This is about that two-faced, fallen idol Joe Paterno and his monstrosity of a football program and how he and others disgraced a good university. It&’s also about the so-called death penalty for Nittany Lions football — well deserved.

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This is about that two-faced, fallen idol Joe Paterno and his monstrosity of a football program and how he and others disgraced a good university. It's also about the so-called death penalty for Nittany Lions football — well deserved. But first I want to talk about religion.

When I want a religious experience, I go to an old, stately synagogue in downtown Oakland. Other people go to church. But more and more, people go to football games and worship at the shrine of football. Football is becoming the secular religion in our society.

This attitude — football is religion — becomes clear when rational people want to impose the death penalty on Penn State, if indeed the NCAA has the power to impose the death penalty in this case. Then all the football religionists, the disciples of Papa Joe, the former prophet and now pretty much a bum, start wringing their hands and dressing in sackcloth and saying how the authorities can't take football away from them.

They sound like religious zealots who believe football, the new religion, is beyond criticism or punishment. That's how holy it is — the First Church of Football. And if you think I'm stretching this religion point, get this. After Paterno died, an artist painted a halo over his head on a mural in downtown State College, Pa. — Joe, the patron saint of college football, because he was such a good man. What baloney.

After the Freeh report came out, the artist removed the halo — you think? — and put a blue ribbon on Paterno's chest symbolizing sympathy for Jerry Sandusky's child victims.

When it comes to football, be an atheist. That goes double for Penn State football.

Why does PSU football deserve the death penalty?

Because what happened in State College, Pa. is the worst scandal in the history of college sports. There have been payoffs to recruits and players at other schools and there has been cheating on exams and there have been hookers and there has been point shaving, all reprehensible. But nothing — I repeat, nothing — comes close to Penn State, to a pedophile doing what he did again and again, and the university's top people knowing about it and covering it up just to protect the holiest of holies, the football program. The cover-up is the living end. You just want to weep at the sheer moral vacancy of Penn State and what happened to those boys.

The Bleacher Report pointed out that Southern Methodist University lost its football program in 1987 and 1988 for recruiting violations. Recruiting violations? If Southern Methodist got the death penalty for mere recruiting violations, Penn State deserves the atomic bomb.

Oh, just give Penn State the death penalty and be done with it.

Penn State deserves the death penalty because football became too big there, just as it's too big at dozens of universities — you know who they are. Because football took over the school and became its own little country on campus with its own culture and its own laws administered by outlaws — yes outlaws. Now, for the good of the school, football must be deleted for a period of time. I'm saying five years at the least. Penn State needs a breather and then it must start all over again, and it must start small.

This would serve as a warning to every other football factory that the football program is accountable and so are the school president and the athletic director and the multi-million-dollar coach. It would proclaim that football does not run the school, or it shouldn't. "To all concerned gaze upon Penn State to find out what happens."

This whole issue is way beyond football. It's really about the meaning of a university. A university is supposed to educate its students. That may seem like a quaint notion, but it's the truth. The mission of a university is NOT to teach football as religion.

I've read it's unfair to punish current students and football players for what a few people did in the past. Again I refer to Bleacher Report. "Matt Barkley has not played in a bowl game for USC because Reggie Bush received gifts while Barkley was still in high school. Players on Ohio State's football team won't play in a bowl this season even if they had nothing to do with the tattoo/merchandise scandal of last year."

So, there's precedent. When a football program goes rogue, people in the next generation suffer. That's life.

And is it really a punishment not to have a football program? When I applied to college, I didn't say to my parents, "I need a school with a pro-style offense." If you required a stout 3-4 defense and a great running back as a prerequisite for attending a college, you're part of the problem.

Call me crazy, but I don't consider the death penalty a punishment for Penn State students. It creates a learning opportunity — certainly, the province of a university. It allows students to experience the awe and wonderment which comes from righting a serious wrong. Let there be no football at Penn State. Let the university be a university.

Penn State should voluntarily disband its program. It won't because too much money is involved. So the NCAA must declare the death penalty for moral turpitude in the extreme and failure to protect the real innocents in the name of football.

Now I come to the idea of deterrent. Believe me, college football needs a deterrent. The NCAA must unload the death penalty on Penn State. If it doesn't, what's to stop Penn State or any other university from doing this, or something like it, all over again?

For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.