The NCAA is a joke

by Sonny Bunch on July 13, 2012

Full disclosure: I’m not really a college sports fans. If I wanted to watch amateurs bumble around—even though they’re trying really hard—I’d go check out a girl’s high school soccer game. When it comes to sports, I’ll stick with the NFL and the NBA and the MLB, thanks.

Leaving aside the fact that college-level athletes simply don’t stack up to their counterparts in the pros, however, is another problem altogether, namely the corruption inherent in the system. The body that oversees college athletics, the NCAA, is a complete and utter joke. The issues surrounding the BCS system are well-known, of course, and have brought shame on all involved for a long time. But that’s small potatoes compared to the storm surrounding Penn State.

The barest fact is this: Penn State’s all-powerful football program and the higher-ups at the school desperate to protect it tried as hard as they could to keep under wraps the truth about child-rape committed by someone intimately involved with said program. This was institutional capture and institutional corruption of a horrific nature. And it was promulgated by an entity that, at least theoretically, could be held accountable by the NCAA. Here’s Sally Jenkins writing in the Washington Post:

In fact, in 2001 Paterno had every reason to suspect Sandusky was a serial defiler of children. In fact, Paterno was not reluctant to interfere in university procedure; he helped dictate it. In fact, this was a football scandal. The crimes were committed by a former assistant football coach in the football building. Ten boys, and 45 criminal counts, at least five of them molested on the Penn State campus after 1998 when Paterno committed the awful misjudgment of continuing to allow Sandusky to bring boys to his locker room, so sure was he that Sandusky was “a good guy.”

We can’t un-rape and un-molest those boys. We can’t remove them from the showers and seize them back from the hands of Sandusky. That should have been an unrelenting source of rage and grief to Paterno. Yet in perhaps the most damaging observation of all, the Freeh report accuses Paterno and his colleagues of “a striking lack of empathy” for the victims.

This is unprecedentedly horrifying, at least in the context of college football. It is far, far worse than schools paying players to play sports. It is far, far worse than giving poor kids’ parents a car or a home or a suitcase full of cash. It is far, far worse than making an extra recruiting call or buying a recruit a nice steak dinner or taking them to a club.

There are ways to punish schools that transgress the moral boundaries that society, to say nothing of the NCAA, has set forth. But there’s only one way to make an example of a school—to say “Any program that does this will be destroyed. SO DO NOT DO THIS.” And that’s the so-called “death penalty.”

Honestly, is there any doubt that Penn State’s football program deserves to be banned from competition for at least a year? To be stripped to nothing and rebuilt? Or, if the corruption is so endemic—if the school’s partisans are so incredibly blinded to legitimate, horrific moral evil—to be stripped to nothing and left to die? Well, maybe that’s just too bad.

Now, this is easy for me to say, as someone who doesn’t particularly care about college sports and who didn’t go to Penn State. The school’s partisans assure us that the death penalty for the football program will also kill the school, in toto. (I could ask how much sense it makes to have a university—a degree-granting, accredited institution of higher education—that inextricably bound to its football team, but I think the problem is obvious.) It’s especially easy to call for such a penalty knowing that the NCAA is a venal, corrupt institution that will do nothing about this even as it brought down the hammer on, say, USC for possibly obtaining a star running back’s family a house.

That’s a problem. As I said: The NCAA’s a joke. If their failure to act in this circumstance doesn’t put the final nail in its coffin, I’m unsure what will.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

SkinsFanPG July 13, 2012 at 10:14 am

I advocate for a permanent post-season ban for Penn State football. This would end the football program, and it is within NCAA power. They should never be allowed to compete in the post-season again, and in doing so, they will never be able to recruit players.


Ricky T July 13, 2012 at 10:48 am

Liked the thoughts and I agree something needs to be done, but to what extent? If the NCAA comes down on Ohio State for players getting free tattoos then obviously the penalty needs to be insanely more severe for Penn State. But if you “kill” the football program how does that really solve anything? The coaches and school admistrators are already gone (or dead) and will probably be prosecuted. The only people it will hurt now are the current student atheletes and the employees of the stadium. I would just hate to see the innocent pay such a price, but I agree something needs to be done. Just dont know what.


Sonny Bunch July 13, 2012 at 10:52 am

You do this not (just) as a punishment to the institution of Penn State; you do it as a warning to other schools of the consequences for such behavior.

As far as the players go, I imagine the NCAA would let them transfer penalty-free. And as far as the employees go…well, it sucks. But sometimes when you work for a corrupt institution, you end up losing out. I agree that the dude slinging nachos isn’t to blame, but collateral damage is inevitable. Plus, this emphasizes to other people—like, say, janitors who don’t go to the authorities—that they’ve also got skin in the game if they see something and say nothing.


Beth July 13, 2012 at 10:49 am

In USC’s case, there’s actually little evidence that the school had direct knowledge that Reggie Bush took gifts from an agent. The school was punished — two year post-season ban, dozens of scholarships taken away, the 2004 title taken away — because it didn’t do enough to monitor agent interaction with players. As a USC alum I, of course, find the punishment harsh and think USC was made an example of. Plenty of similar stuff (and worse) goes on at other schools, particularly in the SEC. But that’s what the NCAA decided and clearly mistakes were made, so USC had to accept the punishment and move forward.

But in Penn State’s case, there is ample evidence — from a former director of the FBI — that the most important people at the university knew one of their coaches was molesting little boys. Not only did they do nothing about it, they covered it up. That’s got to be worse than Reggie Bush taking a SUV and the school not bothering to notice it, right?

If the Penn State doesn’t merit the death penalty I don’t know what does.


Ricky T July 13, 2012 at 11:05 am

Yeah if there ever was an example for the use of the death penalty this is it. Just hate to see innocent people pay the price for it today but I guess thats just life.


Jenn July 13, 2012 at 4:50 pm

One point Freeh’s report made clearly was that at many levels, there were no innocents (except the victims). It’s shocking to realize that at every level, from the janitors to assistant coaches to the head coach and president of the university, NO ONE did the right thing and called the f’ing cops. They simply passed it upstairs, to protect themselves and the sacred program. The football program at PSU is rotten from nose to tail. There is nothing to redeem it.

Innocents always suffer because of the venality of evil men. The hot dog vendors and t-shirt sellers will have a hard time – but they can console themselves with the fact that at least their kids weren’t raped. The players can transfer without penalty, and make the choice for themselves what is more important to them – a Penn State education or playing football. But the program needs to be burned to the ground.

I write all this realizing that no way in hell with the NCAA pull the plug on one of it’s most powerful and high-profile organizations. The death penalty is for upstart schools and small programs, not the big boys. Too bad the administrators at SMU hadn’t just raped their players instead of paying them – they would have saved themselves a lot of trouble.


Dr. Jonathan Crane July 16, 2012 at 6:44 am

Forget all this stuff. Let’s start the day off right and focus on what’s really important this week:

“The real world threats of terrorism, political anarchy and economic instability make deep incursions into the cinematic comic book domain in The Dark Knight Rises. Big-time Hollywood filmmaking at its most massively accomplished, this last installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy makes everything in the rival Marvel universe look thoroughly silly and childish. Entirely enveloping and at times unnerving in a relevant way one would never have imagined, as a cohesive whole this ranks as the best of Nolan’s trio…”

And I’ll throw in these, too:


Dr. Jonathan Crane July 16, 2012 at 6:50 am

Note: Just ignore the part of Empire’s review in which the reviewer directly compares Osama bin Laden to George W. Bush.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: