OK. So several of you asked for my thoughts on the sanctions levied against the Penn State University Football program last week. I initially thought that it would be unwise for me to weigh in. It is certainly a subject that I am passionate about. One that I am emotionally attached to. My concern was that those who oppose my point of view would remain as callous as they have been in the past, that logic and thought would not be applied to the subject, and thus I would be doing nothing but setting myself up to get angry and to hold a grudge against some folks. I have given myself a week to settle down, really think about what has transpired, and try to look at different points of view. So I will offer my thoughts. Realistically, I don’t much care who does or doesn’t agree with me. These are, after all, only my opinions and thoughts. Take them for what they are worth…
So to re-visit what actually happened. All I can say is that I am extremely disappointed in the senior members of the university that actively worked to cover up what was happening. This includes the three we all have discussed before: President Graham Spanier, Vice President Gary Schultz, and Athletic Director Tim Curley. My disappointment also extends to Joe Paterno. While I don’t necessarily accept every part of the Freeh report (because it jumps to a lot of conclusions, failed to address inconsistencies in its conclusions, and failed to interview some very key people), the report does make it clear that to some degree all four men are responsible for Jerry Sandusky continuing to have the opportunity to molest innocent boys.
I say to some degree, not because I blindly don’t want to accept facts, but because there are inconsistencies, there are assumptions made, and because I am not willing to accept that all are either 100% guilty or 100% not guilty. I don’t think anyone but those four men know just how it all went down. As for Paterno, it is easy to attack a dead man. It is clear that he didn’t do enough, and therefore I am fine with his being removed as the Penn State coach. But I am still not sold on him being the monster that some want him made out to be. What he did do is unclear. But what he didn’t do is less unclear. He failed to properly follow up on the allegations. His inaction put young boys at risk. His reputation is ruined, despite the plethora of good things that he did. This one act has tarnished his legend forever. That is a sad reality.
Despite that fact, we will never know why he acted as he did. There are those who assume it was to “protect the football program from embarrassment.” But you don’t know that. Allow me to offer an alternative theory: Paterno was an old-school Italian. Italians of that generation were very loyal. Perhaps he did what he did out of some sort of misguided loyalty to a former friend, an attempt to stop the bad acts while getting his friend help. I am NOT saying that this is the answer. I am only saying that it is a possibility. One of several I have thought of. As I said, we may never know the reason why he acted as he did. But the point is that everyone needs to accept the fact that they also don’t know and there are many possibilities. Protecting the football program is a logical reason, and maybe the actual reason, but you don’t know that. Neither do I. We never will. That should be kept in mind as you pass judgement and scream for punishment.
I am acutely aware that there are some who have decided that you know everything about what happened, and with your all knowing abilities you have reserved the right to pass judgement. Consequently you will claim that some blind loyalty to Paterno or an unwillingness to face the facts has clouded my judgement and won’t allow me to admit that Paterno was a dirtbag who did X, Y, and Z. To you I say save your breath. Your close-mindedness and rush to judgement without facts are a key shortcoming that you have to deal with.
As for the sanctions levied against Penn State by the NCAA. I certainly think that they were beyond harsh.But I also think they are beyond what the NCAA had the right to impose and that they were done for entirely the wrong reasons. Further, the statements made my NCAA President Emmert were short-sighted, self-serving, and factually incorrect. Let me start with what was actually said during the announcement that I patently disagree with….
Our goal is not to just to be punitive, but to make sure the University establishes an athletic culture and daily mindset in which football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing, and protecting young people.
First of all, the goal was just to be punitive. Nothing more and nothing less. These sanction were unnecessary if the intent was to “change the culture.” The scandal itself changed the culture. Not a single person impacted by the sanctions levied by the NCAA are among those guilty of the horrific things that happened. In fact it can be argued that NONE of the people who are guilty were impacted by this at all and 100% of those impacted had nothing to do with it. Great job, NCAA, you punished EVERYONE ELSE except the guilty parties. You even punished at least one of the victims, who after the announcement issued a press release stating he disagreed with the penalties and noting that as a die-hard PSU football fan, he is now being punished for the crimes committed against him.
Additionally, here is where I have a serious issue with what the NCAA’s carefully crafted message is implying. Football was placed ahead of educating young people? How exactly is that the case? How fitting that after making such a ridiculous statement, Penn State was again the NUMBER ONE major football school on the list of academic achievement. They graduate a higher percentage of their student athletes than ANY OTHER MAJOR FOOTBALL PROGRAM (link will take you to article). If you want to attempt to claim that football was placed ahead of protecting young people, that is one thing. But to add educating into the statement, you are flat out lying.
