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It didn’t take long for restless football players at Pennsylvania State University to start jumping ship – and every gridiron athlete who wants to leave the tarnished Nittany Lions program should get out now.

The most recent stars to bolt from the scandal-plagued university are Quarterback Rob Bolden, Wide Receiver Justin Brown and running back Silas Reed. Bolden transferred to LSU, Reed will be playing for USC, and Brown plans to suit up for Oklahoma.

For young men, they certainly each made wise, swift, grown-up decisions.

These former Penn State players  — all African-Americans – are part of a nine-player exodus, young athletes who decided to leave Penn State after former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of sexually abusing boys at the school and the NCAA levied a series of sanctions against Penn State, including a four-year ban on playing bowl games.

The NCAA also maintained that legendary Penn State coach Joe Paterno covered up for Sandusky to protect the university against shame and dishonor. Bluntly put, Paterno put football first and foremost– and the victims of Sandusky’s sexual abuse became an after-thought.

Paterno’s family says it will appeal the NCAA’s ruling. Good luck with that.

“What we can do is impose sanctions that both reflect the magnitude of these terrible acts, and that also ensure that Penn State will rebuild an athletic culture that went horribly awry,” said NCAA President Mark Emmert. “Our goal is to not be just punitive, but to make sure that the university establishes an athletic culture and daily mindset in which football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing, and protecting young people.”

Emmert said the sanctions imposed are as follows:

•       NCAA is imposing a fine of $60 million on the University (equivalent to proceeds of one year) — An endowment will be established to be used around the nation to serve victims of child abuse

•       Penn State Football will be banned from bowl games and post season play for four years

•       Initial scholarship reduced from 25 to 15 per year for four years

•       NCAA to vacate all wins of the football team from 1998 to 2011 and record will reflect change

•       Football program on 5-year probationary period

•       NCAA reserves the right to initiate an investigation and impose sanctions on individuals

These are serious and unprecedented sanctions, but it’s the ban on bowl games that are sending Penn State players packing. Working hard to build a winning season is challenging enough, but there’s nothing more demoralizing than mounting a great season and not being able to capture the ultimate prize: A bowl game championship.

So players like Brown, Bolden and Reed are justified in leaving Penn State to search for an opportunity to play in a college bowl game, get noticed by pro scouts, and perhaps play in the NFL if ascending to the big leagues is their goal. For some African-American men, football is way to learn discipline, teamwork, responsibility and, in some cases, the head-banging sport has turned lives around. Athletes like Bolden, Brown and Reed didn’t have anything to do with the Penn State fiasco created by Sandusky and Paterno so these players deserve a chance to pursue their dreams on another football field.

Some Pennsylvania residents are saying the Penn State players should stick with the university that recruited them, trained them and gave them a chance to flourish. There was some pressure, no doubt, for Brown, Bolden and Reed to stay put, to remain loyal to Penn State and not abandon the storied school that affectionately referred to Paterno as “Joe Pa.”

But they wisely moved on.

I hope these young black men are successful with their new football teams — and successful in life. They should be commended for defying the critics, choosing their own paths, and showing the courage to put Penn State in their rear view mirrors.


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