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Penn State Students Bear Brunt of NCAA Sanctions for Sandusky Cover-Up as Trustees Emerge Unscathed

Sports writer David Zirin argues that the NCAA's unprecedented punishment harms innocent students but lets trustees off the hook.

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AMY GOODMAN: Dave Zirin, explain the significance of the Second Mile foundation and the significance of Sandusky having—Sandusky having to leave Penn State but given the rights to the locker room, where he was witnessed, time and again, raping boys.

DAVE ZIRIN: No, I’m glad you mentioned that. And this has to be a part of the story, because Second Mile started as a small children’s charity for underprivileged children that was started by Jerry Sandusky. He wrote a book about why this charity was going to become his life’s work after he left football. The book, disturbingly enough, was self-published, and it’s called  Touched: The Jerry Sandusky Story. And people have wondered whether that was part of his own just horrible approach to children, is why he called it—called it  Touched. Jerry Sandusky was somebody who then took this children’s charity, Second Mile, and turned it into something, through his connections at Penn State, that was this incredibly powerful entity, this incredibly powerful nonprofit, that had its tentacles reach throughout the state of Pennsylvania. And it also looks like it was the place where Jerry Sandusky chose his victims, on the basis of how vulnerable they were, on the basis of how poor their economic situation was, on the basis of them not having other adults in their lives who would listen to them. I mean, it’s about—I mean, reading through the court testimony as Sandusky’s trial took place—and he was convicted on 45 of 48 counts, 700 years behind bars—it couldn’t have been more diabolical, and it couldn’t have been more disturbing about how these children were exploited over the course of so many years.

And Second Mile was also something that was supported greatly by Penn State University. And it looks to be very much that it was a condition of keeping what Sandusky was doing quiet was making sure that the charity was funded and making sure it would kind of just be kept quiet and all go away, for the purposes of protecting the brand of the football program. I mean, this is banality of evil writ large. I mean, you have this horrible monster at the center of it in Jerry Sandusky, and then you have layers and layers and layers of people in power who were scared about what his scandal would do to them, even if the collateral damage was small children. And it’s this horror show, why a lot of people, I think, are celebrating what the  NCAA did. But I would turn back once again to the Naomi Klein concept of  The Shock Doctrine, and really we should be worried about the kind of power that the  NCAA is assuming in what really should be a criminal and civil matter.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go back to Jerry Sandusky, in his own words. In November, he spoke with NBC’s Bob Costas in his first interview after he was charged.

JERRY SANDUSKY: I am innocent of those charges.

BOB COSTAS: Innocent? Completely innocent and falsely accused in every aspect?

JERRY SANDUSKY: Well, I could say that, you know, I have done some of those things. I have horsed around with kids. I have showered after workouts. I have hugged them, and I’ve—I have touched their legs, without intent of sexual contact.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Jerry Sandusky. Final thoughts on this day, Dave Zirin?

DAVE ZIRIN: I mean, my final thoughts is—I mean, we have civil and criminal courts for a reason. And we can all hope and pray that Sandusky’s victims get justice and that they take as large a piece out of Penn State University’s $1.8 billion endowment as possible, but I do not trust the  NCAA to be that adjudicating body, for the simple reason that their very existence ensures more cover-ups and more scandals in the future.

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