The whole situation is grotesque. The sports and moral conversations, the reaction in some quarters, the fines, the implications…
I debated those implications with friends and co-workers yesterday and today: what this means for college sports, football, the Big 10, even my own Fighting Illini. But I kept thinking about what this means to the whole institution of college sports. Kept thinking about people at high levels in positions of trust, who didn’t have the fortitude to act on behalf of society’s most vulnerable. Several commentators pointed to similar scandals faced by the Catholic Church – an apt and damning comparison.
Because football was like religion at State College, PA. Joe Paterno was the Arch Bishop. Paterno – the guy so many held up as an example of college athletics, done the right way, and it turns out he was no better than the rest. Worse, maybe, because his hubris and vaunted position not only afforded him the leeway to do nothing, it also obliged others to cover up on his behalf.
Would it have been a different at any number of other schools where football or basketball rule? Didn’t Ohio State receive their sanctions because Tressel failed to act and then covered up, at USC, Carroll pled ignorance on compliance and looked the other way before jumping ship. No one at Auburn knew anything about Cam Newton’s father. Urban Meyer couldn’t be held responsible for all his Florida players getting arrested. Calipari doesn’t know a thing about brothers and family members of players getting paid, couldn’t be held responsible for Derrick Rose cheating on the ACT. Jim Boeheim at Syracuse, Calhoun at Connecticut with their woeful graduation rates and players getting arrested…
What does all this say about the culture of college sports?
The NCAA’s announcement on Penn State was rife with hypocrisy, warning against ‘football first’ institutions and lack of accountability. Who has fed into the hype for decades, who benefits from the bowl payouts and television contracts? Yes, the same NCAA that never seems to come down hard on certain schools, that never seems to have enough investigators to enforce compliance. Many, many pundits have pointed this out.
Yes, Penn State’s football program has been blasted to refuse, but the greater NCAA system remains. The real question is whether the NCAA will wake up and devote more resources to compliance and really start to enforce accountability. If not, perhaps the whole system needs to go away.
The situation at Penn State should be a wake-up call. A horrible, shameful wake-up call.