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September 8, 2014 12:31 PM   Subscribe

Two years after former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was sentenced to prison for child sexual abuse (previously), the NCAA has lifted all remaining sanctions against Penn State and reinstated postseason eligilibity effective immediately, and a full roster of football scholarships starting in the 2015-2016 year.

The NCAA decision came as a result of former Senator George Mitchell's oversight report (PDF) proclaiming "significant progress toward ensuring its athletics department functions with integrity" after the Sandusky case. The report was Mitchell's second annual review of Penn State's compliance with the Athletics Integrity Agreement established in 2012, a period originally scheduled to last for 4 years. Also according to the NCAA statement, Mitchell's oversight may also conclude "substantially earlier" than 2017, the date set forth in the original agreement between the NCAA and Penn State.

"Penn State has made remarkable progress over the past year," said Harris Pastides, University of South Carolina president and a NCAA board member. "The board members and I believe the Executive Committee's decision is the right one. It allows both the university and the association to continue to move toward a common goal of ensuring that educating, nurturing and protecting young people is a top priority."
posted by 2bucksplus (126 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Let it not go unsaid that the timing of the announcement is a wee-bit suspicious.
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:32 PM on September 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


I dunno, I think they should have let it play out to the end of this season at least. It's not that I fear a repeat of what happened at Penn State, the reputational damage to Paterno was a stinging punishment for the institution even without official action, but just that what happened was so awful they need to send a message with the sentence.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:34 PM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


I can't even.
posted by tulip-socks at 12:37 PM on September 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


This makes sense. I'm sure EVERYONE who knew something about the bullshit going on is either dead or fired at Penn State. Brand new people now.

No wonder its the shittiest of the Big 10.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:39 PM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Other day I heard some Penn state news and I thought, "Wow, news about Penn State that doesn't involve child molestation." Unfortunately, I don't remember what that news was, but it struck me as surprising that they were finally getting ink that didn't have little boys mentioned. I guess that's over again for a while.

Me? I would have disbanded their program forever.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:41 PM on September 8, 2014 [10 favorites]


Translation: After two years, things have tipped back in favor of income on the projected income versus outrage scale.
posted by Mooski at 12:43 PM on September 8, 2014 [43 favorites]


"Penn State has made remarkable progress over the past year,"

I believe that they believe this, and want it to be true. I believe it's bullshit; I don't believe you root out the kind of intentional, institutional blindness in two years. I see a lot of wordswordswords about institutional compliance and guidelines adherence and procedural yadda and jack about how anyone there has come to understand that the worship of football and the cult of personality of those who coach and play it is the root of the problem that allowed many children to be raped over many years, not a lack of procedural training and oversight. Makes me want to barf.
posted by rtha at 12:43 PM on September 8, 2014 [16 favorites]


I still see so many Penn State alums complaining and the sanctions and lionizing Joe Paterno.
Seems like nothing was learned from this....
posted by bottlebrushtree at 12:46 PM on September 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


What a joke.
posted by Kwine at 12:47 PM on September 8, 2014 [9 favorites]


I'm struck by how "significant progress toward ensuring its athletics department functions with integrity" implies that they have yet to actually ensure that the athletic department functions with integrity. It's great that they're making progress towards that goal; it's odd to cite mere progress as sufficient grounds to lift the sanctions in their entirety. It's not quite like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet, but it feels close.
posted by cjelli at 12:48 PM on September 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


I still see so many Penn State alums complaining and the sanctions and lionizing Joe Paterno.

Yeah, that's about half my Facebook feed on game days. Mostly from people who were big lefty radicals back when we were in school together. Not sure what happens to people.
posted by octothorpe at 12:51 PM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'll be up front about it: I don't get sports. I don't watch sports. If I know anything about people in sports it is because of repeated exposure combined with osmosis. If you told me the name of a sports team, I probably could not get the sport they played right.

