Tom Corbett launched his re-election campaign this week.
In a startling display of grandstanding irresponsibility, Corbett announced he has sued the NCAA for treating Penn State too harshly with sanctions that the university signed off on months ago. Even if you haven't been embarrassed by his contempt for public education and his sweetheart treatment of frackers, charter schools and other big campaign contributors, this ought to take you over the top.
Before I start breaking down all the reasons I think this lawsuit is idiotic, I want to say something about Penn State coach Bill O'Brien.
Rumors that O'Brien was considered one of the front-runners to replace Eagles coach Andy Reid were both encouraging and discouraging.
It's encouraging that NFL leaders apparently recognize what O'Brien and his gritty team achieved at Penn State this season in the wake of tough NCAA penalties.
It's discouraging to consider the impact on the school, the team and his own legacy if O'Brien were lured away after one season. Whatever ends up happening in the long term, he can play a strong role in helping the school rebuild its reputation for excellence and integrity over the next few years. So I'm glad he says he'll stick around.
Much as I admired his and the team's efforts this season, I've never bought into the idea that the NCAA was wrong to punish Penn State for the Sandusky scandal. Certainly this wasn't the only big-time football school with skewed priorities, but it was the only one where its leaders prolonged a predator's reign of terror to protect the image of its legendary coach and his football program.
Yes, Jerry Sandusky was the monster. But if Penn State's leaders had been more concerned about children's welfare than the football team's legacy, he'd have been stopped much sooner.
To suggest the NCAA should have ignored this is preposterous. This is an organization that punishes institutions for coaches' excessive text messaging, for heaven's sake. How could it not act on the worst scandal ever to hit a college campus?
I recognize that Penn State, faced with the alternative of a death penalty whose implications would have been much more devastating, not to mention unfair to the current group of student-athletes, had little choice but to sign on to the NCAA's sanctions. Still, it did sign on, and I would argue that this year's 8-4 team proved that even without a bowl game, even with some of its stars skimmed by other schools, Penn State football can survive and even thrive.
So for Tom Corbett to resurrect the subject of the sanctions all these months later strikes me as a brazen, ill-timed, frivolous attempt by an unpopular governor to win political points with Penn State alumni.
It may even get him some votes. But it shouldn't.
For all the hand-wringing about these poor innocent players, what have they lost? They were given the opportunity to transfer if they chose. The rest got to attend a great university and play for a very good football team in front of national TV audiences and huge crowds, albeit in one fewer game than if there were no bowl ban.
It's possible that they might have won another game or two without the sanctions. Then again, some of these guys probably would have been riding the bench in favor of players who instead transferred elsewhere.
To suggest that this is cruel and unusual punishment — to players or to the students who get to watch them from the stands — betrays exactly the kind of twisted priorities that helped create this mess in the first place. College athletics ought to be about more than just playing in the Rose Bowl.
Oh, and we're told some State College businesses saw a drop-off in customers. So we should sue to make sure the team is a game or two better to enhance their profits? It's goofy.
The real irony is that most of the complaints I'm hearing just prove the point about the way the tail wagged the dog at Penn State.
Fans don't have a God-given right to watch national championship contenders every year. Players don't have a right to play in bowl games. Restaurants don't have a right to as many customers as they drew when JoePa was king, ticket prices were lower and the team was undefeated.
On the other hand, children do have the right not to be subjected to sex abuse, which Corbett ought to remember is what this was all about. So here's my advice.
Instead of worrying about the impact the Sandusky scandal may have on Penn State football, focus some of that moral indignation on protecting molested children past and future in Pennsylvania. Call another press conference and announce you will push hard this year for legislation that would repeal the statute of limitations from this time forward for civil suits relating to child sex abuse and would provide a one-time two-year window for victims to bring civil action in cases barred by the current law.
Strike a blow for child sex abuse victims and against the people who prey on them.
Priorities, Tom. Try making us proud for a change.
Bill White's commentary appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.