Penn State Football Disgraced By NCAA

John Gilbert

NCAA president Mark Emmert appeared to be righteous and committed when he stood in front of the television cameras and media throng to announce the punishment that will render Penn State’s proud football team to also-ran status.
   For not acting more responsibly in reacting to the disclosure that former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky had committed numerous and repeated acts of sexual molestation on dozens of young Penn State boys, Emmert announced Penn State would face: A $60-million fine, the loss of 112 football victories from 1998-2011, 20 lost scholarships, and a four-year ban on any post-season play or on Bit Ten revenue from bowl games. Players at Penn State will be allowed to transfer without penalty to any other institution.
   For all the righteousness, however, we find out later that Emmert had contacted new Penn State president Rodney A Erickson, and informed him the NCAA would not hit Penn State with the “death penalty” of having to drop football for a season or more, if the university would accept the punishment he had in mind. Erickson said Penn State would accept it, so Emmert then -- and only then -- announced the punishment that had already been agreed to.
   During the announcement, Emmert said that the death penalty was not issued, because it would have hurt too many people who had nothing to do with the circumstances. And then he announced the punishment which -- except for the lost victories -- can only hurt the current and future athletes and coaches who had nothing to do with the circumstances. Huh?
   I have been outspoken in defending coach Joe Paterno, who was fired right before the end of the season and died almost immediately of cancer, and possibly a broken heart for the program that meant more than life to him. Paterno had built the Nittany Lions to a pedestal in major college athletics, free of the problems and allegations that haunt most major college football powers, such as Southern Cal, Miami, Florida, and many others.
   Yes, Sandusky was one of his assistants, and yes, when Paterno was informed by a younger assistant intern that he had witnessed Sandusky with a young lad in a shower at the football facility, he did hesitate a day before reporting it to athletic director Tim Curley. But he did report it, and Curley, vice president Gary Schultz, and Penn State president Graham B. Spanier were all made aware of it. Sandusky was dismissed, but still had privileges around the football facility. Former FBI chief Louis J. Freeh, who was hired by Penn State to investigate the situation, divulged some major findings. It became obvious that when the top officials discussed it, they were wishy-washy on reporting it. Paterno argued to try to suppress the disclosure for the sake of the program and the school’s reputation. That was wrong, but it also should have been predictable, because every major coach at every major college is guilty of having tunnel-vision for the sake of his program.
   To me, the critical point was that Curley, Schultz and Spanier had discussed it, and all agreed they would follow Pennsylvania state law calling for disclosure of any suspected child abuse to state agencies. But they didn’t. Curley told them that after discussing it with Paterno, maybe they should wait. Spanier was asked to tell the Penn State board of trustees about the situation, and all he said was that it was only a minor problem that would be taken care of -- and nobody on the board of trustees asked for further information.
    Without question, what we have here is institutional malfeasance, from the top down. Yes it was wrong for Paterno to try to suppress the information, but it was understandable because football is such a huge money-maker at major colleges that it, along with basketball, often lead administrations to overlook athletic circumstances until they boil over. It was unconscionable that Curley, Schultz and Spanier would give in and become a big dog willingly wagged by the tail, no matter how forceful and convincing Paterno was in his role as tail. All of them lost their jobs over this. Spanier was forced out, Schultz and Curley were fired, as was Paterno.
   This week, they tore down the statue of Joe Paterno outside the football stadium. Then came the heavy-handed penalties for what NCAA prez Emmert said was the most egregious crime in NCAA sports history. But you know what? It had nothing to do with sports. Sandusky is in jail, for life, presumably, after being found guilty of repeated sexual molestations. He was an assistant football coach, but he was a sly, sinister, conniving pervert more than that. He could have been assistant custodian, or assistant to the president of the university, and he might have committed the same atrocities -- and been less likely to be found out.
   So the old coach, and the current players, will pay the price for having Penn State never again be mentioned among the best programs in college football. Even if they someday return to their stature, the Nittany Lions will be known for having a black mark attached to their name and their heritage.
   Now let’s play the logic game. There are hundreds of major college football teams in the country, twice as many Division I basketball teams, and a growing number of Division I hockey teams playing. All of them have coaching staffs, with head and assistant coaches. On every one of those staffs, it’s constant good promotion to help bring young kids to games, to try to get them fired-up about the big college program in the area, especially while looking to the future. We would like to think that among all those thousands of assistant coaches bringing young lads to football games, there is not one other single one who lays a hand on any one of those young boys. We would like to think there are no other Jerry Sanduskys. But if you believe there are none, then you might be interested in buying some ocean-front property in Kansas.
    Mark Emmert said he hoped his action would make an example of Penn State for all other institutions to realize they couldn’t let something like the football program or any other athletic program become bigger than the college or university’s primary objective, which is academics and to improve young people for their lives ahead. Very noble. Does he really not know that at every major college, high-profile athletics make so much money that they indeed are tails wagging large dogs.
    But let’s just talk football. if Mr. Emmert really wants to make an example out of this horrible incident, maybe he should shut down the Penn State football program for a year, even though nobody on the current team, staff, or administration had anything to do with the Sandusky situation. But why stop there? Penn State was part of the Big Ten, so maybe the whole conference is guilty, so why not shut down the Big Ten in football for one season! In fact, why not shut down all college and university football programs in the country for one season. Then bring the sport back, but with a different perspective, eliminating all the suspected academic-rule-bending and under-the-table dealings.
    That’d teach ’em.

