Here's to Smoot, Bucs and remaining Nittany Lions

Ten is an important number in sports.

Ten yards is a first down. Ten feet is the distance from the rim to the floor. Benchmarks are measured in multiples of 10 (20-win seasons, 50-point games), and when you were a kid shooting hoops out in the driveway, the game-winning shot scenario you created always started with 10 seconds on the clock.

And of course, there are lists. I’m a total sucker for top-10 lists. I read them, I write them, I forward them to my friends. So in honor of the Laurel and Hardy of numbers (younger readers may need to Google that), I give you 10 from Ben, 10 thoughts and opinions from the world of sports:

1 The NCAA hammered the Penn State football program, and rightfully so. Any time you get tagged with the words “unprecedented failure of institutional integrity,” you have bigger problems than holes in your offensive line. Scholarship reductions and a four-year bowl ban are devastating penalties. They’ll hurt the program more than if the NCAA had simply issued a one-year death penalty. As for the $60 million fine, Penn State won’t have any trouble paying that, not with a handful of donors prepared to pull out their checkbooks. I wish the NCAA would have imposed one more sanction: no national TV exposure. Let them play their conference games on Big Ten Network, but keep them off the major networks. College football fans need a break from this mess.

2 The last penalty — vacating all of Penn State’s victories from 1998 on — is a PR maneuver. The NCAA won’t admit it, but they vacated those wins so they could erase Joe Paterno’s name from the record book. With 111 vacated victories, Paterno drops from 409 wins to 298—and he’s no longer the winningest coach in major college football history. That record now belongs to Bobby Bowden. That doesn’t sit well with me. Jerry Sandusky wasn’t handing out envelopes filled with cash. He was raping boys. As sickening as that is, it didn’t give the Nittany Lions a competitive advantage. The NCAA shouldn’t be rewriting history simply to avoid embarrassing circumstances.

3 If Penn State officials had any guts, they’d impose their own death penalty. They need to send a message—to their students, to the state of Pennsylvania, to everybody affiliated with the university—that they’re serious about resetting their moral compass, that the university runs the football program, not the other way around. Honor all scholarships, but take a few years off and then start fresh. But the university has bills to pay and football is the sugar daddy, so on they’ll play.

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