Penn State Proud: An Open Letter

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Image Courtesy of staticflickr.com

Like most people who have a connection to Penn State, I wear my allegiance on my sleeve.  I am a very proud Penn State Alumnus.  When the news broke regarding the heinous acts committed by Jerry Sandusky, my heart broke, and not just for the victims.  My heart also broke for my fellow Nittany Lions and for the University which I hold so dear.

I grappled with how this could have happened in a place that supposedly put education, honor, and doing things the right way ahead of all else, not only in the athletic department, but across the campus.  I felt angry. I was lied to and betrayed by people who I thought believed in the same values they were bestowing upon all of us while educating us on how to be successful and honorable people.

I also became defensive.  I would not allow myself, or my fellow alumni, the students, and the staff of a great University to be slandered and tread upon because of the selfish actions of a few men.  It’s not as if I was wearing blinders and was ignorant of the facts.  There is no excuse for what had happened and I was disgusted that these people thought it was better to sweep the crimes under the rug and protect the image of the University, rather than protect the lives of innocent children and their families.  Any one of them could have stepped up and been a hero.  Any one of them could have shown that what we all believed about being a Nittany Lion was true.  They could have acted with bravery and valor and shown the world that Penn State really did lead the way when it came to doing the right thing.  Instead, what won out was sports and sponsorship in the name of the almighty dollar.

While I didn’t think that it was fair to punish the football players and a coach, who were in no way involved in committing or covering up the crimes that came to pass at Penn State.  I did understand that the sanctions had to be levied and they had to be severe.  The judicial system of the NCAA may not be perfect, but it is the only system that we have at this time.

When The Nittany Lions took the football field for the first time last season.  I realized that it was not going to be all about winning and losing.  Last season was about healing and bonding.  It was about a group of student athletes who showed poise and wisdom beyond their years.  By choosing to remain at Penn State, these young men led all of us to that first step in the long road back to redemption.

Thanks to the hard work and tireless effort of Penn State staff, the NCAA announced on Tuesday that it would be awarding Penn State twenty scholarships to be given out for the 2014 season.  This is five more scholarships than the fifteen they were given under the levied sanctions.  The University would also be given five additional scholarships for the 2015 season, bringing the Penn State football team back to it’s full allocation of 25 new scholarships.  The news may even get better for Penn State.  Bob Flounders (@BobbyFlo7) of PennLive.com has said that there may be a reduction on the Nittany Lions’ postseason ban as well.

Because of this news, I walk a little taller today.  I’m more proud of my Alma Mater than I have ever been in the past.  Not because the sanctions have been partially lifted, or because the Nittany Lions have played so well in the face of such harsh adversity.  I’m proud because the University is restoring it’s reputation as the place we all know it to be.  Honor and Integrity are being restored to the forefront of the athletic program. Penn State is proof that no wrong, no matter how terrible, can’t be overcome.  And with hard work, dedication, and a willingness to do the right thing, you can, not only be forgiven, you can also be rewarded. Those who allowed these crimes to occur on their watch have gotten what they deserved.  And now the players and coach O’Brien have been vindicated by not having to suffer for the crimes perpetrated by others. I am happy for the student athletes.  I am happy for my fellow Alumni.  And I am happy for everyone who makes Penn State the exceptional institution that it was, is, and will be for years to come.  Lastly, I am proud to say that…WE ARE PENN STATE!