I thought the 24 hours leading up to NCAA president Mark Emmert’s Monday morning news conference was a smokescreen, a public-relations scheme executed to make a slap on the wrist feel like the death penalty.
I thought the leaks to CBS and ESPN and the tearing down of Joe Paterno’s statue at Beaver Stadium were an orchestrated propaganda campaign to convince us the NCAA took a fearless stand against the worst corruption we’ve ever seen in shamateur athletics.
I thought it was the “Okeydoke.”
I was wrong.
The NCAA and Mark Emmert significantly punished Penn State and demonstrated a measure of courage and integrity I did not think the NCAA possessed. I’m stunned. I’m shocked. I’m a teeny bit optimistic. I now have a glimmer of hope that the men and women running the NCAA and the school presidents in partnership with the NCAA are capable of being shaken from the lie of shamateurism.
Given the scope and severity of the penalties leveled against Penn State, Emmert realized the credibility and viability of the NCAA rested on how he handled the fallout of the Freeh Report.
The sanctions cripple Penn State football. The four-year bowl ban, four-year scholarship reductions and the freedom granted to current players to transfer immediately without penalty or simply decline to play while maintaining their scholarships will make Penn State the Vanderbilt of the Big Ten. The reduction to Vanderbilt’s level of competitiveness is likely permanent. It’s going to take two decades for Penn State football to recover.
And will the school’s academic leadership want to fully recover? Maybe Penn State will be satisfied with being Vanderbilt-like.
The $60 million fine is a nice gesture that will help victims of molestation nationwide. The vacating of all Penn State victories from 1998 through 2011 was the unasked-for-but-necessary icing on the cake, a final damning repudiation of Joe Paterno’s ego and the false image from which Penn State profited.
Florida State’s Bobby Bowden and Grambling’s Eddie Robinson will now again be recognized as the winningest coaches in college football history.
I’m stunned. I never expect the NCAA to do the right thing. The organization is so invested in the lie of amateurism that I assumed it was incapable of self-awareness.
Perhaps Mark Emmert is more aware of the flaws within the NCAA than many of the so-called objective journalists who cover the institution.
Emmert understood that you can’t give Dez Bryant the death penalty for having dinner with Deion Sanders without hammering Penn State for concealing a child molester. Emmert understood you can’t run Kelvin Sampson out of college basketball for excessive phone calls and text messages to recruits without destroying Penn State for “humanely” dealing with Jerry Sandusky. Emmert understood you can’t make the Fab Five disappear because Chris Webber lived like the other one-percenters at Michigan without significantly reducing the power of Penn State football.
The unprecedented nature of Penn State’s corruption warranted an unprecedented response from the NCAA.
These penalties do not fix the NCAA and the biggest lie in sports — amateurism.
But maybe the penalties and the uncompromising words spoken by Emmert will unwittingly wake up some of my clueless peers in the media to what actually breeds corruption in big-time college sports — the outdated rule book.
The appearance that Paterno followed the NCAA rule book is what created the atmosphere that caused a 14-year cover-up of Sandusky’s child molestation. Protecting the myth that Paterno and Penn State won the “right way” is what prompted Graham Spanier, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz to conceal Sandusky’s abusive behavior.
Maybe now the volunteer NCAA rule book policemen in the media will stop demonizing “street agents” and quit pretending that impermissible text messages and campus car rides from disgruntled former equipment managers address the fundamental problems within big-time college athletics.
The system is corrupt at its core, and it’s disingenuous to pretend attacking the lowest-hanging fruit is going to chop down a poisonous tree that breeds corruption.
The myth of amateurism is the problem, and all who promote it should be targeted.
I’m reluctant to suggest that anything positive could come from the Jerry Sandusky tragedy, but maybe now we can comprehend the kind of damaging corruption that evolves from living the amateur lie.
Joe Paterno lived that lie for 61 years at Penn State. We shouldn’t be surprised he was most corrupted by the lie. Paterno fell for the “Okeydoke.”