IMO, the culture of football at Penn State had become so large that Paterno was viewed as a God. Because of that, and only because of that, was there a cover-up.
The cover up was specifically to protect the image and reputation of Penn State football, because it had become bigger than the school and bigger than the safety of children.
They needed to be brought back to reality.
If people didn't care about football as much, this cover-up would have been exposed right away. But because people did, it was hidden away for years.
Penn State football became bigger than Penn State University. The point is that the "culture" needs to be changed there, and it will be. Football should not be the top priority for any University, and it most certainly should not come at the expense of innocent lives.
Point blank, football was the reason for this cover-up, and football should suffer for it. Yes, innocent people who had nothing to do with it are affected. Yes, that does suck. However, that's just a byproduct of what happens when the NCAA punishes someone, and yes, I firmly believe someone needed to pay. And anyone there who is crying for "fairness" at this point needs to look at the big picture of what really happened.
NCAA Bylaw 19.01.2 Exemplary Conduct.
"Individuals employed by or associated with member institutions for the administration, the conduct or the coaching of intercollegiate athletics are, in the final analysis, teachers of young people. Their responsibility is an affirmative one, and they must do more than avoid improper conduct or questionable acts. Their own moral values must be so certain and positive that those younger and more pliable will be influenced by a fine example. Much more is expected of them than of the less critically placed citizen."
Penn State clearly failed to follow this. The punishment is not for the crime, but for the heinous cover-up which is clearly against this NCAA Bylaw.