The Happy Valley halcyon days are over, and they may never come back. Thanks to the involvement of Joe Paterno in the scandal, whose name is synonymous with Penn State championships, their entire tradition has to start from scratch, and it’s not likely to ever have that kind of cachet ever again.
"I think we can all agree that no one wants to see someone who has taken an egregious act go unpunished," Bilas said. "But on the greater scale, on a criminal, civil level, what the NCAA does is trivial by comparison."
When asked about Paterno, Bilas sighed and spoke of the late coach's tarnished legacy, saying he was part of a "conspiracy of cowards."
"Paterno's 60 years of great service were not erased because of this, but sadly those 60 years do not erase this, either," Bilas said. "This was a stunning failure in leadership and human decency. There's no way around that, and it pains me to say it.
So the future of Penn State football will be largely determined by these questions: Will players want to face a career with no postseason opportunities on a team that is dogged by scandal? Will committed recruits like Christian Hackenberg, one of the country’s top quarterback recruits in 2013 who is verbally committed to Penn State, stay on board?
With a future this dim, it’s hard to imagine that Penn State can keep both its current roster and future recruiting classes together. With no postseason until 2016 and the likelihood that there will not be a full roster until 2020, expect an era of Penn State football marked by mediocrity, ambivalence and recruiting struggles for the next decade.
Regardless of whether it takes X number of years north or south of a decade to rebuild Penn State, the football program, one thing seems certain: Penn State, the university, will never ever be the same, regardless of what happens on a field a hundred yards long.
And, based on the Freeh report, that may very well be the best thing to come out of this whole sordid saga of pedophilia and cover-ups and putting a football program — and its legendary head coach — above young victims of sexual abuse.
And so, Emmert made sure his organization responded accordingly -- even if that meant revoking the traditional due process afforded every other school that's ever been punished by the NCAA; invoking a nebulous, generalized bylaw about promoting integrity that could easily apply to hundreds of lawbreaking players, coaches and staffers across the country every year; and creating a precedent for dictatorial-like intervention that must now be considered every time a scandal of any proportion arises in college athletics.
"While there's been much speculation about whether this fits this specific bylaw or that specific bylaw," said Emmert, "it certainly hits the fundamental values of what athletics are supposed to be doing in the context of higher education."
No argument there. Perhaps this truly is a turning point in the history of the NCAA. Perhaps this is the beginning of a new era where Batman Emmert flies in and saves the day every time the forces of athletic evil make a mockery of academic virtues.