Having said that, I wouldn't disband the program forever. Instead, just locate everyone who was in the chain of responsibility and, as soon as they are gone and some kind of monitoring program was put in place, the program could start again.

However, this would never happen. The Central Park Jogger case just paid out to the five "young men" who were imprisoned, but the condition was that the NYPD would admit no wrongdoing in the settlement. These sorts of organizations just spread blame around until it dissolves. There's something discrete about their ethical calculus such that all of the little bitty chunks, when integrated over time and actors, do not add up to the rape of boys, despite the fact that boys were raped. It just turns into the passive voice, "Mistakes were made," and that's that.

Culpability is funny that way.
posted by adipocere at 12:52 PM on September 8, 2014 [10 favorites]


Yeah, that's about half my Facebook feed on game days. Mostly from people who were big lefty radicals back when we were in school together. Not sure what happens to people.

Lefty radicals are only slightly, slightly better than anybody else at opposing rape culture, especially when there is cult of personality involved.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:54 PM on September 8, 2014 [12 favorites]


I agree with punishing the Penn State administration.

There are lots of teachers and students who will suffer negative impacts by virtue of association with something they had nothing to do with though and I'm not comfortable with that.
posted by vapidave at 12:55 PM on September 8, 2014


And I do think that they announced this today in the hopes that it would be drowned in Ray Rice news.
posted by Kwine at 12:56 PM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Penn State should have gotten a 4-year "death penalty". I'm not sure I quite understand why they are getting let off early on this. The school sanctioned molestation. They shouldn't be allowed to forget any decade too soon.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 12:59 PM on September 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


The people who put football culture several steps higher than institutional integrity or protecting the innocent are gone from Penn State's employment. They've been replaced by a different set of people who'll put football culture several steps higher than institutional integrity or protecting the innocent.

Same fans, though.
posted by delfin at 1:00 PM on September 8, 2014 [24 favorites]


They've been replaced by a different set of people who'll put football culture several steps higher than institutional integrity or protecting the innocent.

There was no doubt in my mind, ever, that this would be this case.
posted by sutt at 1:04 PM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Penn State should have gotten a 4-year "death penalty". I'm not sure I quite understand why they are getting let off early on this. The school sanctioned molestation. They shouldn't be allowed to forget any decade too soon.

They should have gotten a death penalty. As in, no more football. The fact that the NCAA labels a temporary suspension as the most severe punishment humanly possible is your second indication that they don't take this shit seriously. The first is that it's the goddamn NCAA. Of course they don't care about things other than their own salaries.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:06 PM on September 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


What ever happened with the criminal/civil actions against the Penn State leadership that participated in the coverup?
posted by Copronymus at 1:17 PM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Sanctions for something like this does need to be partially punitive, and not simply about correcting behavior. It needs to communicate something very specific about the seriousness of the offense, especially to those who were harmed. It's not simply a gracious window of time for learning the error of one's ways.

The length of the punishment, I thought, was in part about the severity of the issues. Lifting sanctions early because they put a new coat of paint on everything is a bit insulting to those wanted more than Penn State to simply reform itself.
posted by SpacemanStix at 1:18 PM on September 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


"Penn State has made remarkable progress over the past year," said Harris Pastides, University of South Carolina president and a NCAA board member.

No, and fuck you, Harris Pastides. That is not the point of this ban. The point of this ban was to punish Penn State. To hurt them, and to show every other program what happens if you do something so egregiously stupid as to protect a child molester. Reducing it means that the NCAA somehow thinks that a bowl ban is rehabilitative instead of punitive -- that the school and the athletic department and the team and the fans and whomever else will, what, spend the last week of December thinking about what they've done in the absence of going to Detroit for the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl?
posted by Etrigan at 1:20 PM on September 8, 2014 [36 favorites]


I think it's a mistake to focus on athletics here. Anything that puts a person on a pedestal can encourage the version of rape culture on display in the Sandusky scandal. The Catholic Church didn't need a football team to do it. Politicians don't need to be able to throw a tight spiral to get supporters to defend them despite their crimes. You can kill the Penn State football program and make the head of the Meteorology department the big man on campus and he will be just as likely to think he is above the law as an assistant football coach.