And that brings to mind another point I want to make about what is being said out there lately. I have read dozens of articles where the statement has been made that this scandal ends the “grand experiment” of Joe Paterno and proves it to ultimately be a failure. WHAT?!?!?!? This scandal had nothing to do with the “grand experiment.” For those who don’t know what I am talking about. Paterno’s grand experiment was to prove that a college can remain successful in major football while still adhering to the primary purpose of attending college: getting a good education. This scandal had nothing to do with that. The grand experiment was a resounding success. They are the best football program in the country in terms of academic achievement. Anyone claiming the experiment was a failure on the heels of this scandal is clearly one of those close-minded folks who lack critical thinking ability that I mentioned previously.
More than 100 years ago, the NCAA was created to assure that sports are fully integrated into our colleges and universities and that athletic programs wholly embrace the values of a higher education.
As far as this statement goes, as I mentioned above, this scandal had nothing to do with the “values of a higher education.” Trying to consistently link this scandal to some sort of academic failure at Penn State University is misleading and flat out wrong….
And for those of you who are saying that these were just statements and didn’t really mean anything, how about the following “sanctions” imposed by the NCAA:
Fifth, the University’s athletic program will serve a five-year period of probation, during which it must work with an Academic Integrity monitor of the Association’s choosing.
In closing, let me say that this case involves tragic and tragically unnecessary circumstances. One of the grave dangers stemming from our love of sports is that the sports themselves can become “too big to fail,” or even too big to challenge.
The result can be an erosion of academic values that are replaced by the value of hero worship and winning at all costs. All involved in intercollegiate athletics must be watchful that programs and individuals do not overwhelm the values of a higher education.
It is clear that the NCAA is positing that Penn State, in addition to the ethical issues (which were clearly present), was plagued with some sort of academic integrity issues (which clearly were NOT present). They were so bad that the school was placed on an academic probation that is significantly longer than schools which were actually guilty of academic impropriety. USC received 3 years probation for their cheating scandal. Boise State got three years. North Carolina got two years. Penn State got 5 years, and they didn’t even have any academic issues.
As for the actual football penalties imposed…
First, the NCAA is imposing a fine of $60 million upon the University with the funds to be used to establish an endowment to support programs around the nation that serve the victims of child sexual abuse and seek to prevent such abuse from happening. This amount is the equivalent to one year’s gross revenue by the football team.
OK, I can live with this. It continues the effect of punishing those who were innocent, though. For those who don’t know how major university athletic programs work, the big money sports like football and basketball help to fund all the other sports that don’t make money (volleyball, wrestling, field hockey, track, etc). So all PSU athletes will suffer from the fine (not to mention that the financial impact to PSU will be far greater than this as most estimates put the total $ that Penn State will ultimately lose via repercussions from the sanctions and lawsuits will top a quarter of a billion dollars).
Second, Penn State football will be banned from bowl games and any other post-season play for four years.
Completely punitive in nature. Punishing those who had nothing to do with this and having zero impact on changing the culture at Penn State. But I don’t care as much about this. You are just punishing the Penn State fans and the bowls themselves as PSU fans generally sell out bowl games no matter where they are. With the other penalties, they wouldn’t have gone to a good bowl anyway. So some crappy bowl that doesn’t normally draw a PSU size crowd just lost lost the opportunity to make more money.
Third, the Penn State football team will have its initial scholarships reduced from 25 to 15 for a period of four years.
Oh good, on top of hurting the university, they have merely ensured that 60 more high school kids in America won’t be afforded the opportunity to attend an institution of higher learning. Overall, no matter how you play it out, there are 60 less scholarships out there to be had. A small number for sure in a country of 300 million, but I thought education was important. Plus, given the high academic standards in the Penn State football program, 60 more athletes will be be denied the chance to get a great education in a top ten public university in America.
In order to minimize the negative impact on student-athletes, the NCAA will allow any entering or returning football student-athletes to transfer and immediately compete at the transfer university, provided he is otherwise eligible.
Even better, create a situation where other major football schools look to actively benefit from this tragedy. How fitting that USC, fresh off their own post-season bans and reductions in scholarships, was the first school to start contacting Penn State stars. What a great way to handle things, in addition to hurting the football program as a whole, you tell all these student athletes that they have the option to leave all their friends, relationships, academic achievements and just go to another school. And here is the best part, you think they should thank you for giving them the option to give up all they have built to start over somewhere else.
Fourth, the NCAA vacates all wins of the Penn State football team from 1998 to 2011 and the records will reflect these changes.
