Much has been made recently of getting the money out of Washington. Whether it’s the influence of lobbying firms, or the lust that seemingly all politicians have for campaign contributions to ensure their reelection, many folks are saying that cash is fueling a dysfunctional government. However, the negative influence of money is hardly limited to Washington as we were shockingly reminded this week. The football program at Pennsylvania State University received a jolt when former coach Jerry Sandusky was indicted on multiple counts of child molestation. Had this been run of the mill pedophile behavior taking place at Sandusky’s home (where some of the attacks did occur) the worst we could say about Penn State was some remote guilt by association. However Sandusky committed some of these crimes on university property. In fact he molested minor boys at facilities open to university staff where the risk of getting caught was quite high.
This is where the plot thickens and sickens. An assistant grad student, Mike McQueary, in 2002 witnessed a young boy around the age of ten being sodomized by Sandusky in the Penn State locker room shower. Rather than stop the assault, McQueary, then 28 years old, reported the incident to his father, who advised him to report the incident to head coach Joe Paterno, a legend in college football. Paterno, in turn, reported the incident up the chain. The bottom line, police were never notified. The 23 page indictment of Sandusky makes clear that several child molestations preceded this one and at least one occurred subsequently, as late as 2008.
What has many puzzled and disgusted is how an institution could know that Sandusky was engaging in this behavior and not report the matter to the authorities. The bottom line is no one wanted to rock the boat in the lucrative world known as college football. The Penn State football culture was insular, a world that played by its own rules. Let’s make no mistake, millions of dollars are at stake in college football. Coaches at top sports colleges make considerably more than professors at those same schools.
After a full week of outrage, I’ve heard very little by way of solutions. I think the time has come to put college sports back in the space where it belongs. My measures might seem draconian but it would take the money out of college sports and set priorities straight.
- All college sports at every school must be demoted to the same status as any other extracurricular activity. Being on the football team should be no different from being in the drama club.
- All sponsorship activities from various businesses cease immediately. College sports programs get funded through the college, period, end of story.
- College sports are no longer televised. Since when are the Whiffenpoofs’ concerts televised on a regular basis? No need to televise college sports either.
- All athletic scholarships cease. Scholarships should be based on need and/or academic achievement. We don’t send our kids to school to play football. We send them there to learn.
- The NCAA should be re-missioned to establish programs unaffiliated with colleges, which train aspiring athletes. Professional sports teams can then draft their picks from these training programs. This allows us to maintain a wall of separation between academics and sports. This change of mission would of course involve renaming the NCAA.
The corruption within college sports is nothing new. The shame is that it took such a disgusting instance of complicity within this organization to remind us. It’s equally a shame that some Penn State student’s priorities were so askew that they rioted when Paterno was deservedly fired. Sports has morphed from a game to high-priced entertainment to religion. And we all know from the Catholic Church what happens when grave transgressions occur within a religion. It’s time we got our perspective back folks.
Football is just a game. The love of no game is worth the sacrifice of any child’s innocence.