We need to teach everybody we put in positions of responsibility that not reporting what they see when it comes to rape will have much bigger consequences than anything the Bishop/Coach/Administrator/Boss/Whatever might do to you. That's why the sentence for Penn State had to be harsh, and why it should not have been lifted even if they are improving.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:20 PM on September 8, 2014 [15 favorites]


Some of us lefty radicals are still lefty radicals. I am as bewildered as everyone else by the way people can renounce their values when they're not convenient any more.

And I am a Pennsylvania resident, and I would have preferred Penn State football to be shut down. Period. Football has reached the stage of being a metastatic cancer on education.
posted by Peach at 1:23 PM on September 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


Penn State should react to this by putting the Joe Paterno statue back on display.

Welded upside down with its head buried in the ground.
posted by delfin at 1:27 PM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Drinky Die makes an excellent point. Reminds of this recent discussion by Ross Douthat:
So instead of looking for ideological vindication in these stories, it’s better to draw a general lesson. Show me what a culture values, prizes, puts on a pedestal, and I’ll tell you who is likely to get away with rape.

In Catholic Boston or Catholic Ireland, that meant men robed in the vestments of the church.

In Joe Paterno’s pigskin-mad Happy Valley, it meant a beloved football coach.

In status-conscious, education-obsessed Manhattan, it meantcharismatic teachers at an elite private school.
In Hollywood and the wider culture industry — still the great undiscovered country of sexual exploitation, I suspect — it has often meant the famous and talented, from Roman Polanski to the BBC’s Jimmy Savile, robed in the authority of their celebrity and art.

And in Rotherham, it meant men whose ethnic and religious background made them seem politically untouchable, and whose victims belonged to a class that both liberal and conservative elements in British society regard with condescension or contempt.

The point is that as a society changes, as what’s held sacred and who’s empowered shifts, so do the paths through which evil enters in, the prejudices and blind spots it exploits.
posted by resurrexit at 1:28 PM on September 8, 2014 [23 favorites]


So when's Sandusky getting out? Hasn't he been punished enough?

If the above answer is never and no then it should be never and no for his accomplices as well (i.e. Penn State).
posted by cjorgensen at 1:29 PM on September 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


In NCAA math, l'affair Sandusky (2-year bowl ban, 20 scholarships) is now officially less egregious than Reggie Bush taking money (2-year bowl ban, 30 scholarships).
posted by Etrigan at 1:34 PM on September 8, 2014 [24 favorites]


The lack of understanding within Penn State and the NCAA about the culture that allowed this to happen is astonishing. Imagine a raging alcoholic truck driver who, I dunno, goes on a bender and crashes his 18-wheeler into a swimming pool.

Then imagine that two years later, he is rehired by a trucking company, not on the basis of quitting drinking, which he hasn't, but because his driving has gotten a lot better in the past 24 months.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:36 PM on September 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


> Let it not go unsaid that the timing of the announcement is a wee-bit suspicious.

When, besides before the start of a new season and new school year, is the right time to do this? It's not suspicious, but rather the time when it makes the most sense.
posted by Sunburnt at 1:37 PM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yes Penn State has made remarkable progress in the last two years. As far as we can tell, nobody involved with the Penn State football program has raped a child, like, at all in those two years. Not even once!

So it's all over now and everyone can go back to loving the Penn State football program and buying merchandise and stuff. Let's celebrate!
posted by Naberius at 1:37 PM on September 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


It's not suspicious

WAT?!?

No, it's suspicious because it is going to be absolutely buried by the media churn around the Ray Rice debacle.

