What took place at Penn State – where a heinous crime and series of incidents were overlooked in order to protect the storied tradition of the football team – isn’t all that different from what happens at major universities across the country where kids are given money, cars, airline tickets, preferred housing and – I’m guessing here – arrangements for other things of a more personal nature that we probably can only imagine…like cheerleaders and pretty girls who are disguised as “teaching assistants” or tutors.
It’s all done in order to have the best football team. Or the best basketball team. Or the best baseball team. In order to get the best players, you have to create the best deal. In order to keep the program buzzing along at Mach-12 speed, you occasionally have to do something as unimaginable as ignoring a child predator hanging out on your college campus. You just can’t call attention to the old assistant coach fondling a young boy in the shower — that might cost you good players. And not getting those good players might cost you wins. And, well, we just can’t have that.
It doesn’t matter that the cheating is wrong. It doesn’t matter that those kids are given money under the table that is untaxed and, therefore, nothing short of criminal activity. It doesn’t matter that student-students (as opposed to that sometimes laughable term: “student-athletes”) who are working hard at the school to get their degree are sharing the same class as an athlete who couldn’t care less about the next assignment, the next test or the grade for the class.
None of it matters. The only thing that matters is protecting the brand and the team and the winning.
And it’s ruining college sports.
At least it is to me.
These programs have sunk to the lowest of lows, allowing this sort of scandalous behavior on their watch, all the while acting as if they don’t know where the point guard or the starting wide receiver got that 2011 Acura with the tinted windows and the killer stereo. Sure, the school didn’t actually hand the kid the keys. Some other creep did, a booster or corporate supporter most likely, and we all know if the s**t ever hit the fan that guy (or female) would NEVER face punishment or scrutiny because the program needs him for the next point guard or starting wide receiver who comes along.
And the hits just keep on coming…more players are recruited, more dirty deals are done and more class hours are neglected, all in the name of getting ready for the next big game against “We’re Cheating With U”. And lo and behold, some team goes 11-0 and then cries about not being allowed to play in the BCS Championship game. Isn’t that the irony of it all? The school cries about being cheated out of a big payday, when all they’ve done from the time practice started in August is circumvented the rules in an effort to win.
The horrific story at Penn State was the cover-up of all cover-ups, where a sick, mentally unstable man was allowed to freely utilize the facilities while gobs of people either knew directly or had great suspicions that he was up to no good. But none of that could get in the way of football.
Football at Penn State became more important than the university itself. Ask yourself this question: Had the Board of Trustees at Penn State terminated a 46-year tenured economics professor because they discovered he had been involved in a cover-up involving child abuse on campus, would 1,000 students have protested on the night the news broke of his dismissal?
And while we’re dishing out blame, it’s fair to slice off a piece for the other group of folks who have become the great enablers: Us. The fans. The ticket buyers. The TV watchers. The sweatshirt buyers. As long as we keep paying for tickets and cheering and sending $500 checks every year, the monster’s belly continues to fill and things like the Jerry Sandusky story are more apt to be swept under the rug since, of course, the football team “just can’t let down its wonderful fan base.”