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Who’s To Blame For Penn State?

With the recently released report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, if it wasn’t clear before, it is perfectly clear now that in addition to Jerry Sandusky, so many adults at Penn State seriously failed the children Sandusky molested.  These include senior officials, including the university president, and of course, Joe Paterno – the head football coach, HNIC, former saint with his statue on campus which now serves primarily as a reminder of the lengths that he was willing to take in order to get it.

Forget the old man schtick…Paterno knew what was going on.  And he conducted the orchestra in order to shield himself, his program, and many others besides the ones that needed shielding the most – the victims.

So, it would seem to follow, that clearly, it’s Paterno’s fault.  And, while he has blame, there are others who are probably even more culpable.

NCAA, please take a bow.

While it is considering casting the dealth penalty on the Penn State football program, the NCAA, with it’s exploitation of teenagers in order to enrich adults creates many of the problems that plagued Penn State.  Cash becomes king and coaches get their share if successful while universities do too.  Is it any wonder then that coaches who bring in millions to the university get paid millions?  That they are the most powerful person on campus?  That people, starting all the way at the top, lie, cheat, change test scores and pressure teachers for better grades for their team, look the other way when rules (and laws) are broken, and in this most egregious case, allow 10 year olds to get sodomized in order to keep the gravy train rolling?

As a friend of mine described, to act like this is something that could only happen at Penn State is unfair.  The way college sports is run and the stakes involved create dangerous hierarchies and numerous other deities on many many many other campuses where major college basketball and football are played…

Alabama (Saban)
Duke (Coach K)
Izzo (Michigan State)
Beamer (VaTech)
Donovan (Florida)
Stoops (Oklahoma)

(just to name a few)

It’s only by the grace of God, and not necessarily the grace of the aforementioned gods, that more scandals don’t occur –  or maybe we just dont know about them (yet).

The NCAA could change this right now.  If it wanted to.  And it doesn’t take the dealth penalty to do so.  They could make collegiate football and basketball actually collegiate again, instead of pre-professional.  They could reduce the demands – shorter schedules, less practice time – on their student athletes to allow them to go to class and study.  They could follow the Ivy League’s lead and stop giving out academic scholarships.

Of course, there goes the money, so….

You may have noticed one major idea that is missing.  I’m not the biggest advocate of paying players.  Not because I don’t think they deserve it.  But more because it reinforces the idea that college football and basketball should be money making endeavours.

Instead, I continue to believe that developmental leagues (serious ones, not the silliness of the NBDL), along the lines of the major league baseball minor league system should be set up.  We don’t hear about similar stories in college baseball.  And I dont think it’s because the players and coaches are better people.  It’s because those teenagers that really want to make money and focus solely on baseball sign (sometimes for millions) with a minor league team and do that.  And those that want to get an education (or aren’t good enough to play professionally) go to college and play there.  That makes the college baseball product worse, and by extension, less popular and less lucrative.  But it also makes it collegiate.

So, while people continue to shake their head at Penn State and Joe Paterno (and rightfully so), remember what contributed to creating this monster.  And realize that, potentially, the only way to dismantle what created that monster is to set up an MLB-style minor league system for basketball and football to force the NCAA to do what it should do in the first place.

Who wants in?

**UPDATE** (7/23/2012)
And so today the boom was lowered on Penn State.  Bowl bans, fines, scholarships stripped, vacated wins…basically a college football death penalty in spirit without the moniker.  Sure, the football program will continue to exist and students can still play there, but it was clear that the NCAA wanted to send a message and essentially cripple the program.

You’ll get no argument from me on the decision itself.  However, in doing so, the NCAA exposed itself to it’s own hypocrisy.  In explaining why he dealt so harshly with Penn State, NCAA president, Mark Emmert, spoke several times about “culture” today.  He warned of “hero worship” and mentalities that enabled “too big to fail, too big to challenge” athletic programs that result…

“If you find yourself in a place where the athletic culture is taking precedence over academic culture then a variety of bad things can occur.”

That sounds great.  And what exactly is the NCAA going to do about it?  No matter how Emmert dealt with Penn State, that doesn’t change the fact that, as mentioned previously, the problems that Emmert accurately notes don’t stop in Happy Valley, and, worse, are encouraged by an NCAA organization that is looking to make money even more central to the college football experience as they revamp their bowl system for explicitly that purpose.

All of these people, including Emmert, are smart enough to know that.  They know that nothing has really changed now that Penn State has been sanctioned.   So, in case it’s not obvious by now…

It’s the system, stupid…



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