Judgement Day

“The historically unprecedented actions by the NCAA today are warranted by the conspiracy of silence that was maintained at the highest levels of the university in reckless and callous disregard for the children.” -Ed Ray, Chairman NCAA Executive Committee

The statue of Joe Paterno was removed from prominence on the Penn State campus yesterday.  And today the NCAA followed suit with his record.  The governing body of college sports promised unprecedented penalties against Penn State University.  And this morning, they delivered:

  • Four year ban on bowl games
  • Reduction in scholarships from 25 to 15 over next four years
  • $60 million fine (one year gross revenue of PSU football team)
  • Wins from 1998-2011 wiped out (removes 111 wins, Paterno loses coaching record)
  • All current players allowed to transfer penalty free
  • Five years probation

Not exactly the death penalty some were calling for, but the football program is certainly on life support.  And it will be for some time.  Ed Ray, President of Oregon State and Chair of the NCAA Executive Committee summarized the ruling, “It should be a wake up call to everyone in college sports that our first responsibility…is to respect, fairness, civility, honesty…”

Do colleges and universities have too much power?  Who is overseeing the activities of academic institutions?  Have sports trumped educational value?  These are just some of the questions left in the wake of the Penn State scandal.  Mark Emmert, President of the NCAA acknowledged as much.

“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 higher education.”

Funds from the fine will go toward an endowment run by the university to detect, treat, and prevent child abuse.  Is it enough?  Of course not.  Emmert acknowledged that no price can be put on the damage victims suffered at the hands of Jerry Sandusky.

“No matter what we do here, there is no action we can take that will remove their pain and anguish.  But, what we can do is impose sanctions that both reflect the magnitude of these terrible acts and that also ensure Penn State will rebuild an athletic culture that went horribly awry.”

…And left many victims in its path.  Fallout from the scandal has already had a devastating impact on those with ties to the school…players, students, staff, alumni, and fans of Penn State University.  But all pale in comparison to the lives of innocent children, changed forever by the crimes committed by Jerry Sandusky and the school’s refusal to acknowledge them.  For all the talk of Nittany Lion football and how it will rebuild, let us keep one thing in mind.  It was about them.  And it still is.  Rebuilding a football team is one thing.  Rebuilding lives…another.


The Fall of the Empire

The term empire derives from the Latin imperium (power, authority). An imperial political structure is established and maintained in two ways: (i) as a territorial empire of direct conquest and control with force, and (ii) as a coercive, hegemonic empire of indirect conquest and control with power.

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh released his report on the Penn State abuse scandal this week and answered many lingering questions.  But those answers just seem to conjure up more questions.  How did this happen?  How was it allowed to continue?  How did so many people in positions of power shirk moral responsibility?  And for what?  At what price?

What could have changed the course of these events?  In short, a woman.  Had there been a woman in a position of authority as the allegations against Jerry Sandusky surfaced, we could have written a different ending to this story.  Lives could have been altered.  A woman would have put protecting children over preserving legacies.  A woman never would have walked away from a child being victimized by Jerry Sandusky in a locker room shower.  When university officials didn’t take proper action, a woman would have taken it upon herself to get authorities involved.  Sadly, there is no hero in this story.  Male or female.

Where do we go from here?  Many decisions will be made in the coming months, starting with the people who willingly turned their backs on innocent children.  The future of the football program is in question.  Some are calling on the NCAA to shut down Penn State football for a year while they sort through the fallout from this tragedy.  What about the current players?  They are also innocent victims and don’t deserve to have their futures tainted by a past they had nothing to do with.  Chicago Tribune writer David Haugh suggests players should be allowed to transfer out of Penn State without penalty.  I agree.

We now know the truth.  The next step is obvious.  The final step in the dismantling of any empire is the removal of the statue of the once beloved leader.  It shouldn’t be ceremonious and celebratory like Saddam Hussein’s ultimate dethroning.  More appropriately, Joe Paterno’s likeness should be removed in the middle of the night.  Under a cover of darkness.  And a veil of secrecy.  Much like the crimes committed and the ongoing coverup that sustained them.  And in its place…nothing.  Just a broken slab of concrete, like the broken lives that remain.  And a plaque that reads: Never again.