I'll just start this out with a disclaimer: while I have a little 'inside' knowledge into the workings of college football, I was not a football player so some of my knowledge is limited. While I know a bit about the PSU scandal, it's from the same sources as everyone else, so some of my knowledge is limited there, too. Still, one doesn't have to be a brain surgeon to render an intelligent opinion on brain surgery.
Especially if the brain surgeon is sodomizing little boys in the OR changing room, and no one seems to care.
We all know the basics of the scandal: Jerry Sandusky is (alleged) to have abused young boys, as many as twenty, from the last reported count. Two episodes were, if reports are correct, actually observed by employees of the university. Reports were given to university administrators and head coach Joe Paterno, which seem to have been followed by the sound of crickets. This was in 2002.
Now, here's the part that gets me.
NINE years later, Sandusky was still lingering, free as a bird, in Happy Valley. Less than two weeks ago, he was still to be found in the Penn State football weight room. Now, this includes likely being in the presence of--if the rumors are correct--the very graduate assistant who (allegedly) caught Sandusky sodomizing a young boy in 2002. Remember, this is NINE YEARS later. Or, if you believe that a janitor can have 20/20 eyesight and recognize a BJ when he sees one, ELEVEN YEARS later from an alleged 2000 incident. Meanwhile, the "perp" goes about his merry way. (1)
How does this happen? Is there ANY other setting where this could happen? The only other place I can think of is the church, where abuse scandals have been common in the media the past few years. At first blush, it doesn't seem likely that the Catholic Church and a Division 1 football program would have anything in common, does it? (2)
Actually, they do. Stadiums are often termed "cathedrals." A coach's opinion is as important as the Pope's--and his word nearly as absolute. College football is a kind of religion to many, and in the major college game, players are worshiped by the masses. And, like the church, when something goes wrong, it's often handled internally, kept "in the family." Errant priests were shuttled from parish to parish, foisted upon unsuspecting parishioners. And when someone spoke out, they risked condemnation rather than investigation and support. (3)
Sounds more and more like Penn State's problem all the time. The world of college football is about as cloistered as that of monks. Players take a class load that would be utterly unfamiliar in its content and rigor to "normal" students. They get special consideration in choosing their classes, special tutors, special study halls, and special guidance counselors. They live in special dorms, up until they are allowed to leave in which case they tend to cluster all together in apartments, to battle over cable TV bills and adoring bleach-blond groupies. Most of their time is spent in lavish complexes built specially for them, solely around athletes like themselves. (I've always thought it amusing that a football player breaks his foot or something, yet no "normal" college students ever seem to see him on campus to say whether he's recovering or not. Where is he? Not in any normal student's classes, it seems.)
Look at the majors listed in any recent Iowa football media guide. I have to question how many of these young men would even be in college were they not athletes. Sure, there are some engineers, some business majors, a pre-med or two, and an education major or three. But the majority are "Interdepartmental Studies" or "Sports and Leisure Studies," or however that is being phrased these days. There are admittedly some benefits for these young men to be in college, certainly. But at the end of the day, I have to ask: at what point does the athlete end and the student begin? (4)
Moving on, how in the world could a grown man sodomize a young boy in an official university facility--an event witnessed by an adult of normal intelligence and eyesight--and NOT be put in jail? The answer is all-too-easy: this event did not happen in the real world--it happened in the fantasy world of college athletics. The poor grad asst who witnessed it must have been in disbelief. I can understand that the shock might have propelled his legs to flee the scene that night. But what about the 3,000-odd nights since then? Didn't he, on even ONE of those nights, start to pick up the phone to call the cops? And Paterno, when he heard--did he think that the grad asst was on mescaline at the time? Or had suffered a recent brain injury or something? And the AD, and that other administrator--hell, you have a material witness who SAW it! How in the world could you rationalize away the moral imperative to report the incident to the cops?
Here's how. You keep it "in the family," huddled in your donor-built bunker, surrounded by flat-screens showing the tendencies of your next opponent. And when your morals come banging on the door, not only do you not open it, you wedge your Blue and White-felted pool table against it and debate the merits of Cover 2. Meanwhile, your ex-DC, under the auspices of his "at-risk" boys' charity, unwraps another bar of soap and lathers up (allegedly).
I wish this only had (allegedly) happened at Penn State, and only this (allegedly) one time. But the (alleged) events at Happy Valley are a symptom of a greater disease, and it's not merely a pedophile story anymore, it's a complete corruption of reality story. When the bonds between football colleagues seem to have taken precedence over keeping children safe from irreparable psychological harm, I have to wonder if a line has been finally crossed. (5) As Matt Millen movingly said, if this is what society's become, it's "pathetic." (6)
Maybe, like the Great Flood of olden times, it's time to clear the college athletic slate and start from scratch. I wonder how many university presidents are now wondering the same. (7)
(1) The first reported witnessed episode was in 2000, then there was another in 2002, supposedly by present assistant coach Mike McQueary. However, rumors floated around like turds in a toilet in the late 90's about Sandusky's potential activities. I actually remember when he "retired" in 1999, as it was pretty big news. I don't, however, remember any rational reasons as to WHY. Seemed odd at the time for a guy not even close to 65. Seems even odder now.
(2) I am not Catholic, and I don't want to offend any Catholics by what I wrote. I am just presenting facts, so don't get all huffy on me.
(3) In some ways, the insider workings of the church and the insider workings of a football team resemble that of a cult: you stick together, and you don't talk to outsiders--and if you do you may be shunned, in one form or another.
(4) I don't even think this is much of a controversial point any longer: many of the guys on the Iowa football team are at Iowa to play football, and little more. That's reality. Even Ricky Stanzi took a joke class-load last year during football season. In some ways, either you want these guys to play for you or you do not. My attendance at football games, and the emptiness of my wallet, testify that I do.
(5) We had our own mini-version with the rape case. Athletics coaches trumped the cops for a time, and mistakes were made. Sanity was restored before all was forever FUBAR'd, and a proper investigation begun just in time. But it was a close call, and could've resulted in firings if things had gone down differently. We were lucky: one incident, one time (not counting the Pierre Pierce fiasco, which was a separate near-FUBAR). Penn State isn't going to survive this intact: multiple incidents, multiple years, multiple persons, multiple FUBARs. In my opinion, anyone who knew must go. There's legal responsibility and moral responsibility, and to my mind a failure of either means you are no longer allowed the privilege of coaching my son, or my neighbor's son, or anyone's son. It's a harsh judgment, but it's a harsh and often unfair world--just ask that disadvantaged kid who came home with wet hair, and who can't sit down.
(6) It's also (allegedly) pathetic that I feel compelled to put "allegedly" in so much, but I'm a believer in our court system, so there.
(7) I don't know what the solution is, since college football is a runaway profit train, and I frigging' love it as much as you. But here's a start: Cut football scholly's to 50 for everyone. Get rid of frosh eligibility. Cut the season back to 11 games plus one bowl. Get rid of conference championship games. Take some money out of it: reduce ticket costs, limit donations, limit coaching salaries, split all TV revenue equally among teams in your conference. Really punish cheaters. Ban coaches who cheat, get the NFL to go along with that, too. Set standards for actual scholarship, perhaps a basic test to attend beyond your freshman year. Harsh, sure. Practical, probably not. But just debating it is a start.