Sunday, July 29, 2012

NCAA Got It Right This Time


The NCAA got it right this time. After missing the target entirely during the Cam Newton ordeal, they moved quickly and correctly on the Penn State scandal.

Joe Paterno had no equal in power at Penn State University and he knew that children were being molested in the football facilities for over fourteen years. Not only did he fail to make an effort to stop it, he led the cover-up. Paterno’s ego would not allow Penn State University to be embarrassed; the team slogan was “Win With Integrity.”

As the years passed and Sandusky maintained access to all the facilities, even taking his victims to Penn State football games, the holy grail of coaching records slowly became attainable for Paterno. The all time record for victories stood at 408 wins by Eddie Robinson. On October 29, 2011 at the age of 84 Paterno won his 409th game. To even the most casual football fan it was obvious that having the record had driven him to coach into his mid 80’s. On November 4, 2011, less than a week after Paterno reached the milestone, Sandusky was arrested and on November 9th Paterno was fired.

Is there really anyone naive enough to think the timing is simply coincidental?

There is no doubt that the cover-up evolved from protecting Penn State to obtaining the coaching record. Vacating all of Paterno’s wins from 1998 to 2011 was the only way that the NCAA could effectively punish Paterno for his involvement in covering up Sandusky’s criminal acts.

Penn State officials were powerless to stop the march to 409. The president, vice-president and athletic director knew that Sandusky was guilty but were afraid of the public backlash if Paterno was denied the opportunity to break the record. They had known of the abuse for years and thus the university and indirectly the rabid fan base that created the fear became complicit in addition to the individuals.

Winning football games generates tens of millions of dollars in income; the money drives the entire athletic department. The only effective way to punish a program or university is to dramatically impact their ability to win thus reducing the amount of money the program makes. Reducing the number of scholarships and instituting a bowl ban is the only way the NCAA can impact a program’s ability to win, it was the correct punishment.

The current coaches, players, students, faculty and fans didn’t have anything to do with the scandal but they are part of the Penn State program and by punishing the university, they will unfortunately feel the effects. The impact would have been the same if the punishment would have been handed down ten years ago or ten years from now, it’s unavoidable.

Penn State’s endowment is over 1.75 billion dollars, the sixty million dollar fine will have minimal financial impact, and it is more of a public relations gesture to aid victims of sexual abuse.

The culture of win at all cost permeates college football today and the NCAA is correct to call for a change although it is likely too late to do so. The problem lies in their inability to sanction those directly involved, the coaches. Too many times a coach has defied the rules and simply changed jobs. To correct the problem, university presidents should allow the NCAA to begin certifying coaches. If a coach breaks a rule or commits a recruiting violation, his certification would be revoked. The revocation would vary in length according to the seriousness of the infraction, during that time, the coach would not be allowed on campus or have any contact with a player, recruit or any other staff member. Their pay would be suspended during the revocation and another university would not be allowed to hire a suspended coach. A program should be established to work with recruits in setting up sting operations to catch coaches and boosters offering illegal inducements.

The NCAA must make the consequences of cheating greater than the reward to get their attention or achieve a cultural change.

1 comment: