Let's get this out of the way at the very beginning: The NCAA did the right thing.
The Penn State/Jerry Sandusky sex crime scandal is wrenching on so many levels that it's often difficult to compartmentalize them.
First and foremost is the damage to at least a half-dozen young men's lives, those we know about and those who may never come forward with their stories.
Then there is the disillusionment.
Sunday's removal of Joe Paterno's statue from the front of Beaver Stadium is a symbol of that disillusionment. It is often said that the higher the pedestal, the harder the fall. Joe Paterno died two deaths: the physical and the symbolic. The reputation of the university he represented has been seriously damaged.
Penn State will go on as a great educational institution, and courses will be taught in the fall with all the excellence we have come to expect. There will even be football.
However, Monday's announcement of penalties from the NCAA will change the football program at Penn State significantly. There will be no bowl invitations for four years; the university is being fined $60 million, roughly the equivalent of a year's gross revenue from football. Fourteen year's worth of wins will be taken off the record books, and the school will lose a significant number of football scholarships for the next five years. The NCAA provides for the players, however, giving them the option to transfer their scholarships to other schools with guaranteed play.
The NCAA's penalties were aimed at the institution, not individuals. Those penalties are still to be decided in criminal and civil courts.
The sanctions are tough and will reduce Penn State's football program to a shadow of what it was. But, like all punishments, they are a warning to others. By Monday afternoon, college and university administrations across the country were taking long, hard looks at the balance between their academic and athletic programs and their philosophy for keeping those programs in perspective. Or, at least they should have.
NCAA president Mark Emmert, who announced the penalities, put that relationship in its proper perspective: "Football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing and protecting young people."
If there is one glimmer of hope to come from this mess, it is that.