The NCAA handed down what are arguably the most severe sanctions in its history to Penn State's football program Monday.
The university was fined $60 million, and the football team will do without 20 scholarships per year for a four-year period during which the team will not play in the postseason. The team also vacated all 112 wins it had accumulated since the beginning of the 1998 season, knocking Joe Paterno from his perch as Division I's all-time winningest football coach.
It truly is a staggering punishment - one from which Penn State will likely take more than a decade to recover, if it ever completely does so. The team's performance will more likely resemble the 3- and 4-win seasons of the early 2000s than the conference championship contender it has been of late.
But to dwell on wins and losses is to lose sight of what was truly wrong in the once Happy Valley.
Feeling bad for the university is difficult when you remember what the school's leadership allowed Jerry Sandusky to do to multiple children on its campus for more than a decade.
Some may say Penn State and its players have become victims of the NCAA's desire to make an example of someone in order to demonstrate its power.
Some may say Paterno has become a victim of the university's desire for a scapegoat who, conveniently, cannot defend himself.
But neither the school nor the players, nor the late coach, were preyed upon by Sandusky - or let down by the people in charge who were supposed to protect them.
NCAA president Mark Emmert said Monday that the purpose of the heavy-handed response was to not only penalize Penn State severely, but also to spur a change in the culture - to prevent universities from making the football team the most important, powerful thing on campus.
At Penn State, it was this very problem that kept anyone from reporting Sandusky to the authorities. In fact, if Sandusky wasn't turned in by officials at a nearby public school district, he very well could still be victimizing children and using the cloak of Penn State football and its facilities to do so.
It may be unfair to the current players and coaches to suffer the punishment, but was it fair for these kids to have no one stop a predator from using the lure of the football program to assault them?
Sandusky's horrific acts continued because protecting the image of the football team took precedent over protecting children. According to the findings of the Freeh report, the actions or, more accurately, lack of actions taken by the Board of Trustees, Paterno, former president Graham Spanier, vice president Gary Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley all contributed to Penn State's collective failure to protect the innocent.
There are those who will say the current players and coaches also are innocent victims in this situation. Indeed, they are innocent of the crimes committed by Sandusky and the failures of other school officials. But focusing on the "collateral damage" of the NCAA sanctions misses the point of exactly why Penn State was punished in the first place, and by default contributes to the very culture of "football first" that needs to be overcome.
For once, this cannot be about football. It has to be about the kids - otherwise, the children Sandusky assaulted become victims all over again.