that I felt was inappropriate, and I deleted, because it seemed vindictive and a bit too graphic, also inaccurate in terms of fact. But overall we have had a great dialogue here I think.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Thanks for this great post. We will be there to support our team!! WE ARE.....

    ReplyDelete
  22. Great post. However, I'd also like to remind everyone that then district attorney Ray Gricar (who mysteriously went missing) decided not to bring charges against Sandusky as early as 1998. Everyone wants to simplify this to "so and so didn't report" or "so and so didn't do enough". Unfortunately, the LEGAL SYSTEM failed these children just as much as PSU failed them. Society's lynch mob mentality needs to have a scapegoat. Society needs a party to blame. In this case, sadly, it's easiest to blame the dead guy.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Thank you anonymous for pointing out the fact that has me incensed over this whole situation, the fact that Ray Gricar & Child Protective Services failed to pursue anything back in 1998 due to lack of circumstantial evidence. How is it that JoePa is being blamed for a "cover up" when the state appointed authorities were not only aware of the situation but also chose to do nothing. How are they not being held accountable in some way?

    This was a very well written letter and I thank the author for it and I agree the team needs all the support we can give them. Let the court of public opinion outside of Happy Valley think and say what they want, let them hate us without knowing all the facts, let them throw their proverbial stones at us. We know what Penn State is and what the fan base and team as a whole stands for and at the end of the day we need to stand proud, support our team and let everybody know that they can't take this special thing away from us, this football family that we have . . . at the end of the day, We Are . . . !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it's going on JoePa because he had a lot of power.. if he had come out and said publicly that he was made aware of a situation, the public would've pressured law enforcement to do something. Cover up or no cover up, was it his responsibility? Well, no, not exactly, but if he had done more, this would've blown up years ago, saved some victims and kept JoePa's name clean.

      Delete
  24. Thank you again for your postings. I don't think I have had so many comments on any of my blog postings in the past. There are so many aspects to this situation that will haunt us for years, and I keep reminding myself that it might take years for all the truth to be known. Near-term we have two court trials of senior administrators at Penn State that might shed some light on what happened and more information on Paterno's role. And we don't know what's coming down the pike from the ongoing Grand Jury investigation. There may be more indictments, more information on the role of government in this. Who knows? I think we have to be aware that this story is not over by a long shot. I just hope that eventually we will know the full truth.

    ReplyDelete