Free Form Friday: The NCAA Can Do Something Right

[Editor’s note: This fall/winter, the editorial staff of the Daily Dickpunch will be inviting other like-minded and similarly-brilliant columnists to join our ranks on what we’re calling Free Form Friday. If you would like to be considered for the FFF, please email publius1981<at>gmail<dot>com.
Today’s writer is Pimp Emeritus Vincent Casablancas.]

I am not a naïve sports fan.  Eternally optimistic? Yes.  Woefully hopeful? Sure.  Willing to find the best in most situations? You bet your bean bag.  As a lifelong Cubs fan, a Colorado Buffaloes season ticket holder during the Dan Hawkins era, and an earlier passenger on the Josh McDaniels fan bus, I have had countless glimmers of misguided optimism.  But my optimism and hope for intercollegiate athletics as an institution continues to wane in the fleeting moments of the year of our Tebow 2011.

I find the rules, management, and leadership of the NCAA to make it one of the most inherently flawed organizations in America.  The NCAA makes the rich richer – millionaires into billionaires – while often objectifying the very student-athletes that make these riches possible.  At the same time, my optimism instructs me to believe that properly run, the NCAA has the capacity to do much more good, promoting the enormous value of amateur intercollegiate athletics while offering both its participants and fans valuable lifelong lessons.

To triumph over this inherent conflict, the NCAA ought to take an opportunity for near immediate remedy – by suspending the Penn State University athletic department for four years, the NCAA can do its part to promote justice for victims, place intercollegiate athletics in proper perspective, and restore its capacity to govern with reason and justice.

The situation at Penn State is flatly different from previous examples of rules violations.  Kelvin Sampson sent too many text messages, Todd Bozeman bought one of his players a car, SMU boosters had the highest paid backfield  in America, and Reggie Bush’s parents took an apartment from a booster.  Bad behavior? Yes.  However, in the hierarchy of good and evil the behaviors of Jerry Sandusky and Penn State leadership are the grand slam to Kelvin Sampson’s bunt single.  This is not a situation of one individual outside of the university undermining the eligibility of athletes, nor is it a situation of a coach pushing the rules to recruit a player, violating some inane rule that helps the bureaucrats at the NCAA sleep at night in the name of promoting the purest form of amateurism.  Rather, the Penn State crisis demonstrates one of the worst varieties of human behavior: sexual assault on children.

The Penn State case reflects two significant problems that merit the aforementioned harsh punishment: first, that a group (larger in number than publically named I suspect) essentially covered up numerous alleged sexual assaults by an assistant coach, and second that this problem highlights the most devastating element of intercollegiate athletics: the notion that money, success, and perception are more important than the service of justice.

If the allegations against him are true, Jerry Sandusky is a sick monster.  As accusations of sexual assault on minors grow comfortably into the double digits, I must reiterate that he is the real villain.  Justice must be served for the victims in this case, assuming the plethora of accusations are validated in our judicial system.  I find the leadership (board of trustees, president, vice chancellors, athletic department officials, and the football coaching staff) only slightly less villainous.  If Joe Paterno failed to have any awareness of even a single one of these alleged sexual assaults, he needs to get thicker glasses.  Mr. Sandusky is accused not only of sexual assault against minors while serving as a legendary Penn State assistant coach, but also subsequently in his position of professor emeritus and leader of the Second Mile charitable organization on the campus of the university.  If a wider cover-up is proven in a court of law, there is not a single leader in the Penn State administration that should be spared the fullest experience of the Pennsylvania penal system.

I wasn’t blinded by Joe Paterno’s success and reputation.  We all were.  This is not a situation where the average citizen can say, “I told you so,” but our myopic views of Joe Pa’s impeccable record illustrate the very problem with college sports.  To borrow from the lexicon of the modern American banking crisis, Joe Pa was too big to fail .  Any indiscretions or accusations against Joe Pa could easily be kicked under the rug.  Joe Pa was often critical and condescending upon even the slightest hint that he had lost his grip or that his players were starting to lack the discipline that somehow had made their coach legendary.  Well Joe, you did lose your grip in a manner that is far bigger than even the most ostentatious journalist might have suggested one month ago today.  Your long-tenured, highly acclaimed close friend and head coach in waiting Jerry Sandusky was raping children while serving as a coach in your program.  Joe Pa, that is also your bad.

For these reasons, the NCAA can only meet its highfalutin’ values and regulations by suspending the Penn State athletic department for four years.  Revenues derived from previous donations, season ticket deposits, and media contracts ought to be taken from the university and given to advocacy and support groups for children and adults suffering from the impact of molestation; the PSU athletic department’s pledge to donate all proceeds from Penn State’s bowl game to victim advocacy groups is necessary but not sufficient.

For a moment, I may briefly regret the hardship and heartache this may cause the loyal, law-abiding, and virtuous members of the Penn State athletic department, both past and present.  The moment will quickly fade with the acknowledgement that the university that has overseen the greatest crisis in the history of organized sport in America, Penn State University, has not earned the privilege of having these loyal, law-abiding, and virtuous members representing their school.

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  1. […] Wellp. Vincent Casablancas was right. The details of the Freeh Investigation were released today, and not only was Joe Paterno’s […]

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