Tag Archives: Joe Paterno

So, for Penn State Football…Now What?

12 Jul

Welcome back to The Sports Ace, where the ESPYs were cancelled years ago.

Beaver Stadium on gameday (photo credit: Gene J. Puskar, AP)

The big sports-related story today, of course, is the announcement of the report detailing the results of Louis Freeh’s (and team’s) investigation into the sexual abuse scandal at Penn State.  I’ve blogged on this before, so I’ll suffice it to say for now that once again today I’m absolutely sick at what happened.  I hope that proper respect and restitution is paid to the victims, and I hope that those who are guilty pay the appropriate price for their dastardly deeds.  I think Christine Brennan of USA Today makes a pretty good statement here too…

Today, I’d like to focus on one (and perhaps under-reported, if that’s possible) angle of all this: sanctions on the football team itself.  The question has come up whether or not the NCAA or another governing body will impose any sanctions on the football program for the misdeeds of administrators and Paterno.  I’ve heard it argued both ways…but most of the talking heads right now don’t seem to want current program members to pay for the mistakes of those before them.    An interesting take, considering all that’s at stake here.

Personally, and with my PR hat on, I don’t think the NCAA, the Big Ten Conference and anyone else with a pulse has a choice: they have to punish Penn State, and come down hard.  The University, AND the football program.  Think of it from a public perception; unless you’re an alum, or a former PSU player, or someone with direct ties to the program, you identify most with the organization responsible for this scandal through its appearance on the field on fall Saturdays.  To the average Joe (no pun intended), to recruits and to the broader community, that IS Penn State football.  So, if no punishment is imposed that affected the program on the field, the average participant might not think anything happened at all.  Which, of course, isn’t even on the same planet of relevance…considering this is the most significant sports scandal of our time, and maybe any time.

So, what type of punishment is appropriate?  Obviously, punishment should be commensurate with the crime…and programs have been given the death penalty for less.  I’ll leave it to others to make this decision, but I think it would be well within the means of the NCAA and the Big Ten to shut down PSU football for a year or more until things get sorted out, the program and culture change, etc.  It would be an incredibly drastic step, one I’m not sure they have the cajones to take given the significance (and revenue-ability) of PSU football.

It’s unfortunate that innocent players, coaches, gameday staff and the like would have to pay for the mistakes of others, sure.  But let’s keep this in perspective, people…innocent people already have paid for mistakes.  Kids were raped.  By people who they trusted to keep them safe.  The abuse was covered up.  More kids were molested after the cover-up occurred, according to today’s report…which means that at least one if not several rapes should have been prevented.  This is as low as it gets, and it just so happens that it’s tied into Penn State and its football program.  The real victims here are the kids and their families, and to suggest anything else just seems to me to be out of whack.

That’s all for now.   I’m out like the American League.

Scandal in State College

9 Nov

Welcome back to The Sports Ace, where children and their well beings are revered, valued and defended no matter what.

I have to start by expressing my revulsion and utter disgust at the allegations against Jerry Sandusky and Penn State University officials.  Reading the 23-page indictment report made me want to vomit.  I think ESPN said it best so far: if true, what has allegedly happened at Penn State is a true American tragedy.  My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families, and my sincere hope is that swift and appropriate justice is rendered to anyone who may be guilty of or complicit to these heinous crimes.

Professionally, I think this still-breaking scandal at Penn State is all by itself on a whole other level of scandals – far worse than Ohio State, Miami, USC and other recent rulebreakers.  Nevin Shapiro is one slimy guy, but he’s no child molester…and Jim Tressel covered up some things, but he didn’t allegedly kick the can down the road when sexual abuse was happening under his roof.  This scandal’s reach permeates into the community much more than others because of the nature of it…many more stakeholders of all kinds are involved here, and any response/communications strategy needs to address each of them appropriately.

So far, I would argue Penn State gets a D- for its handling of the crisis.  First and foremost, I don’t believe I’ve heard anyone involved or any representatives of Penn State apologize for anything.  It’s as if PSU President Spanier thinks this will just go away in a week or so.  Second, they’ve puckered up tighter than a snare drum, cancelling scheduled news conferences, offering short statements, etc.  Just last night I saw a statement from the Board of Trustees expressing horror at the allegations and promising action…that’s the only thing saving PSU from an F grade in my book.  But that’s it…the key parties aren’t saying anything, and as such they project guilt (because, quite possibly, they are guilty).  Worst yet, they’re appearing to be completely out of touch with the widespread grief and anguish that every single member – students, staff, the community, alumni, etc. – of the Penn State community is dealing with.  The only person who seems willing to talk is JoePa himself, but his handlers have had other ideas…a late-night address to a support rally at his house doesn’t quite count.

Adding yet another hint of impersonality to the situation, has anyone else noticed how Scott Paterno – Joe’s youngest son – has been calling his own father by his first name?  He’s not saying that “his father,” or “Dad,” is doing anything – it’s always “Joe.”  Maybe this is completely normal behavior, but Paterno family dynamics aside, this makes JoePa seem even more distant to the public – especially the extended PSU and national community who doesn’t know him as well.

PSU officials would be wise to think about every single stakeholder group at the university and in their community – and then devise messages and communication to every one of them…and fast.  They’d also be wise to say something…anything really, but something more than nothing.  Their first and only goal should be reassuring victims, students and other key constituents that these charges are being taken extremely seriously and will be handled appropriately – not worrying about whether or not the Nittany Lions can remain on track to play in the Big Ten title game next month.  I think these officials are failing to recognize that the prestige and reputation of their university, and the perceived value of a diploma from their institution, is at stake.  This is a crisis that goes way beyond the football field, directly challenging the mission and business of Penn State University.  Officials have to do what they think will help them uphold that reputation now, next week, next year and beyond…or the aftershocks will reverberate well beyond Beaver Stadium.

What a nightmare situation this is.  Unfortunately, I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better.  I hope I’m wrong.

That’s all for now.  I’m out like a sense of humor from any part of this post.  It just wouldn’t be appropriate, I think.