I guess I don't find it suspicious either, I find it nakedly intentional.
posted by mcstayinskool at 1:40 PM on September 8, 2014


I'm a faculty member at Penn State. There's no question that there are now more procedures in place because of the Sandusky case, and that awareness of these changes and the need for them is being held firmly in view across campus. For example, I and all other faculty/staff have now had to spend hours getting trained on how to report criminal wrong doing and deal with child molestation. We will have to renew this training every year, forever. Because shit always flows down hill. But, OK, I guess that's for the greater good. We now have real-time notification of even suspected criminal activity via email/text. So I hope the situation is now safer than it used to be for students and visitors--but keep in mind it was already pretty safe. It's not like State College, PA had or has a Baltimore-level crime rate.

I certainly wanted heads to roll--namely, the heads of all of the people involved, starting with Sandusky but including everyone who knew and didn't make a peep. That said, the lust for collective punishment many seem to have makes little sense to me as anything more than the type of projective othering we humans like to engage in to make ourselves feel morally superior.

Setting institutional reputation issues aside, the entire region has taken a massive economic hit (starting with the $60M penalty). Why is that justified? On top of that, I don't care one whit about football mania, but what was the basis for rescinding a bunch of Paterno's wins? The crime and the wins were orthogonal to each other. The NCAA just felt the need to "do something", so they did something unjustifed and stupid. I supported removing the Paterno "shrine", but I thought the administration should have fought both of these other things. A crime occurred. Prosecute the crimes. I can't think of any other situation where an entire community has been penalized because some of it's members commit a crime, however heinous.
posted by mondo dentro at 1:43 PM on September 8, 2014 [10 favorites]


Football has reached the stage of being a metastatic cancer on education.

That's a somewhat hyperbolic articulation of a common and valid complaint that I think underlies a lot of this discussion. It's football, on MetaFilter. In a different context—say, in an information science or game design department, rather than an athletic program—yes of course people would demand punishment and action, but I think we'd see less of this burn-it-down-and-leave-the-earth-scorched. This isn't a sports crowd, and there's a lot of latent social resentment there.
posted by cribcage at 1:47 PM on September 8, 2014 [13 favorites]


This is so completely believable in addition to being awful and upsetting. Which football is less morally bankrupt?
posted by lownote at 1:48 PM on September 8, 2014


Setting institutional reputation issues aside, the entire region has taken a massive economic hit (starting with the $60M penalty). Why is that justified?

Because the community created the environment that let this happen.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:48 PM on September 8, 2014 [7 favorites]


The crime and the wins were orthogonal to each other.

The crimes and the reputations of Paterno and the program were not, though, and keeping those crimes hidden in order to keep the reputation high - allowing for recruiting and retention of good players - were inseparable.
posted by rtha at 1:48 PM on September 8, 2014 [9 favorites]


Drinky Die: "Yeah, that's about half my Facebook feed on game days. Mostly from people who were big lefty radicals back when we were in school together. Not sure what happens to people.

Lefty radicals are only slightly, slightly better than anybody else at opposing rape culture, especially when there is cult of personality involved.
"

At least one of them was a "Take back the night" anti-rape activist back in the 80s. How that squares with what happened at Penn State, I can't figure.
posted by octothorpe at 1:50 PM on September 8, 2014


I can't think of any other situation where an entire community has been penalized because some of it's members commit a crime

I think where I'd disagree is that I don't think Penn State football is a possession of the community. For whatever smoke the NCAA might blow up everyone's butt, it's a for-profit corporation that veils itself in a false PR spin of integrity.

There should be no expectation that it's the community's right to have an unbreakable economic stream from this corporation. If the community is feeling penalized by that, DIVERSIFY. It's a goddamn football team.

