Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Penn State scandal

I've refrained from saying much about the Penn State child sex abuse scandal, largely because I was absolutely sickened by it.  Considering the difficulties I found within the Catholic Church, and that organization's dilatory and wholly inadequate response to a much more widespread scandal until it was far too late to mitigate the damage, you'll understand, I'm sure.  (See the sidebar for my articles on that subject, if you're interested.)

I found the 'punishment' meted out to Penn State by the NCAA to be pathetically inadequate.  All the tens of millions of dollars in 'fines' they imposed won't undo the harm done to a single child, let alone the dozens, perhaps scores that were victimized.  To my mind, the only punishment that would fit the crime is something like this:

  • The dismissal of every person in authority at Penn State who knew about the situation, but did nothing to prevent it from continuing;
  • Those persons' loss of every benefit from Penn State, up to and including their pensions;
  • Criminal charges against them wherever sufficient evidence is available to prove their criminal neglect;  and -
  • A total ban on Penn State's football activities for a period corresponding to that during which the neglect took place.  If University authorities knew about the abuse 12-14 years ago, but did nothing, then Penn State should be barred from intercollegiate football for a similar length of time.

I was pleased to read two other bloggers' perspectives on the issue tonight.  Jennifer and Labrat have both come out swinging against those who are protesting that the NCAA penalties levied against Penn State are somehow excessive.  I fully support these two ladies' position that they're not only not excessive - they are, in fact, wholly inadequate, given the magnitude of the crime.

I'd like to think that other collegiate football teams have something of a sense of honor.  I'd like to hope that they'll refuse to play against Penn State.  Unfortunately, since most college sports administrators are probably all too similar to those at Penn State, they'll probably 'follow the money' rather than following ethical and moral considerations.  Pity about that . . . and about the message it sends to their players, their supporters and their students:  namely, that child sex abuse is of no importance compared to making money.

I don't want to suggest that all who think like that - or whose behavior suggests they think like that - should themselves be rampantly and repeatedly sexually abused by bigger, stronger assailants until they're bleeding and begging and weeping and pleading for mercy.  I really don't want to suggest that . . . but, dear Lord, I'm tempted!



AJ said...

G'day Peter
In one respect, I think the NCAA are punishing the wrong people.

By wiping every win from the slate for the last 15 years, they have actually penalised the players, who put in the hard yards & did nothing wrong. In some cases, they may even have been victims.
It doesn't harm the university as such, because the football public knows they won, even if the paperwork says otherwise. Penn State can still trade on its actual footy history. Penalty has to hurt future trade to mean anything to a commercial entity.

The punishment should have been targeted specifically and personally at the individuals who covered it up. Much in the vein you describe - public loss of both employment and benefits, fines on individuals as well as the University, personal as well as Penn State expulsion from all football for same duration as the neglect. A portion of the penalties paid by Penn State should then be used to compensate the current innocent staff & players for loss of their current contracts/jobs.
That's my two cents worth anyway

Toejam said...


Have you ever been in the military?

One person in basic screws up the entire platoon pays the price.

It's very painful and aggravating to have to do an hour or two of PT after a dificult day because some dunderhead failed to clean his weapon, but your's and 68 other's were spotless. "Stimulate the peer pressure" is what they called it.

Maybe these NCAA penalities will cause some "innocent" member of Penn State's staff or student body to REPORT future illegal acts ASAP rather than ignore them because "It's convienent to look the other way".

Jess said...

One phone call would have changed everything, but too many were unwilling to make that call and stop a sexual predator.

The only thing I find wrong with the fines is that the beneficiaries don't really have a dog in the hunt. As far as the football program, my suggestion is never allow Penn State to play again.

Anonymous said...

All that listed, plus:

Everyone in the Penn State football program forbidden to be employed in any capacity by any NCAA-affiliated organization.

As for the discussion above, Toejam has it right. And, despite the technical innocence of those players, there will be a stigma attached to them for life; they were there when this was going on, and I'd wager the majority knew something about the issue and chose to not mention it. Given that the cover up went all the way to the top of the university - which many of the players probably also knew something about - it's entirely possible that team members didn't mention it in self defense, and that's one of the cultural changes that needs to be effected.

It will be interesting to watch and see if any coaching staff in any other universities quietly "retire" or go on leave of absence for "medical reasons." While the situation at Penn State is an egregious example of wrongdoing, it would not surprise me if similar wrongdoing might exist elsewhere. To that end, NCAA should have gone nuclear on Penn State's football program so there's no misunderstanding about it at any college or university. That they did not does not do the NCAA any benefit.

AJ said...

G,day Toejam
Punishing the squad makes sense if there is a requirement for on-going presence & performance. I would have thought the idea here would be to get rid of the bad eggs. All of them.
"Commercial Interests" would appear to have taken precedence. Unfortunately.

Scott said...

AJ, what vacating the wins does is remove Paterno's name from the record books.

The NCAA basically chiseled his name out of every single monument!

Anonymous said...

Who pays the penalties handed down? This whole collective guilt / collective punishment is misguided. The example given of recruits in basic training is completely specious. The people who misbehaved, who broke the law, who looked the other way... THEY should face punishment, not the current players, and not the fans. They had nothing to do with the problem, yet it is they who are paying the price. Back to the basic training example, is it fair to punish recruits for the failures or faults of previously graduated recruits, or their instructors? This only happens in inter mural sports. Professional sports leagues, for all their faults, at least sanction the guilty parties.

AJ said...

Hi Scott
Unfortunately, it doesn't chisel Paterno's name from much at all. Only the infinitessimally small % of records over which NCAA has control. His name & those wins live on in hundreds of thousands of places in print, the internet, trophy rooms & memorabilia. That's why we warn our kids not to post or txt anything they might not be proud of in 10 or 20 years.

Ultimately, it is likely that peoples decisions not to report the abuse were commercially based. In my view, the punishment has to destroy any commercial benefit so derived. As Peter points out, this penalty fails to do so for a great many of the culprits.
(aren't "if I ruled the world..." discussions fun..) ;)
regards 9312828568954

Quartermaster said...

The corruption we see in NCAA ranks is a direct result of the how intercollegiate sports has evolved over the last 80 years. When I was in Engineering School, the football team did not represent me - it got in the way of everyone. The jocks were students in name only. Most were in crip majors and got tutoring as well. Most were given special admission as most could not have gained admission by normal means, and very few graduated and the few that did had nothing to build a life on.

The only way to cure the problem is to forbid recruiting off campus. Everyone walks on after normal admission and anyone participating maintains a minimum GPA. There are other things that could be done to insure the teams actually represent the student body, but all we have now, except in club sports, are ringers that represent the recruiting efforts of the coaches and boosters.

The NCAA sanctions really mean little. I'm as disgusted as the next guy, but criminal sanctions is what is needed. What NCAA is doing is just a bunch of PC nonsense.