After hearing Tom Price of Factoryville, Pa., express his feelings about the sanctions levied against Penn State by the NCAA, there seems little doubt that we need a version of Godwin's Law that pertains to references to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Asked by a WNEP reporter how he felt watching NCAA President Mark Emmert reveal the sanctions against the Penn State football program for its role in the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal, Price delivered an answer that even made some of his fellow alumni cringe.
“I just can’t put my arms around it, it’s, to me, it was our 9/11 today. I just saw planes crashing into towers,” said Price, who told WNEP that he has gone to almost every home PSU football game, with his wife, since 1986.
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That there is an NCAA penalty commonly referred to as the "death penalty" makes it clear that there is a certain amount of hyperbole permitted in discussions about the punishments levied against collegiate athletic departments. But even the "death penalty" is only used to talk about situations where a program is barred from playing, meaning no games at all. Despite the wide-ranging nature of the NCAA sanctions, Penn State will never miss a regular-season game. Price will still be able to attend games at Beaver Stadium, presumably with his wife, during the upcoming season. The sanctions will very likely make it more difficult for Penn State to compete for a national championship. However, Penn State has not won a national championship since 1986 and has accomplished the feat just twice.
Although his choice of words may have been singularly absurd and offensive, Price's emotional reaction to the range of punishments -- including a four-year bowl ban, $60 million fine and all wins from 1998 to 2011 vacated -- is not unusual among alumni and current students. One freshman student described NCAA President Mark Emmert's announcement as like being "punched in the gut" to the Daily Collegian, adding "I was trying to hold back tears. It's terrible.”
The NCAA announced its sanctions less than two weeks after former FBI director Louis Freeh released his 267-page report indicating that Joe Paterno and three other top school officials "concealed critical facts" about sexual abuse committed by former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.