For the Nth time, the punishment of Sandusky is the criminal affair, and was treated accordingly. The coverup by Paterno and people both above and below him was both a criminal affair (perhaps not treated accordingly) and a sports culture one which needed real administrative punishment, not the cop-out the NCAA delivered.
posted by mcstayinskool at 1:54 PM on September 8, 2014 [7 favorites]


On top of that, I don't care one whit about football mania, but what was the basis for rescinding a bunch of Paterno's wins? The crime and the wins were orthogonal to each other. The NCAA just felt the need to "do something", so they did something unjustifed and stupid.

It's kind of like rescinding Jesus' resurrection because of the Catholic abuse scandal, yeah. Either it happened or it didn't.

It makes sense though, the point was to force Penn State to never treat Paterno as a legitimate hero again. If they want to do it, they will look like pariahs to everybody outside the close PSU community. They also deserved it for keeping Paterno on the field to try and win records even as the scandal was unfolding.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:58 PM on September 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Because the community created the environment that let this happen.

Oh, do tell. I'm really interested to hear the theory of social psychology, not to mention justice, that makes this anything other than self-righteous nonsense. There are 100K-200K people who live/work here, and about 40K students. The majority of whom don't even follow football. And maybe, just estimating, 10 people who were involved in the Sandusky coverup.
posted by mondo dentro at 1:58 PM on September 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


Actively involved in the Sandusky coverup == not many.

Contributing to a culture that put SO MUCH IMPORTANCE on football that those actively involved felt that protecting the football program and its reputation was important enough to justify sheltering a known child rapist == hordes. You vastly underestimate the fandom of Penn State's football program across Pennsylvania and the pressure applied by its alumni and donors.

However, this is by no means a unique Penn State phenomenon. Sandusky himself is PSU's permanent albatross, obviously, but if you could peer into the hidden basements of many high-profile NCAA programs I shudder to think of what you'd find.
posted by delfin at 2:07 PM on September 8, 2014 [9 favorites]


Are you arguing that despite the findings that the university participated in the coverup, that they should not have been sanctioned? Because....the surrounding area depends so enormously on the economic engine of a game that both the civil and criminal wrongdoings should get a pass? Because that seems like a terrible argument, if that's what you're arguing.
posted by rtha at 2:07 PM on September 8, 2014 [12 favorites]


Upton Sinclair said it best: it's hard to make a man understand something when his paycheck depends on his not understanding it. The community was dependant on the football program (a point you established), and as such wasn't too interested in looking too deeply into what was happening. Remember, several of the victims suffered significant social reprisal for coming forward.
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:11 PM on September 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


Think of the harm to BP shareholders if they have to pay to clean up the Gulf, when only a few people were responsible for the spill!
posted by Metafilter Username at 2:13 PM on September 8, 2014 [18 favorites]


You vastly underestimate the fandom of Penn State's football program across Pennsylvania and the pressure applied by its alumni and donors.

I most certainly do not! I know very well how rabid the fans are. I live here, remember?! We locals hide from the traffic and general insanity caused by them during home games. But you can't get at those people, can you? So by all means, let's penalize the students and staff!

Upton Sinclair said it best: it's hard to make a man understand something when his paycheck depends on his not understanding it.

OMG. What a fucking cheap shot. My paycheck has little to nothing to do with the football team, and it certainly had nothing to do with covering for Sandusky. Really, how dare you!
posted by mondo dentro at 2:21 PM on September 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


Happy Valley as a whole is not being punished. A college and community that proved in striking fashion their utter inability to responsibly have a football program is having that football program sanctioned, and not nearly, nearly enough.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:21 PM on September 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


For what its worth, a significant portion of the Penn State community did engage in pro-Paterno riots after he was fired. Part of what allowed Paterno to have the sway he had at Penn State was that he has that level of support and backing from many thousands of fans, administrators and students.

