The NCAA's actions on Monday seem to be about more than just punishing Penn State's future football teams for the school's role in the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
In addition to the fines, bans and other sanctions they handed down that will hurt their storied program for a long time, in some eyes they have effectively and literally wiped out almost all of the success of teams under Joe Paterno starting the moment he learned about Jerry Sandusky's actions but never did anything about it.
"Obviously, the 1998 date was selected because that's when the first reported incidents of abuse occurred and that's when the failure to respond appropriately began," NCAA President Mark Emmert said during a news conference on Monday. "And that was the point of time from which one could make an argument, of course, that the failures began inside the institution, so it seemed to both me and the executive committee that that was the appropriate beginning date."
Emmert's message was clear: The NCAA was choosing to punish a culture of silence, a culture that protected the program above all moral obligations and those responsible for making it that way.
Vacating wins has long been a debate in all sports. And so there is no surprise that the NCAA's ruling on Monday sent the debate over the decision to vacate the wins into a tailspin. But it raised questions about the implications the sanctions will have on past and current players, Joe Paterno's legacy and ultimately Penn State's place among the best football programs.
Some say you can erase the wins, but it is an empty punishment that does nothing to move the university forward and doesn't ultimately change the facts. Others say it is the best way to punish a school, by wiping out a massive chunk of their storied history.
"Yes, Joe Paterno turned out to be a really bad person. But he won more games than any college coach in history. That's a fact," Forbes writer Mike Ozanian wrote. "Barry Bonds holds both the all-time and single season home run records in baseball. That's a fact. We might not like either fact. But we should also be treated as mature and adult enough to be able to discern on our own the difference between sports heroes and villains."
For the players on the impacted Penn State teams, taking away those 112 games means they have essentially become collateral damage to the institution they so proudly represented on the field, when they likely had no idea what was happening off the field. The 2005 team will argue that their one-loss season and Orange Bowl win cannot be erased.
Others argue the scars of their efforts still remain even if the win column looks different. Adam Taliaferro, a former player under Joe Paterno, tweeted about a plate in his neck that is a lasting reminder of his spinal cord injury from playing at Penn State.
"NCAA says games didn't exist..I got the metal plate in my neck to prove it did..I almost died playing 4 PSU..punishment or healing?!? #WeAre. he tweeted.
For them, the emotions and the sacrifices that they left on the field has been tainted. Former Penn State player Derek Moye says the vacating of victories ordered by the NCAA can't erase his memories of what he has been a part of.
"They can take away whatever games they want to, I know I was apart of win 400 409 and all the other games WE won while at PSU," Moye tweeted.
Former Penn State player A. Q. Shipley tweeted a picture of rings he won at Penn State.
"This looks like a lot more wins than 0 dont you think? Just wondering! #WEARE," he wrote.
And former defensive end Devon Still tweeted a picture of a ring that was given out to players when Paterno passed the 400-win mark. No NCAA ruling will take that moment for him, he said.
"Can't remove that 400 off the ring!" Still wrote.
Almost all of the former players note their frustrations pale in comparison to those of the victims. But still, this sanction in particular stings deep for them.
In some ways, vacating the wins can be seen as the biggest slap in the face possible. It may in part be the least overall harmful sanction, but it may have the longest impact. In some ways, it forever alters the history books on Penn State and Paterno's legacy as a whole.
On top of Penn State removing the statue of the man who defined their program for years, the move of vacating wins dethrones the Happy Valley hero from the title he clung to most - the winningest coach in college football. He achieved it during his last game and many close to him said it was what he was holding on to as he coached into his later years.
The NCAA's move sent Paterno from the top of the heap with the most wins down to 12th all-time and fifth for Division I schools.
Joe Paterno's family issued a statement saying that they feel the coach has unfairly been defamed and now shamed without having the chance to defend himself.
"The release of the Freeh report has triggered an avalanche of vitriol, condemnation and posthumous punishment on Joe Paterno. The NCAA has now become the latest party to accept the report as the final word on the Sandusky scandal," the family said in a statement. "The sanctions announced by the NCAA today defame the legacy and contributions of a great coach and educator without any input from our family or those who knew him best."
Now his friend Bobby Bowden sits at the top of the heap as the winningest coach.
And Bowden knows a thing or two about being in the midst of NCAA troubles. He had 12 of his wins vacated by the NCAA for the time he was coach at Florida State University relating to ineligible players and an academic scandal. With those 12 wins, he would have been sitting atop of Paterno for the most wins. Now, with Paterno's win's vacated, he is the winningest coach again.
Bowden said he remembers how upset he was having those wins taken away, but he acknowledges that a much more horrible situation occurred at Penn State than just academics or player issues.