Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Is the NCAA's new slogan, "History is bunk?"

I'm deeply conflicted concerning the sanctions imposed on Penn State in the aftermath of the Sandusky coverup.

The NCAA has hit Penn State with a $60 million fine, a four-year bowl ban, and slashed the number of football scholarships from 25 to 15 (also for four years).

The bowl ban and the scholarship cuts hurt the kids who signed up to play football at the school in good faith -- and the current players, at least, are wholly innocent in any coverup of Jerry Sandusky's pedophilia. I was somewhat mollified by reports that current players would be allowed to transfer to other schools without having to sit out a year or any of the other interference that universities and the NCAA typically impose on their "student-athletes."

Still, I'm not certain that any of this is a good idea. Joe Paterno is dead. His statue has been removed, his cult disgraced. Graham Spanier, the university president that allegedly signed off on the decision to keep Sandusky's crimes quiet, has been fired. Former Athletic Director Tim Curley and former university Vice President Gary Schultz are under criminal indictment for perjury on account of their roles in the coverup. The university is going to get hammered -- and rightly so! -- in the civil suits that Sandusky's victims will file (some are already pending). I suppose the NCAA was motivated, at least in part, by the persistent denial that seems to reign in the Penn State community still -- as if Sandusky's real crime was tarnishing St. JoPa's legacy.

That's just sickening.

What Paterno and the other university bigwigs did was in many ways similar to what Catholic bishops did for many years in covering up the crimes of pedophile priests (often transferring the perverts from parish to parish, with no warning to the parishioners). Like the bishops, the Penn State administration -- Paterno included -- put the "image" of an inanimate institution ahead of the safety of living and imperiled children.

In both cases, by trying to protect the "image" of the church (on the one hand) or the football program (on the other), the persons responsible for the coverups did far greater damage to their respective institutions than exposure of a pervert ever would have done.

In one way the Penn State administrators were even worse than the bishops: By 2001, when Sandusky's crimes should have been apparent, the bishops' failings had become national news -- and a national scandal. In 2002, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops would adopt a charter for the protection of children that included a "one strike and you're out" policy for pedophile priests and removed all discretion from the hierarchy concerning the notification of criminal authorities when child abuse was suspected (the Dallas Charter).

So, while I think the NCAA did not have to punish Penn State further, I suppose I can understand that some meat had to be thrown to the mobs howling for further punishment.

But there is one aspect of the NCAA's sanction that I can not, and will not, abide: The NCAA has decided to "vacate" all of Penn State's football victories from 1998 on -- 111 or 112 wins or whatever the correct number is.

That's Orwellian.

And it's typical of the NCAA. As someone pointed out to me yesterday afternoon, in light of recent NCAA sanctions against Ohio State, a 2010 game between Penn State and Ohio State now (officially) never happened.

Oh, puh-leeze.

The NCAA does this to basketball teams, too. As Wikipedia notes, John Calipari "is the only coach to direct three different colleges to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, although two of those appearances (1996 at UMass and 2008 at Memphis) have been officially vacated by the NCAA. Calipari is also one of only two coaches to direct three different schools to a Final Four (1996- UMass[;] 2008- Memphis[;] 2011, 2012- Kentucky), with the UMass and Memphis appearances later being vacated by the NCAA. As a result, he is the only head coach to have a Final Four appearance vacated at more than one school, although Calipari himself was not personally implicated by the NCAA in either case." Calipari's current position, and indeed his entire fame and fortune, depends on achievements that, according to the NCAA, never happened. Mind you, I'm no apologist for Calipari.

But the games were played. It is foolish and stupid to pretend otherwise. This decision, at least, should be reversed -- and not just for Penn State. For Ohio State and Memphis and the University of Massachusetts and all the other victims of NCAA doublethink.

This bad decision by the NCAA, however, sets the stage for another post that should shortly appear here -- concerning the IOC's decision to rewrite the outcome of the 1912 Olympic pentathlon, an injustice done to perhaps the greatest American athlete of all time. Yes, even the Curmudgeon gives in -- temporarily -- to Olympic fever: Stay tuned.


Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

having lived my childhood with one of these sick bastards i can't comment without getting all worked up curmy...

smiles, bee

Jeni said...

Definitely do agree with the bit about the removal of the games from Penn State's record. Can't re-write history although some do try -in this respect as in many others too. Would be nice perhaps if it could work that way, but those of us who have followed and supported Penn State and Paterno too, over the decades, know they happened and see no need either to tear down everything Joe Paterno ever did as the man did do a hell of a lot for this school, for his players, yes and also for the community at large too!