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Dr. Peter Morici: Penn State’s Stain; Big time sports harm universities
By Professor Peter Morici
Nov 15, 2011 - 3:46 AM
|Linebacker Nate Stupar runs through a human tunnel made up of cheerleaders and football alumni lettermen as he is introduced for senior day Saturday, Nov. 12, at Beaver Stadium, University Park, Pennsylvania. Source: Penn State|
Dr. Peter Morici: The scandal at Penn State is more than a stain on
a storied college football program and patriarchic coach. It is an indictment
against universities who continue the pretense that big time sports support
their academic mission.
In 2002, a graduate assistant reported to Coach
Joe Paterno that he witnessed Jerry Sandusky—an emeritus coach and founder of
the Second Mile Foundation for disadvantaged boys - - perform anal sex on a 10
year old in the football locker room. Paterno informed Athletic Director Tim
Curley and Senior Vice President with responsibility for campus police Gary
Schultz. After not much was done, Paterno said nothing to the police or
President Graham Spanier, even as Sandusky continued full use of university and
football facilities as an emeritus faculty.
Curley and Schultz did report to Spanier that
Sandusky had been “horsing around in the showers” with a young child, apparently
thinking, like Paterno, passing the incident up the line, even if untruthfully
reported, would absolve them from legal and moral responsibility.
The Grand Jury report implies Spanier accepted
the Curley and Schultz account at face value, and he did not investigate further
or call the police. Spanier’s academic background is in marriage and family
counseling, and he, as much as anyone, should have seen their motives,
investigated further and called the police. He did not act.
No doubt, a scandal involving Sandusky would have
damaged Paterno’s legacy - - the until now unquestioned integrity of Penn
State’s football program. For Spanier, a scandal would have impaired an
important fund raising asset. Those are not excuses for looking the other way
when confronted with such a heinous crime.
University faculty are keenly aware that students
learn most from our example, and I know no decent president, coach or other
faculty member who teaches it is appropriate to be silent when confronted by
Curly and Schultz have been indicted for lying to
the grand jury and failing to report the 2002 incident to the police, but
culpability should extend to Paterno and Spanier for their silence and what
After the 2002 incident, Sandusky continued to
have access to Penn State athletic and football facilities—which he used for his
twisted purpose. By their silence and inaction, Paterno and Spanier are
accomplices to subsequent crimes committed by Sandusky.
False loyalty to Penn State football reaches deep
into the community and is terribly corrupting, as illustrated by the inaction of
Pennsylvania law enforcement. In 1998, a mother accused Sandusky of molesting
her son. To the woman, he declined to deny touching the boy’s private parts and
said “I was wrong. I wish I could get forgiveness.”
Sandusky admitted to Department of Public Welfare and police investigators other
wrongful acts, yet Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar declined to
prosecute, and saw no reason to use the threat of prosecution to require
Sandusky to discontinue his programs for boys.
Universities bend admissions to unbelievable contortions to recruit talented
young men, and faculty are asked to make special provisions for athletes. Alumni
and community leaders rationalize university sports programs permit
disadvantaged youths opportunities they would not otherwise enjoy and bring in
lots of cash to their alma maters - - but it is simply not worth the corrupting
consequences or very profitable to the academic mission of most institutions.
Small transparent transgressions erode administration and faculty integrity.
Small deeds beget bigger and more opaque sins, and eventually, morally
rudderless faculty shade grades, and coaches and presidents like Paterno and
Spanier do even worse. And every several years, scandals like Penn State’s
emerge - - gambling, sex or otherwise.
Many of the athletes who would not otherwise be admitted get used - - they end
up with no degree or a worthless diploma from a soft program. A good deal of the
money raised goes back into athletic programs, donors that could be approached
to contribute to academic purposes are diverted to sports, and academic programs
on a net basis profit little and perhaps get penalized.
Fund raising for a major academic program at the University of Maine in the
1980s, so often potential donors told me they could not give anything or much
because they supported the Black Bears NCAA Division I national championship
If all the major universities disarmed and took the route of the Ivy League or
military service academies, less money would be raised overall but more money
likely would be available for academic programs.
All universities are not going to disarm, and it may be the lesser evil to admit
big time programs in football and few other sports are farm systems for pro
Let 30 or so major universities have teams affiliated with their institutions
and a pro franchise, but require those teams to be strictly self financing based
on ticket sales and contributions from their professional team. Pay the
athletes, offer them the opportunity to earn a degree over five or even six
years, but don’t require them to enroll if they are not capable or are simply
Then all the other universities could have walk on programs for genuine
amateurs, and those programs, in a manner similar to the Ivies and military
academies, could compete at a level that compliments a decent university
After all, a quality education is why young people should go to college.
Professor, Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland,
College Park, MD 20742-1815,
703 549 4338 Phone
703 618 4338 Cell Phone
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