Penn State scandal dwarfs others in college sports
Scandals of all kinds have tarnished college sports for decades,
though what is unfolding at Penn State is hard to compare to any of
It’s simply on another scale, both in terms of the charges –
former Nittany Lions defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky is
accused of serial child sex abuse, which he denies – and the other
person whom the case is bringing down, Joe Paterno.
The 84-year-old Paterno announced Wednesday he will retire at
the end of this season, though the school’s board of trustees might
not let him coach even that long.
”That would be heartbreaking if it ended like this,” Miami
coach and former Penn State player Al Golden said Tuesday.
Paterno is the winningest coach in the history of Division I
football, less than two weeks removed from surpassing the late
Eddie Robinson of Grambling with victory No. 409, and the
embodiment of a program that has generally been viewed as
”This is like having a scandal in the White House. That’s how
big this is,” said Beano Cook, a college football historian and
Paterno has been one of the most famous sports figures in this
country for more than half a century and generally regarded as one
of the foremost leaders in college sports.
”There’s no doubt this will hurt his legacy, but how much?”
said Cook, who was a longtime sports information director at
Pittsburgh. ”I hope not a lot.”
Dan Jenkins, the award-winning author, sports writer and
historian for the National Football Foundation and College Hall of
Fame, said the nature of the Penn State scandal won’t necessarily
do long-term damage to college sports as a whole because it doesn’t
call into question the legitimacy of the games.
”Penn State’s story is for another part of the paper, not the
sports section,” he said in an email. ”But it calls attention to
all the other ills.”
Over the years, some of those other ills have found their way to
the front of the newspapers, too.
– An academic cheating scandal at West Point in 1951 led to the
dismissal of 90 cadets, including about three dozen members of Army
football team. The Black Knights were a national powerhouse at the
time, coached by Col. Earl ”Red” Blaik, one of the most revered
sports figures of his time.
– Players from six college basketball teams, including 1950 NCAA
and NIT champion City College of New York, and 33 players were
found to be involved and manipulating the results of games for
bettors in 1951. The other schools involved were Manhattan College,
Long Island University, New York University, Bradley University,
the University of Kentucky and the University of Toledo. Kentucky
canceled its 1952-53 season because of the scandal.
– SMU boosters were found by the NCAA in 1986 to have been
paying football players for years. High-ranking school and state
officials, including former Texas Gov. Bill Clements, the head of
SMU’s board, knew of the pay-for-play arrangements. The NCAA gave
SMU football the so-called death penalty, canceling the 1987
season. The school also canceled the `88 season.
– Baylor basketball player Patrick Dennehy was found dead on
July 25, 2003, after he had gone missing for a month. Teammate
Carlton Dotson was eventually charged and pleaded guilty to killing
Dennehy. The subsequent investigation uncovered drug use by players
and illegal payments to players. Coach Dave Bliss was fired and
essentially banned from coaching at another NCAA school.
The cheating at West Point and the point-shaving in college
basketball, coming in a 12-month span, devastated the public’s
trust in college sports
”I remember that as being stupefying,” Jenkins said of the
point-shaving in particular.
The SMU scandal was also a tipping point in big-time college
A few years later, the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate
Sports proposed major reforms in big-time college athletics, laying
the responsibility to run clean programs at the feet of university
The Baylor scandal might be most similar to what is going on at
Penn State because it involved a serious crime. The NCAA violations
were unearthed as part of that investigation and the reputation of
the university itself was scarred.
The chaos at Penn State has certainly done that already. But, at
least so far, the school has not been affected on the field.
Sandusky has been retired since 1999. Paterno has not been
accused of wrongdoing by law enforcement, but Penn State athletic
director Tim Curley and another university official are facing
charges of perjury and that they failed to alert police about abuse
NCAA President Mark Emmert weighed in only to say, ”This is a
criminal matter under investigation by law enforcement authorities
and I will not comment on details. However, I have read the grand
jury report and find the alleged assaults appalling.”
But after high-profile NCAA investigations over the past year at
schools such as Ohio State and Miami, Penn State’s legal problems
represent another black mark for college sports.
”Naturally,” Nebraska Athletic Director and former coach Tom
Osborne said, ”anything that affects one school in intercollegiate
athletics in some way affects us all.”
AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds in Coral Gables, Fla., and
Associated Press writer Grant Schulte in Lincoln, Neb., contributed
to this report.