Now lurching into its third big calendar year without anything that resembles a palatable end in sight, the Penn State scandal got a major adrenaline boost Wednesday from Gov. Tom Corbett, the man who has watched it grow from a troubled little Centre County investigation into (to borrow from college football's topical bowl parlance) the Grand-Daddy of them all.
It already has taken down the winningest coach in the history of the sport's top level, the university president and two of his most visible lieutenants, and gotten a former architect of what is still reverently called Linebacker U a single room just down the hall from death row.
And they weren't even the real victims.
The real victims of Jerry Sandusky and his various enablers inside and outside the halls of academia face a potentially anguished existence of sexual dysfunction, sleep problems, depression, delinquency, conduct issues, secretiveness and suicidal behavior. That's according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, which noted there are a staggering 80,000 reports of child abuse annually in this country and that most child abuse is not reported.
"Just as we stand up and fight every day for the victims, we should stand up and fight for those punished unfairly by the NCAA," Corbett told a University Park, Pa., news conference arranged to announce that the commonwealth of Pennsylvania plans to sue the NCAA for reasons Corbett seemed to suggest were perfectly obvious.
Corbett's reconsidered thoughts -- severely reconsidered thoughts -- regarding the NCAA sanctions against Penn State's football program could almost be summarized like this: "Well before most of the world suspected that Jerry Sandusky had ever done anything that wasn't totally upstanding, the NCAA was overseeing a coast-to-coast cesspool of rules violators, eligibility fudgers, probation-flouting academic frauds, extra-benefit traffickers, stripper-cavorting bowl officials channeling political contributions, recidivist coaches, and who knows what else, and was up to its bleary eyeballs in ongoing investigations.
"Not a lot has changed for the governing body of college football, except for the rare opportunity to turn one of its model programs -- in terms of academics and graduation rates -- into a pinata. Having failed spectacularly for decade after decade at doing what it's supposed to do, it grandstanded to death a situation where I'm not certain it was supposed to do anything.
"Penn State's fine was $60 million -- the Big Ten effectively piled on another $13 million -- or, as (NCAA president) Mark Emmert admitted on CNN, 100 times what the NCAA had ever fined anybody. Penn State's scholarship slashes will remove it from its accustomed competence for years to come and maybe forever."
Of course, that's not exactly what Corbett said Wednesday. That's what I said July 27, the day after the sanctions came down. Now, after what the governor called "months of research and deliberations," he rather agrees.
How about that?
But on July 26, that's not what Corbett said. He said, "Part of the corrective process is to accept the serious penalties imposed today by the NCAA on Penn State University and its football program."
In other words, the governor, who is a member of the Penn State Board of Trustees, accepted the penalties the day they were revealed as part of the corrective process, but now believes he was incorrect.
If I were an NCAA lawyer, I might start with that.
Corbett might have blown his case before he even filed it.
Still, I would not underestimate the governor, whose expertise in these matters combined with the political force of a hacked-off electorate could put him at the helm of a landmark case against an organization that deserves all the scrutiny it gets.
Corbett just as acutely understands that antitrust cases such as the one he's proposing typically take years to resolve, and this one has no chance of being put to bed before his re-election campaign, conveniently enough.
If the governor really wants to help Penn State recover, along with the businesses for which he expressed newfound concern Wednesday, businesses that rely on one of the state's primary industries -- rednecking on Penn State -- he might take the remaining $48 million the university hasn't already set aside for that $60 million in NCAA fines and figure out a way to get it to Bill O'Brien.
O'Brien, hired in the university's darkest hour to replace Joe Paterno, didn't hear the whistle of any approaching NCAA sledgehammer, probably because Penn State didn't hear it either. But the hammer is down, and a job running the Philadelphia Eagles might suddenly look a lot better than waiting for three more years of scholarship limits to boa constrictor his resume.
Maybe if Corbett had gotten angry in July, the 2013 landscape would be different. Maybe if Penn State hadn't rolled over for the totality of the grand jury presentment, the Freeh Report and the NCAA, even to the extent that it pointed out it is not party to Corbett's lawsuit, many things would be different.
But Penn State did acquiesce to every last punishment for reasons known only to Penn State, and I don't even want to imagine what they are.