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How quickly and how sadly they forget.

They, in this case, is the NCAA for softening its punishment against Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child rape scandal.

If ever there was a case for the NCAA to stand firm, this was it.

Penn State was being punished for allowing Sandusky to roam freely on its campus for decades, hunting and manipulating little boys in order to please his sickening sexual desires.

It was the worst case of a lack of institutional control that one could ever imagine because so many people in the Penn State hierarchy of command allowed the madness to fester.

Those in favor of reducing Penn State's punishment use the argument that the university already has suffered enough. Why should the current players and coaches continue to be punished for something they had nothing to do with?

My answer to that is simple: We're talking about a case in which young boys were victimized repeatedly, with some of the alleged rapes occurring within the Penn State football facilities.

It was bad enough that Sandusky was allowed to coach at Penn State for as long as he did. I remember thinking how strange his retirement was as the Penn State defensive coordinator after the 1999 season because it happened so suddenly and without much explanation.

Sandusky went from being who many thought would be the heir apparent to Joe Paterno to being gone in a flash, although Sandusky wasn't totally absent from the Penn State campus after his retirement, much to the horror of the children he prayed upon.

It has to be reassuring to the victims knowing that the 70-year old Sandusky will spend the rest of his life in jail as a convicted serial child molester.

The scandal also shed a negative light on Paterno, who died on Jan. 22, 2012, at the age of 85 in many ways a broken man whose legend will be forever tarnished. Paterno went from having a statue displayed in his honor outside of Beaver Stadium to being fired as head coach over the telephone.

So it's not as if the key people in this scandal were let off easy. Paterno was disgraced, while Sandusky is rotting in jail.

It's just troubling that the NCAA wouldn't stick with its initial sanctions, which had banned Penn State from playing in a bowl game for four years, stripped it of 10 scholarships per season for four years, stripped the school of all its wins from 1998-2001 and fined it $60 million.

You wonder how the victims felt when the Penn State students held a pep rally this week on campus to celebrate the lifting of sanctions. Kids will be kids, but didn't somebody in the crowd give any thought about what they were celebrating and who might be offended by it?

The announcement came at a time when Penn State is being praised for its efforts to correct internal flaws and improve accountability.

It's great that Penn State now seems to have its priorities in order, but why reward it for doing what it should've been doing in the first place?

Why soften a punishment that was intended to send a strong message that what happened at Penn State should never happen again?

And yet, just two years into the punishment, the NCAA caved.

Nobody would ever admit it, but money has to be the driving force behind this decision. Penn State is one of the Big Ten's traditional powers, and returning it to prominence in football sooner rather than later would benefit the whole operation.

I understand the sympathy for the Penn State players because, much like the victims now, they were collateral damage when the initial sanctions were enforced.

But the Penn State players also were treated fairly and with compassion by the NCAA. They were granted a waiver in the wake of the sanctions that allowed them to transfer to another school and play immediately.

The current players also didn't have to pick Penn State under the circumstances. They knew the consequences of their choice.

Sandusky's victims, on the other hand, didn't have a choice or a way out.

The NCAA seems to have forgotten that.

Reach Pat Harty at 339-7370 or pharty@press-citizen.com.

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