Joe Paterno's family has just issued the legal equivalent of a Hail Mary pass.
The Paterno family, through attorney Wick Sollers, sent a letter of appeal Friday to the NCAA, requesting an open hearing on the sanctions handed down to Penn State as a result of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
"This matter may be the most important disciplinary action in the history of the NCAA, and it has been handled in a fundamentally inappropriate and unprecedented manner," Sollers wrote in the letter to the NCAA's Infractions Appeal Committee. "To severely punish a University and its community and to condemn a great educator, philanthropist and coach without any public review or hearing is unfair on its face and a violation of NCAA guidelines."
They have a point about the unprecedented nature of how the NCAA chose to punish the school, an argument that many have made. But if the Paternos truly believe this appeal will gain any traction in Indianapolis, then they are delusional. If they believe they are the ones to restore Penn State football back to its pre-Sandusky status, they are living on another planet.
The family argues that it has the right to file an appeal because Paterno is an "involved individual," according to NCAA rules. Well, OK. But the only real sanctions against Joe Paterno were the vacating of his wins. There is zero chance that the NCAA would overturn that decision. But even if it ignored all previous precedent and restored those wins, who really cares in the grand scheme of things?
Beyond that, Paterno's name is about as radioactive as it gets right now in the halls of the NCAA. There will be no sympathy for his reputation at this time, and that probably won't change unless new information comes to light.
The letter also seems to ignore the fact that Penn State accepted the NCAA sanctions and agreed to not have any kind of hearing on the matter. Or that the school accepted as fact the findings of the Freeh report, which it had itself commissioned and paid for.
Yet the Paternos apparently think their letter of appeal can get the NCAA to consider changing the sanctions against a school whose leadership agreed to the penalties, simply because the family of one of the main figures responsible for the sanctions doesn't think it was fair?
Yeah, um, good luck with that one.
Indeed, the NCAA rightly batted away the appeal late Friday. But, ESPN.com's Don Van Natta Jr. writes, the Paternos could use that denial as the basis to sue the NCAA. So perhaps this is just legal wrangling. But what, really, will the Paternos seek to gain by any kind of lawsuit? I'm no lawyer, but most people have heard the phrase "you can't defame the dead." The Paternos don't seem to have any standing to fight the sanctions against the football program since they are not currently associated with it. So all I could see them angling for is the restoration of wins. Which, again, would be pointless and wildly tone deaf, given all that has gone on in the program.
We get that the Paternos are upset and want to defend JoePa's honor. Fine. Try to find some evidence that disputes the Freeh report. But actions like these only make them look like they're grasping at straws.