Yesterday I wrote about my feelings on the NCAA’s position to lay sanctions on Penn State stemming from the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse. I’m following up with that post today now that the NCAA penalties have been announced.
The Hypocrisy of the NCAA
I’m not going to spend a lot of words detailing my feelings on the actual sanctions. This post isn’t about that. It’s about the hypocritical manner in which the NCAA operated with its decision. A group of men at Penn State abused their positions of power. One of those men did so directly with children, luring them into trusting him and them using their trust against them to sexually assault them and rape them. The others abused their power by turning their heads and allowing the actions of the man first mentioned to continue. Ironically, a group in the NCAA, president Mark Emmert and the executive committee, abused their powers in an attempt to punish those responsible for these heinous crimes.
Emmert and the executive committee doled out punishments without going through the procedures and processes that are set for them to handle disciplinary actions. As Emmert stated, this scenario was far beyond anything the NCAA has seen, warranting special circumstances for him and the executive committee to act out of normal process. But keep in mind, the NCAA cannot address criminal or civil violations, they are responsible for addressing athletic violations. What they were essentially addressing was a cover up to protect a sports program. They actually have dealt with that before. A few times actually. The action being covered up has never approached this disgusting scenario. Covering up a tattoo in exchange for football merchandise ring in no way nears allowing a pedophile to run around campus freely. I’m not saying they weren’t warranted in bringing some kind of penalties. I’m saying follow your own processes so you can’t receive this type of criticism. You can’t look to past instances for how to handle the disciplinary action, but you can look to it for following the procedures. Don’t give people any opportunity to criticize your actions.
Furthermore, Emmert made comments about the NCAA no longer allowing sports programs to be above the education of young people and the protection of their well being. The tone has to be set that football is not the most important thing. His exact statement was, “Football will never be put ahead of educating, protecting and nurturing young people.” Um, ironically I think you just put football ahead of everything else with these sanctions. The sanctions were aimed nearly entirely at football. If you wanted to set the tone that football isn’t everything, I think you missed. You punished a bunch of kids and their fans by killing their football program. A bunch of 18-22 year olds will now have their college experience extremely altered. Some will play out their athletic careers playing for nothing. Others will transfer, affecting their educational, athletic and social lives. Yes, Sandusky’s actions altered the lives of a number of victims. But is the proper response to go after innocent students? This went beyond football and the punishment shouldn’t have focused just on football if a statement truly wanted to be made.
A Missed Opportunity for Change
Mark Emmert made several comments when announcing the sanctions against Penn State about not allowing something like this to happen again. I hope that the sanctions against Penn State actually have that affect, but I don’t think they will. I heard someone, either Colin Cowherd or Jay Bilas, mention this morning that punishing Tom doesn’t make Bob change. And I think that’s completely true in this Penn State instance. I think what will actually happen is that Bob (other schools) will exploit Tom’s (Penn State) punishment by pilfering Tom’s recruits and current players. Tom will learn from it, Bob will not.
Alabama. Auburn. Texas. Oklahoma. Notre Dame. Oregon. Ohio State. Michigan. Georgia. Florida State. Texas A&M. Florida. Tennessee. Texas Tech. West Virginia. All of these schools have a football first mentality. The football program rules all. Do the sanctions against Penn State do anything to change the athletic cultures at these schools and others like them? What actions are being taken against these schools? No, there wasn’t a child rapist running amuck at the previously mentioned education institutions, and I’m not insinuating anything along those lines is happening at any of them, but the atmosphere is ripe for cover ups to protect the football program. I grew up less than twenty miles from Notre Dame and I know of special circumstances that were afforded to that program and the players within it. This football first mentality exists far beyond State College, PA.
Mark Emmert and the NCAA had the opportunity to make sweeping changes that would affect the broad college football landscape. Instead, they acted in a rushed, short sighted manner in order to gain some short term PR benefits. Will these sanctions prevent future abuse of power? I think not. These sanctions against Penn State won’t result in true change. They issued deep and harsh punishment. The only aspect of the sanctions that is proactive in nature and can make a positive impact is the $60 million dollar fine. Everything else was reactionary.
Another aspect of the sanctions is an “Athletics Integrity Monitor” that will be placed in the Penn State athletic program. (Side note – I’m not against this, but it doesn’t make sense. Every NCAA school currently has a compliance officer, designed to ensure all NCAA rules are followed. By Emmert’s logic, since it was in his authority to address Penn State’s ethics issues, shouldn’t the compliance officer already be handling the job of this Athletics Integrity Monitor? Why wasn’t Penn State’s compliance officer just fired and replaced?) Aside from my tactical questions about the position, I actually think it’s a good move, but why wasn’t it decided that every school have one of these Athletics Integrity Monitors? Bleacher Report’s Daniel Krem posed this same question.
There were many options for addressing Penn State in a way that could spur positive change. To truly make change, far reaching and progressive change is required. To do that, the NCAA would’ve had to admit some fault in its administration of all schools though. I don’t believe Emmert or the executive committee was willing to do that.
I have a few ideas for some of these changes and sanctions against Penn State. I wonder, were any of these considered?
- A higher monetary fine. I think I would’ve slapped a higher fine on the school without taking scholarships from the football team. Utilize the team as an advantage for something positive. Keep the $60 million dollar fine and add to that all ticket sales revenue from the football program for the next three years and 50% of all football team merchandise revenue.
- Athletics Integrity Monitors at all NCAA schools. I covered the rationale for that earlier.
- Limits on annual alumni donations to athletic departments. Large alumni donations lead to football programs becoming powerful. Look at Oregon as an example. That program struggled through much of the 80s and 90s. Then Nike’s Phil Knight decided he wanted to invest in his alma mater’s football program. He made large, large donations. Where do you think the money comes from for the 37 new jersey designs they unveil every year? Now Oregon has a good football team and a powerful one. I’m not saying Oregon has had any improprieties near the extent Penn State has, but the point is the atmosphere is ripe for the abuse of power.
- Annual volunteer hours. The Penn State football team could’ve had a minimum number of annual volunteer hours they must serve for the next five years. These hours could’ve been mandated to go toward groups that benefit the victims of child abuse.
There are many more ideas like this that could’ve been considered, but were sanctions like this considered? Sanctions that actually result in changed behavior and positive steps toward changing the culture of college athletics? Probably not, but maybe I’m wrong…