If you haven’t read the full AG/Grand Jury report this is something you MUST do. As disturbing as this document is to read, upon completion it will give the proper perspective of how terrible this really is and that it could have been stopped years ago. Simply put, if you don’t read this you might as well completely stop following this case before it continues to spiral further downward and gets worse. And let me assure you it is going to get much, much worse.
Nowhere near the neighborhood of being a qualified journalist – not really sure what the qualifications are anymore – I would like to be at times. Now would be one of those times because I want to be covering Penn State tragedy which will soon become the biggest sports scandal this country has ever seen, and there’s not even going to be a close second.
What would I ask Joe Paterno?
“What if it was your boy allegedly being raped in the shower of the Penn State locker room by your longtime friend and colleague, Jerry Sandusky? Let me get this straight, you told only the necessary people in the Penn State hierarchy as required? You did or did not let an unimaginable crime committed run its course without earnestly following up to see if the punishment would fit this crime? Just to be sure, you thought it was enough to only tell the appropriate people that you knew a boy had allegedly been raped and felt comfortable enough after that to call it a day?”
And this is what’s so surprising. Paterno’s a man who led and taught thousands of young men how to do things his way, the right way. A man, admired because of the outstanding shield of character he built over decades, inexplicably let his guard down amidst a situation that desperately needed his courage and leadership. And because of this Penn State University no longer has Joe Paterno or a Nittany Lion as its face. All that’s left is a disgusting face of disgrace.
There is no question Paterno deserves to be loudly applauded for his admirable work at Penn State and in his community. His resume and record stands alone, so not fully following up on one impermissible phone call or a $100 handshake is understandable. These are issues he can wash his hands from and we’ll easily forgive him. But when a direct report of Paterno tells him he witnessed a boy allegedly being raped in a shower – or at the very least sexually taken advantage of – didn’t throw him into a fit of rage makes me wonder how this could happen. If he didn’t immediately halt this kind of behavior with swift justice, who in the Penn State administration or football office would go behind the back of the one man who owns a skeleton key to the kingdom? And because he didn’t act in a way I’m quite certain he painfully regrets, which he will no doubt take to his grave, boys were sexually molested for 15 years in the darkened shadows of the very kingdom he spent nearly his entire life building.
Could Paterno at age 84 really be this disconnected year after year, only living within the confines of his own happy valley? It’s no different than a slick PR team protecting a damaged brand from the analysts on Wall Street, or a beefy entourage protecting a Hollywood star from the harmful realities of the outside world. As many have written, this is no different than a parish protecting its priest from within. To be blunt, it’s incest at its ugliest. Guilty of all of these things, Penn State has long been an enabler of injustice to the highest degree.
When a severe problem arises, in-going and outgoing communication is the most critical and effective way to diagnose the problem and then create a strategy. Barricading oneself from the outside world when a severe problem presents itself offers protection, but proves to be is a terrible defense. And history shows us the cover up is always worse than the crime. What’s so unfathomable to me is that nobody viewed this as a severe problem so there was never even an attempt to mastermind a cover up. There were just heinous crimes. A cataclysmic failure to react appropriately at every level in the chain of command, the molested boys have been failed the greatest.
The blood of accused pedophile Jerry Sandusky has stained the hands of Penn State, along with Paterno’s, and it can’t be scrubbed off regardless of the amount of legal maneuvering. This ugly stain shall forever remain permanent in the minds of those who ever spend more than one second a trying to comprehend the depth and gravity of this tragedy.
Exclusive of people rightfully losing their jobs and going to prison, what’s a fitting punishment for Penn State? Many anchor the NCAA term Lack of Institutional Control (LIC) to a variety of things, most all of them clinging to the underbelly of college sports. If I asked 50 people to quickly produce a list of 10 things that might fall into or near the category of LIC, I’m sure a lot of duplication would exist. I bet no list would ever feature charges of a boy being raped by a former assistant coach in the shower of a University locker room. Or that a University would allow an apparent pedophile run his special program on their campus which gave him easy access to lure boys in with only the sole purpose of molestation in mind.
In this context, how does a head coach not fully addressing the issue of an assistant coach paying a recruit compare to a head coach not fully addressing the issue of a former assistant coach sexually abusing a boy? If SMU got the death penalty because things totally spiraled out of control at every level, with nobody putting a stop to it when they should have, what can be said about Penn State? If SMU got the death penalty for doing things like paying players what does Penn State deserve?
