Area advocates for victims of sexual abuse and residents generally agree the child sex abuse coverup at Penn State University deserved punishment, but opinions are split over whether the unprecedented sanctions handed down this week by the NCAA are appropriate, excessive or not nearly enough.
The school agreed to a $60 million fine, a four-year ban from post-season play, the loss of 20 football scholarships for four years and the vacating of 112 wins from the 1998 season to 2011 as a penalty for athletic and university officials reportedly concealing accusations against former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky to protect the school's image. Sandusky was convicted in June of molesting 10 boys over a period of 15 years, with some of the incidents occurring on campus.
"I know it's tough, and I don't want to see a university destroyed," said Karen Burton, a member of the Marietta City Board of Education. "But no amount of money can make up for what was done to those children."
Burton said she felt the sanctions imposed were proper.
"I really like football, and I love the college games, but I really agree with what the NCAA president said - football shouldn't come before everything else," she said.
As a teacher for 39 years, 35 of them in the Warren Local school district, Burton said she was required by law to notify authorities if she suspected a child was being sexually abused.
"I just cannot imagine what was in their minds that they did not report that," she said.
Alice Stewart, intake assessment unit supervisor at Washington County Children Services and a former child sexual abuse caseworker, said the penalties announced send a clear message that covering up such crimes will not be tolerated.
"Basically it should have been yelled from the rooftops until someone took it seriously," she said.
Some people feel the burden of the punishment is placed on the wrong people - the athletes and new coaching staff.
"To me, it doesn't make sense to punish people who were in no way involved with the criminal behavior," Assistant Washington County Prosecutor Kevin Rings said. "But the NCAA's famous for that aren't they?"
Marietta resident Brenda Mitchem, a 47-year-old mother of two, said those responsible for the coverup did something "crazy" and should face criminal and civil penalties.
"These people need to be penalized," she said. "The players shouldn't be penalized."
Vienna, W.Va., resident Melissa Stine, 44, said the school and the athletic program have to be punished, and the people that are a part of it will experience the consequences.
"That's ... another consequence of not doing the right thing to begin with," she said. "If the school had done the right thing in the first place, they wouldn't be paying for it all these years later."
Stine said she feels the penalties are appropriate.
"It's going to hurt them quite a bit," she said. "That is just minimal compared to the damage that's been done to (the victims' and their families') lives."
By stripping Penn State's football victories from the last 14 seasons, the penalty knocks the late Joe Paterno - the team's coach for more than 40 years - off the top of the chart as the winningest coach in big-time college football history. Cambridge resident Elric Neuhart, 23, said it makes sense to punish Paterno, even posthumously, for his role in the coverup, but not the players he coached.
"They earned that themselves, even if Paterno didn't come forward," he said.
Rings said he agreed with the $60 million fine, money which will go toward outside programs devoted to preventing child sexual abuse or assisting victims. But he said if the NCAA believed the football program was significantly tainted it should have imposed the so-called "death penalty" - a complete suspension of all football activities for a season or more - rather than allow them to continue playing at a severe disadvantage.
"Does that team really belong in the Big 10 (conference) playing football?" Rings said.
Members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (S.N.A.P.) believe the Penn State case closely parallels situations they're attempting to bring to the light of day involving Catholic priests who have sexually abused children and efforts to cover up those crimes. Karen Polesir, Philadelphia S.N.A.P. director, said the death penalty was last imposed in the 1980s for less serious misdeeds than the ones at Penn State.
"When money was misspent at SMU (Southern Methodist University), play is suspended. But when boys are raped and crimes are concealed at PSU, play continues," she said in a statement. "This sends absolutely the wrong signal."
Polesir also said the penalties do nothing to address riots and rallies in support of Paterno, before the release of the recent internal investigation headed by former FBI director Louis Freeh. Such actions intimidate victims and whistleblowers, making them less likely to speak up, she said.
"The rallies and riots were a clear indication that kids aren't safe in the Penn State community," she said. "Yet even now, almost no one's talking about or addressing the rallies and riots. That's an egregious oversight."