When people say "it was the culture that allowed this to happen," that means people. People make up the culture. If you believe so strongly that a football coach who allowed a fellow coach to molest boys shouldn't be fired that you'd take to the street and riot over it, you're part of the culture that allowed molestation to occur for all those years.

mondo dentro, I am absolutely not saying that you supported Sandusky in any way, shape or form. However, changing an underlying culture is much, much more complicated than just forcing the faculty to take some additional awareness courses. Honestly, I don't think the so-called death penalty was going to cause a cultural shift, much less lifting it early. Indeed, looking at the Twitter celebration from Penn State football supporters, my sense is many of them are still convinced Penn State did nothing worthy of any sanctions at all.

So, Penn State will be back to business as usual. Many will continue to believe in their hearts that Paterno (and, by extension, the former president and athletic director) did nothing wrong in covering up the molestation of children. People who believe that make up a powerful, influential part of Penn State culture. Ergo, Penn State culture in part, still supports people who hide molestation if it protects the football team.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:24 PM on September 8, 2014 [14 favorites]


(again, which is not to say that mondo dentro supports this aspect of the culture)
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:25 PM on September 8, 2014


OMG. What a fucking cheap shot. My paycheck has little to nothing to do with the football team, and it certainly had nothing to do with covering for Sandusky. Really, how dare you!

It is the university administration and the coaching staff who are responsible for their economic troubles, not the wrist-slapping NCAA sanctions. I can understand the resentment at the unfairness for feeling the effects of a punishment that is not directly aimed at you, but the fault for it lies with the wrongdoers, not the sanctioning entity, and not people like the ones on this site who think the wrist-slapping was entirely insufficient.
posted by rtha at 2:26 PM on September 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


So just to be clear people are upset that the holy order of college athletics sold a heavenly pardon to a sinful organization so it can have its financially cloistered athletes' futures sacrificed on the field of brain injurious play before rivalrous regional congregations two years earlier than prescribed as penance at their last confession?

I think the only way you can be hyperbolic about this situation is if whatever you say you follow with "brought to you by Microsoft Surface 3.0. Over to you Howie."
posted by srboisvert at 2:27 PM on September 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


I wasn't referring to your paycheck. I was referring to the point that the region had a vested financial interest in preserving the image of Penn State football - again, a point you yourself brought up when you mentioned the financial hit the area has taken - and how that interest made scrutiny of the program less than attractive.

A point that I will note that you haven't addressed.
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:30 PM on September 8, 2014 [9 favorites]


mondo dentro, do you not remember the student mobs that choked off the city and campus as a show of solidarity with a man who condoned (or at least ignored) the rape of children?

Does that not suggest to you that there are deeper currents?
posted by truex at 2:31 PM on September 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


There are 100K-200K people who live/work here, and about 40K students. The majority of whom don't even follow football.

How are these people being punished? Shouldn't you feel like the absence of football would have been a blessing?

Something to keep in mind is that large universities are entirely capable of surviving without a football program, and do so all over the world regularly.

It's a silly, violent game that has crazy $$ behind it and extremely questionable integrity and relevance at an institution of higher learning. Why this is news is the $$ part of that last sentence. This happens to the cross country team instead of the football team the NCAA, Penn State, and every last person in Happy Valley eagerly shuts that squad down faster than you can blink.
posted by mcstayinskool at 2:32 PM on September 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


My paycheck has little to nothing to do with the football team, and it certainly had nothing to do with covering for Sandusky. Really, how dare you!

This is a bit like saying that "my lifestyle has little to nothing to do with rising sea levels, and it certainly had nothing to do with Bangladeshi factory workers dying in fires." I mean, it's not like I checked a box on a form somewhere saying that I was OK with people dying in a fire, but I participate in a complex economic system that permitted and even encouraged that happening.

Football is a big deal at Penn State -- it raises the school's profile, bonds the student body, raises money for the university, and enables the school to hire more and higher-quality faculty to teach its students. There's a reason why multiple people were told about the rape of a child and basically responded by brushing things under the rug.
posted by leopard at 2:32 PM on September 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


At this point the only NFL worth caring about is in Breaking Madden
posted by hellojed at 2:35 PM on September 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Penn State is not in the NFL.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:37 PM on September 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


They should have gotten a death penalty. As in, no more football.