What has happened at Penn State is the definition of LIC and the death penalty is warranted. The NCAA should shut the entire athletic program down for at least one year to send a clear message. End of story. I’ve followed UK basketball religiously my entire life, and if this happened inside the UK program I would expect nothing less than a one-year ban. I would be ashamed to wear anything with the UK logo on it, or even attend a game until every single person affiliated with this case was dismissed from UK. End of story.
While the charges involve boys being sexually molested by Jerry Sandusky, the story is also about the enormous machine that covered the entire thing over with dirt. Does this mean blame can be farmed out to places beyond Penn State? I don’t think a scorched earth policy of blame is necessary – deflecting responsibility from the guilty parties is indefensible – but I do believe we can point to several contributors to the machine that steamrolled these boys and stole their voices.
In 2011 the NCAA orbits around the multi-billion business of college football, and for the biggest of football programs it’s a “win at all costs” approach to keep up with thy neighbor. Universities depend on football revenue to fund a variety of programs in the same manner that a fan depends on a University to trot out a winning football team. And as we’ve seen across the college landscape of late, it has never mattered less to do whatever it takes for a team to achieve winner status. How many major programs have been put on probation the last 10 years… 25? Hypothetically, let’s say it requires Program X chronologically following 10 steps to build a successful winner. Lately, for some reason it’s OK for key decision makers to think only six or seven steps need to be taken to score a perfect 10. Even pretending to take all 10 steps is now just an afterthought. Just like at Penn State, winning sits atop the college football chain of command and it’s the only thing everyone reports to.
Enron… Global Crossing… Worldcom… Arthur Anderson… Tyco… NCAA. Yes, the NCAA is a business and it’s failing mightily. As we all now know, nothing is too big to fail. When a business puts winning, breaking rules and making money above all else this tends happens. But company failure doesn’t arrive overnight, just as employees don’t break bad overnight.
Television revenue began widening the street between college football neighbors and the silly BCS format only widened it. As a result the current two-class system became even more visible. Automatic qualifiers from specific conferences who could participate in BCS games, thus receiving the huge payouts that came with it, has led to the tipping point: the destruction of conference affiliation. Instead of drafting and enforcing new rules and regulations to grow alongside the college football money making machine that it is today, the NCAA has turned a blind eye and failed miserably. It has allowed college football to turn into a modern day gold rush and cash grab to the already wealthy. For those programs already living in the best zip code it’s a fiesta of unlimited roses, oranges and sugar cane. (Attempted gold diggers please return home and take a Sun Belt for your efforts.)
Ultimately, the cash grab and winning at all costs mentality does indeed carry a hefty price tag. Over time this nebulous line of thinking when it comes to college sports has equally jaded the thought process of coaches, university administrators and fans. It has completely erased the line between right and wrong when trying to architect a winning program. It has eroded the ability of so many people in the position to stop things they clearly see as wrong. Most importantly, moral people no longer posses the will (or power) to even see or stop the immoral. When important jobs, iconic reputations and millions of dollars hang in the balance how dare anyone interfere with the goose that lays the golden egg.
The Penn State situation, combined with the NCAA agreeing to pay its athletes and teams speed dating conferences has made 2011 an unmatched disaster. As it stands, the NCAA is aimlessly wondering down a bridge leading to nowhere so don’t be shocked when this bridge collapses in a few years.
President Mark Emmert you’ve got a catastrophe waiting on line one, but before you pick up that phone I recommend you think about why you’ve been called. I hope you’re prepared for what you’re going to say because you hold the power to shape the future of the NCAA. My advice would be to pick up that call and not bury your head in the sand because that strategy doesn’t work. You are the chain of command and integrity, courage and decency have never sounded more important than winning to me as they do right now. Make anyone who has ever worn a school color proud, because right now it feels like the only thing any of us are wearing is a scarlet letter and it’s more than shameful.
Tyler B. works as a communications specialist for a Louisville, Kentucky company. A lifetime SEC fan – long before it became “acceptable” to cheer for every team in the conference – he plans on writing several books about college football that have a fantastic chance of never being written.