Again…. Nothing but vindictiveness and pettiness. Those wins were not the result of cheating or academic fraud. The only person the record mattered to was Paterno, who is now dead, and the players, who had nothing to do with this. So what reason was there to vacate 112 wins? Those games were won on the field by players who worked their asses off and did nothing wrong. The only reason was to be petty. Pound of flesh and all…
And here is one of my favorite comments from the press conference. When discussing why they didn’t instead impose the “death penalty” by shutting down the program completely for a number of years, they offered this gem:
Suspension of the football program would bring with it significant unintended harm to many who had nothing to do with this case. The sanctions we have crafted are more focused and impactful than a blanket penalty.
How exactly did the sanctions imposed in some way eliminate the problem of causing significant harm to many who had nothing to do with this case? As I noted above, the “many who had nothing to do with this case” are the ONLY ones harmed by the penalties handed down.
And this is a big part of what upsets me about all the sanctions imposed. They only harm people who didn’t have anything to do with it. And I am tired of hearing from everyone that “yeah, but that is how it always works out. Every program that gets in trouble for whatever reason ends up with the innocent paying the price for the sins of the past.” That doesn’t make it right, people. It is dead wrong, not just in this case, but in EVERY case. If your penalty punishes others rather than the guilty, then you better find a different punishment.
How anyone can think it justifiable that the Penn State fans, the Penn State players, or anyone else has to pay the price for the actions they didn’t commit is beyond me. I have long believed that this is a fatal flaw in the NCAA punishment system. Until this is fixed, we will continue to somehow justify making innocent people suffer the punishment for crimes and acts committed by others. This is true now at Penn State, just as it was true at USC, Georgia Tech, Boise State, North Carolina, SMU, Indiana, and every other school handled this way by the NCAA.
I would like to add another thought about the “holier than thou” stance from hypocrites like Mark Emmert and the rest of the NCAA. I would like for them to admit their dramatic role in creating the very problem they claim to be working to overcome. If there is a mentality of football (or basketball or whatever other sport) is bigger than academics, bigger than ethics, bigger than whatever, then that mentality was created, nurtured, and condoned by the NCAA. THEY created that mentality by making the sport what it is. Creation of the BCS was the latest debacle from the NCAA that has been geared toward one thing and one thing only…. making money.
In making college sports a big time money maker, the NCAA is the primary offender in creating any type of culture that places sports programs (and the money they make) ahead of academics or ethics in many schools. In the end I believe that in the Penn State case, the ultimate reason for the cover-up was to protect the football program. But it wasn’t because they were worried that the reputation would be impacted negatively, it was because they were worried that the revenue stream would be impacted negatively.
I would just once like to hear the NCAA admit that they are just as much to blame for any “football is god” culture that exists on today’s campuses. But you can bet that we won’t hear that. Because the NCAA is too busy playing judge, jury, and executioner when kids who make them millions step out of line or when a program acts in exactly the manner that should be expected in the environment created by the NCAA.
Further, I would like to add that I think it is absolutely despicable that it has now come out the Penn State’s current President signed an agreement accepting the penalties that the NCAA gave to the university, but did so under threat. He was told that he could accept these punishments or the NCAA would instead give the university a 4 year death penalty and a $500 million fine. That amounts to signing a contract under duress and thus makes the contract null and void, in my opinion. The board should refuse to accept these penalties and take the NCAA to court questioning their right to take actions that are not in line with the scope and jurisdiction of the NCAA charter.
And for all of you applauding the demise of Penn State football. Rejoice. Soak it in. You demanded your pound of flesh for what happened there. You got your vindictive wish because the NCAA did what every corporation you detest does: They extracted your pound of flesh in order to protect their revenue stream. Problem is that they took their pound of flesh from innocent people, myself included.
Criminal actions were taken by a small group of men in the Penn State leadership. And criminal courts will punish them for what they did, exactly as should happen. Lacking the ability to take credit for what the criminal courts did, the NCAA merely found a way to punish someone, anyone, in order to cater to public pressure.
In the end, I certainly hope that these ridiculous penalties will not hurt the program as deeply as the initial speculations have discussed. A big step towards that came today when many of the great 2013 recruiting class at Penn State (#1 HS QB, #1 HS TE, #2 HS OG, #8 HS DT, among others) reaffirmed their commitment to come play football at Penn State University. I am quite proud that they are doing so. I am equally proud of the vast majority of current players who together made the decision that they are not leaving Penn State for another football school. That is Penn State pride. Despite the NCAA’s attempt to call the integrity and quality of the university’s football program, these young men still see the value of a Penn State education (one of the top ten public universities in America) and a tradition rich football program that they are proud to be a part of.
On September 1, 2012, the Penn State football team begins their quest to tell the NCAA to kiss their ass. I will be there with them. I will always proudly be Penn State…