A 4 year suspension from all competition is just that. All your coaches are under a show-cause order, so they can't get work. All the players leave, because they get a full release. You can't recruit. By the time it expires, your football program is truly dead. Even without restrictions, nobody is going to want to play there because you have nothing.

SMU is the only football squad to get a death penalty, and they were only one full year and one year of no home games. SMU, basically having no players or coaches, chose to sit out 1988 at well. SMU didn't get back into a bowl until 2009 -- they went from being a true powerhouse to an also-ran, and they still are one.

That's what 2 years did. 4 years would have ended the program.

The reasons Penn didn't get it: First, the NCAA were afraid of what happened to SMU. Two, when it broke, the University fired AD Tim Curley, HC Joe Paterno, and told President Graham Spanier that he could either resign by 5PM or be fired at 5:01PM, his choice. He resigned. The University then fully cooperated with investigators. All of them except Paterno are facing charges of perjury, obstruction of justice, and child endangerment (Paterno died the following year.) Third, the death penalty was, as written, only applicable for an offense committed after sanctions had already been applied, and Penn was clean up to this. (There's arguments that the NCAA could work around that if they really wanted to.) Finally, the new president, former Provost Rodney Erickson, was flat out told that he had two choices: Sign this sweeping consent decree, or they would DP the program. You don't get to bargain here. Take this, or we will take off and nuke you from orbit. So, he did.

You can argue that wasn't enough. I'm sort of with you there. But I don't know if I'd go four years. The person who was abusing children is in prison for 60 years -- and the early possible date he can leave is in 2042, when he will be 98.

The people who should have stepped in were fired and will never work in NCAA athletics again, and may well do prison time as well. The university president was (for all intents) fired, the University VP's contract wasn't renewed, and they may get time too. Penn has paid over $70M in settlements, and will pay much more. They paid a $60M fine.

A two year DP would have, in addition to all that, made Penn completely uncompetitive in football for decades. They'd almost assuredly have to leave the BIG-10, which would be a massive financial penalty as well. I think that was the right answer, not a 4 year that would have closed FB down completely.

The only thing lifted was the 2014 and 2015 bowl bands and scholarships in 2015 were reinstated. The rest remains, which is:

1) Five year probation. Any NCAA violation through 2018 results in a two year suspension from competitions (DP.)

2) Two year postseason ban. This was 4 years until today.

3) $60M fine.*

4) Loss of 40 initial scholarships from 2013-2015, and limited to 65 total (rather than 85) through the 2014 season (was 2013-2017, and through the 2016 season.)

5) NCAA and BIG-10 oversight of the program through 2018.

6) A full release, with no loss of eligibility, to all players then in the program.

And, in the symbolic category.

7) Loss of all wins from 1998-2011 (112 wins), which dropped Paterno from 1st to 12th in the all-time wins list, and remove Penn's 2005 and 2008 BIG-10 titles.

The BIG-10 then tacked on.

8) $16M fine

9) Loss of conference bowl revenue from 2013-2018. Someone saw that and said "Why are they even bothering with the $16M? That's peanuts compared to this."

So. I wish they'd not backed off the bowl and scholarship penalties, but they did hit Penn hard. Maybe not hard enough, but even with this backdown in the penalty, it's still by far the largest penalty levied by the NCAA that wasn't a DP, and it probably cost Penn more in real dollars than SMU paid for their two years not playing.

Heck, between the fines, the extra costs of the consent degrees, and the lawsuits, if Penn State walks out of this paying less than $500M, I'd be very surprised indeed. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if it was over a billion, all told.




