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Hall Of Famer Franco Harris Lashes Out At NCAA

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(credit: Al Bello/Getty Images)

(credit: Al Bello/Getty Images)

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By Joseph Santoliquito

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) —The faded silhouette of four ghostly football players stand on the wall at Penn State’s Beaver Stadium, along with a bolted stump where a bronze statue of Joe Paterno once stood. This is Penn State’s attempt to scrub away the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal.

Franco Harris, the all-time Penn State great, a four-time Super Bowl champion with the Pittsburgh Steelers and a Hall of Famer, stood at the Paterno statue last Friday with Paterno’s family—the last day the statue was still up.

Harris has proudly wielded his opinion in defense of his former coach since the Sandusky case exploded publicly.

So Sunday marked a very, very sad day for one of football’s all-time greats. Paterno’s statue in front of Beaver Stadium was taken down and put into storage, and it seems as if the NCAA is about to do the same thing to the Nittany Lions’ football program Paterno built with a pending announcement on Monday from NCAA President Mark Emmert.

See related story.

Speculation is that the NCAA could hit Penn State by subtracting 20-25 scholarships, no bowl games, and no possibility to play on TV. It’s not the “Death Penalty,” but it’s as close to a death penalty for a major Division-I program as there could be levied.

“It’s a sad day,” Harris told 94 WIP’s Marc Farzetta, in an interview that could be heard in its entirety Monday morning at 4:40 AM on 94 WIP. “I was hoping Friday that it wouldn’t be the last evening the [Paterno statue] would be up, but they took it down sometime Saturday night, I guess. It’s a sad day for Penn State, I think it really is a sad day for due process, and for people that believe in due process. I know we’re sad, but I do realize other people are happy.

“But I do realize that other people are happy. Penn State’s Board of Trustees are happy, [Pennsylvania governor Tom] Corbett, [Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Frank] Noonan, all the people against Joe are happy. It’s also a sad day to realize once again how weak our Board of Trustees are, and how they succumbed to public pressure.”

The NCAA is apparently reacting to the information released last week in the 267-page Louis Freeh Report, which states: “Four of the most powerful people at The Pennsylvania State University—President Graham B. Spanier, Senior Vice President-Finance and Business Gary C. Schultz, Athletic Director Timothy M. Curley and Head Football Coach Joseph V. Paterno—failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade.”

When told about the possible corrective and punitive measures from the NCAA aimed at Penn State, Harris bristled, “I could care less about the NCAA. They’re a body that doesn’t believe in due process also. They’re like [Penn State’s] Board of Trustees and [Penn State’s] administration. They don’t believe in due process. So I could really care less about them.

“They’re going to make certain decisions based upon the Freeh Report, and as I said, I feel there are a lot of holes in the Freeh Report, a lot of holes. They could care less. I think it’s really a shame. I think it’s something that everybody should be really afraid of, that someone with their power will take this and do this particularly thing based on that, and no due process. Everybody should be afraid.”

It’s not the death penalty, though you may be able to call it the “Penn State Penalty.”

“There’s no due process, and people that accept no due process, I have a problem with,” Harris said. “I have a problem with the NCAA. In this Joe Paterno situation, I am not a big fan of the NCAA or the Big 10, and it is very disturbing that to even consider taking that action before due process has really happened. How people can take the Freeh Report without the major players being interviewed, that’s very, very disheartening that people jump on this, and believe in this. Very disturbing. They can take down the statue, but they can’t take down the man.”

Again, the Franco Harris interview in its entirety can be heard Monday morning with Marc Farzetta at 4:40 AM on 94 WIP.

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