Football is forever changed at Penn State University and so is the legacy of legendary coach Joe Paterno. The statue of the coach that stood outside Beaver Stadium — the one that was supposed to stand for Paterno’s contributions in and around the university — has been removed.
The NCAA leveled a bevy of penalties against the once Big Ten powerhouse. While the football program avoided the death penalty, it will likely be on life support for years to come.
Before I go any further penning this column, let me be very clear. The crimes of Jerry Sandusky were heinous and the inactions of the Penn State administration are disgusting and flat out inexcusable. Children were raped and grown-ups in positions of trust and authority looked the other way and conspired to cover up those crimes. University officials let a serial pedophile go unleashed for years with no regard for the victims whose lives are forever changed.
A lot more is at stake here. It’s the grandstanding that gets under my skin.
So yes, there was clearly a problem and culture at Penn State that needed to be addressed.
"No price the NCAA can levy will repair the grievous damage inflicted by Jerry Sandusky on his victims," NCAA president Mark Emmert said in his much-dissected press conference. "However, we can make clear that the culture, actions and inactions that allowed them to be victimized will not be tolerated in collegiate athletics."
I couldn’t agree more with this and many of the statements Emmert made when he announced the sanctions against Penn State.
The question is did the NCAA’s actions really address the problem? I’m not convinced it did. The sanctions are a great public relations move for an entity that profits from the business culture it creates around its member institutions. Let’s not forget for one moment that major college sports are big business and net huge profits.
Among the sanctions are fines that will go "into an endowment for programs preventing child sexual abuse and/or assisting the victims of child sexual abuse." That is a great idea and the kind of thing the NCAA should be focused on. Focus on assistance, education and prevention ... not on dismantling a football program where the current players and coaches had nothing to do with this awful scandal.
“One of the grave dangers stemming from our love of sports is the sports themselves can become too big to fail and too big to even challenge," Emmert said. "The result can be an erosion of academic values that are replaced by hero worship and winning at all costs."
While Emmert and his posse stood tall and sounded firm, the fact is they really took aim at only one of the individuals the Freeh Report implicated.
Well you can’t accuse Penn State of winning at all costs. In fact, there are many who thought Paterno’s reign should have ended years ago based on his win-loss record. A bigger issue is that Paterno was an icon elevated far above the gridiron.
The Penn State football program had been viewed as ideal . . . having an ideal coach, doing things the ideal way . . . standing for academic excellence and integrity. That perception is now forever changed. There are some who still give Paterno credit for being a great coach and educator. It’s the humanitarian label many of us are struggling with.
Emmert called it “unprecedented failure resulting in unprecedented action”.
While Emmert and his posse stood tall and sounded firm, the fact is they really took aim at only one of the individuals the Freeh Report implicated and that is Paterno. He was stripped of 111 wins from 1998-2001 demoting him from being college football’s all-time leader. His legacy is now marred by the most horrific scandal in college sports. I am in no way defending Penn State or concerned with its win-loss record.
A lot more is at stake here. It’s the grandstanding that gets under my skin. Here’s a question: What will happen when the issues like those Miami were accused of right before the Sandusky story broke surface moving forward?
“Football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing and protecting young people,” Emmert said.
Really? We’ll just see what that $3 billion television contract and $600-million-a-year playoff system thinks about that. I hope Emmert is right and this is a turning point for the NCAA and how it handles everything that is wrong with college athletics.
Somehow I doubt it. It sounds like another dose of NCAA hypocrisy . . . this just happens to be the biggest one yet.
Kim Davis is a seasoned journalist with nearly two decades of experience covering sports, news and politics in television, radio and print. She’s a talk show host, keynote speaker, media coach, entrepreneur and health and fitness enthusiast. If you have questions or comments for Kim or about “Chalk Talk”, you can reach her at email@example.com.