Absolutely. At the very least, the option should certainly be considered.
Gene Wojciechowski, of ESPN, broached the subject late last week after the Nittany Lions received another sparkling quarterly report from Senator George Mitchell.
And Woj certainly is on point in his idea that the NCAA should reduce, or at least consider reducing, the sanctions. As he wrote in his report:
Do something like this: If Penn State continues to get high marks from Mitchell in 2013, then eliminate the sanctions in 2014. If Penn State does the same in 2014, then eliminate the final year of sanctions in 2015.
In this scenario Penn State still will have suffered two years of crushing competitive and financial penalties, as well as feel the residual effects of those sanctions in seasons to come. But the scenario also incentivizes the university, rewards change and shows compassion. And here's guessing the Big Ten, which followed the NCAA's lead relative to a postseason ban and loss of revenue, would adjust its penalties accordingly.
Before Joe Fan gets irate, this is not about "taking it easy" on Penn State. This is about looking at the progress the school has made, treating the situation just as unique in handling as they did in punishment, and working to positively reinforce the necessary changes.
In other words, it is less about forcing the Nittany Lions to succumb to the NCAA's iron-fisted will and more about recognizing the successful changes and acknowledging that things are being done correctly. As we've said not just once here at Your Best 11, but twice last July; the punishment, as handed down, isn't about fixing, but rather about taking their pound of flesh.
Last summer the NCAA capitalized on the opportunity. They were able to come out on the popular side of right, and while they weren't able to punish Jerry Sandusky, Joe Paterno or any of the people with knowledge of the situation, they did get to come down on Penn State. And come down they did with crippling sanctions.
Now is the time to reevaluate the punishment. If rehabilitation is the goal, and if both the establishment of and adherence to protocol is the plan, then that should be acknowledged. If they take steps back, then absolutely reintroduce the handcuffs they are currently wearing.
However, as it stands now, the school is building towards the future. Let them build and gain more privileges as they prove they are capable of handling them. That's how you teach responsibility. That's how folks learn to appreciate the responsibility. Slapping on the cuffs, slamming the door and throwing away the key, with no opportunity for parole, is not the best way to build success.