Our opinion: Image above all

When $60 million is involved in a punitive sanction against an institution, one might think the resulting anxiety would be over the cash.

In the case of the NCAA’s sanctions against the Pennsylvania State University in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal, it’s not really about the money.

It is now and always has been about the image.

For nearly a half century, the football team with plain white helmets was regarded the way the good guys were portrayed in traditional westerns, always a white hat. In short, it was a program beyond reproach for its high standards of sportsmanship and clean record. It was topped by the tributes to its long-standing head coach, Joe Paterno, who might have been apply nicknamed Paternal for his care and nurturing of his players.

Then, the unthinkable happened. An assistant coach was accused, tried and convicted of sexually abusing a number of young men under his control. More than that even, the university’s administration, including its head football coach, were accused of covering up the atrocities in an effort to preserve the image of the institution and its football program.

In the wake of the accusations and the conviction of the assistant coach, the university and National Collegiate Athletic Association agreed to the aforementioned fine, the loss of post-season play for five years, and the reduction of Paterno’s “official’ win record by more than 100 games.

Now, former players, university trustees and the Paterno family are suing the NCAA over its sanctions, contending that the penalties -agreed to by the university -were a rush to judgement and contrary to the organization’s own rules.

It is all about the image, the removal of stain on a major university, on the legacy of an iconic athletic coach, and on key members of an administration that was besmirched by scandal.

The $60 million in fines haven’t hurt the university nearly as much as the tarnish, which a new group of litigants hopes to wipe away.