James Carville: Suspending Penn State Football Is a 'Really Dumb Idea'


Democratic strategist James Carville argued that it would be "a really dumb idea" to suspend the Penn State football program, despite an independent investigation finding that top university officials, including former head coach Joe Paterno, worked to conceal child sex abuse allegations against former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

"Look, this is awful, gut-wrenching. And people that I really respect are talking about the 'death penalty' for Penn State football," Carville said on the "This Week" roundtable, referring to calls for the NCAA to effectively shut down the Penn State football program for several years as punishment. "That is a really dumb idea. Lives have been ruined, so the answer to it, let's go out and ruin more lives?"

"Let's take a kid who's a football player who was in the second grade when this happened and let's suspend the program. Who knows what he's going to do with his education?" Carville added. "Let's take every contract that's been signed … everybody that has a motel in Happy Valley, let's ruin their lives as a retaliation."

Carville argued instead that the Penn State football program should be allowed to continue so it can generate money, which can then be used to compensate the victims of Sandusky's child abuse.

"Let Penn State football play, let them make money, bring the trial lawyers in, pluck that chicken clean," Carville said.

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh released a scathing 267-page report last week following an independent investigation of the Penn State sex abuse scandal. The report was an indictment of top university officials, including Paterno, former university president Graham Spanier, former athletic director Tim Curley, and former vice president for finance Gary Schultz, for their handling of the allegations against Sandusky.

"Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky's child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State," Freeh said at a press conference Thursday to release the report's findings. "The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized."

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Many critics have called for the NCAA to suspend the Penn State football program in some form because of the wrong-doing, with some calling for the "death penalty," which can mean a one- or two-year ban on outside competition and a two-year ban on recruiting and new scholarships. While Penn State does not meet "repeat violator" status needed to receive the "death penalty," since it has not been convicted of a major violation in the last five years, the NCAA may still apply harsh penalties against the football program.

On today's "This Week" roundtable, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile backed the calls for a suspension or penalty of some kind.

"There should be some penalty, some acknowledgment that there was a gross abuse of children, neglect in their duties as officers of that university," Brazile said.

While political strategist and ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd did not call for a suspension of the Penn State football program, he agreed with Brazile's comparison of the actions of top Penn State officials to those of the Catholic Church during its abuse scandal.

"If you took Jerry Sandusky and substituted Jerry Sandusky and put the word 'priest,' and then you put Joe Paterno and substitute the word 'bishop,' it's the exact same thing," Dowd said. "What you have is an institutional corrupt problem, that basically the ends of the institution become more important than the people involved."

ABC News' George Will broadened the criticism, saying "big-time football has no business on college campuses" because it is "inherently corrupting."

"We have grafted a multi-billion-dollar entertainment industry onto higher education," Will said. "It is inherently discordant with the mission of the university. It is inherently corrupting. And you're going to get this and elsewhere different forms of corruption, but always forms of corruption, because big-time football has no business on college campuses."

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