OLYMPIC GOLD
AND GOALS

    The 2012 Summer Olympics are about to start in London, and we all can get on our red, white and blue outfits and rattle our national pride at the whopping number of medals the U.S. is sure to stockpile.
    That’s the part of the Olympics that wears me out the most. Never mind the uniforms made in China, or the fact that only Team USA has uniforms that change the color of the flag they’ll be waving at every opportunity -- from royal to navy blue, to go with the red and white. Yeah, that annoys me too.
    While watching the very exciting U.S. championships and Olympic qualifying events, I realized that the top three American runners, jumpers, throwers, swimmers, and all other athletes, get to go to represent our country in the Olympics. Is it possible that the U.S. will have the most athletes at the Olympics? Some countries might send one to an event, some none.
    It’s great that the best competitors get to go, even if most of them come from a few countries, because it’s a great honor. Duluth’s own Kara Goucher, for example, was third in the marathon so she’s going, and she’s got a legitimate chance to win gold in the event, if she can show more progress from recent events.
    Nonetheless, it wears me out when every day, every national and local television station and newspaper will breathlessly tell us how many medals the U.S. won that day, and where the U.S. stands in the overall medal count, for gold, silver and bronze, and in total. I wonder if Equador keeps track? Or Latvia? My point is, maybe only the top competitor in each event should qualify for the Olympics. Since only one can win the gold anyway, maybe each country should have their best athlete out there with a shot at it. If the U.S. has the top three 200-meter dash men, should the U.S. win the gold, silver and bronze? Are we that greedy? Shouldn’t the Olympics be about every nation sending their best and competing in a climate of sportsmanship and camaraderie?
    And are you tired yet of all the buildup about the U.S. Olympic basketball team? I mean, if any other nation comes within 30 points of the NBA-laden U.S. team, it will only be due to complacency and/or arrogance. Yet because they are all identifiable U.S. sports stars, every media outlet reports breathlessly on every preliminary exhibition rout where the U.S. crushed some other poor country’s hopefuls. I’m as patriotic as the next guy -- moreso, maybe. But it’s almost to the point where my root-for-the-underdog mentality has me hoping the U.S. gets upset along the way somewhere. Oh, they’ll win the gold all right, but it would be good for their character to have them out there wearing their navy blue, made-in-China uniforms getting upset by Spain, or somebody.
     Enough of that rant. Go Kara, we’re all behind you in the marathon. And go USA, we all love to get the chant going again. But let’s stop with the medal count. At least, whenever it’s given, let’s also give the total number of athletes present from each country.