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July 23rd, 2012
07:23 PM ET

Letters to the President #1281: 'Fair Play'

Reporter's Note: President Obama gets a letter from me each day.

Dear Mr. President,

If I were the guy in charge of Penn State (and, to be clear, I am not) I guess I would just quit playing football altogether for the next four or five years. I’d take the time to reassess what the strengths and weaknesses of my university were, how athletics could help or hurt the mission, and then I would decide if it was time to kickoff again.

It’s not a perfect plan, I’ll admit, especially for a fine school with a long history of winning. But the calamity of the sex scandal there has brought such a booming penalty from the NCAA, that I’m not sure I can see the point in Penn even fielding a team. I know there are some fine young athletes expecting to play for the school next fall, but I’m not sure I know why. Their path will be exceedingly difficult with the highest rewards already ruled out of reach.

I’m even less sure I understand the business of expunging of all the team’s wins over all those years. Sure, that allows the NCAA to destroy the record of Joe Paterno, which in turn could lead to him being posthumously kicked out of the hall of fame, sparing college football continued embarrassment. But it also seems to wipe out the accomplishments of hundreds of young athletes who did nothing but play their best and win. I realize that many people will dismiss such concerns with “it is only football” shrugs, but certainly at the time those young man played it meant something special to them, and they did nothing wrong. So it seems wrong that they should be punished, too, even if only in a ceremonial sense.

Still, I guess it is a fire the school will have to endure as part of the atonement for the things that went so terribly wrong.

Hope all is well with you. Call if you can.

Regards,
Tom

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