* Famously, the Governor of Pennsylvania sued to have this penalty thrown out, asserting that there was no proof that the money wouldn't be paid from taxpayer funds. Note quite as famously, it was ruled to have "no factual allegations" and was dismissed.
posted by eriko at 2:41 PM on September 8, 2014 [15 favorites]


Penn State is not in the NFL.

Ok but that doesn't affect the accuracy of the statement.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:46 PM on September 8, 2014


Just the relevance.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:47 PM on September 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


My paycheck has little to nothing to do with the football team

You're right. As I recall from my time there, watching my friends one-by-one leave Penn State in search of gainful employment, Penn State admin was making every effort to make your paycheck and the paycheck of every faculty member (ok, ok, every liberal arts faculty member) an afterthought. Hell, if they could have gotten away with having a school with no teachers and no classes, just dorm-room residents who eat from their over-priced cafeterias, binge drink their nights away, and go to their football games, they would have done so.
posted by sutt at 2:59 PM on September 8, 2014


It is the university administration and the coaching staff who are responsible for their economic troubles, not the wrist-slapping NCAA sanctions.

The NCAA and the entire enterprise of big-time college sports is corrupt, and the fan culture contributes to that, most especially through the connections with rich alumni donors. But is anything actually done about? Eh, not really. So, let's pile on in a case when an obvious, egregious crime was committed so that "we" can all feel good about watching the Rose Bowl and betting on the Sweet 16.

Look, I didn't exactly expect my complaint to be understood. Shit like this happens and everyone with an axe to grind about higher ed lights their torches. I get it. I probably have done the same thing in responding to various forms of corporate malfeasance.

So, have at it. I'm not going to sweat it unless you get too close to my house.
posted by mondo dentro at 3:08 PM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Penn State is not Penn. PLEASE.
posted by Peach at 3:09 PM on September 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm gonna go ahead and cancel my planned torch light vigil at MD's house.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:13 PM on September 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Penn State is not Penn. PLEASE.

Oh, hahahahaha. I read eriko's otherwise excellent reminder and appraisal of all the penalties, saw the use of the name "Penn", and I just started the count-down for that one. Poor Penn. The only Ivy that's constantly confused with a state school. And now it's the one with Sandusky!
posted by mondo dentro at 3:13 PM on September 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


If you do come by, come in for a beer, Drinky Die. If you don't, the bears might get you.
posted by mondo dentro at 3:14 PM on September 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


This became long, but bear with me.

I'm an alum of one of the very few schools with the kind of cancerous football obsession that Penn State has (Roll Tide). My alumni pals and I watched this happen and could not look away; it was the most train-wrecky of train wrecks.

We were all amazed at the denial coming out of Happy Valley, and the rationalization, and the completely bullshit justifications and theories, and the sad travesty that became the end of a coaching giant's career -- one who, for pretty good reasons, had been held up in the past as an example of college football done correctly and with an eye towards reasonable priorities. You could write a book on the way he squandered his legacy, and that's just a tiny part of the whole picture.

But then the divide happened.

Most of us realized that Alabama -- like probably Michigan, and Texas, and USC, and Notre Dame, and a few others -- was just as vulnerable to this kind of perversion of hero worship and obsession, and that this colossal, amazingly corrupt tragedy was a serious "there but for the grace of God" situation for any similar program. Including, and especially, Alabama.

But there were a vocal few who disagreed. "Oh, no," they cried, "that could NEVER happen here, because blah blah blah Bear Bryant." (I'm paraphrasing.)

Of course it could. Of course. I'm amazed to this day that you could make a case otherwise.

I wasn't really much of a football fan when I went to UA in 1988. I'm not from Alabama, for one thing. No word of it a lie, I choose the school because of the embarrassing levels of scholarship money they offered based largely on standardized test scores and the fact that I was from the poorer state to the west. "A profit to go to college? Why not?"

There are lots of things about Tuscaloosa in the late 1980s and early 1990s that were awesome. I loved my years there, on and off campus, but I really wasn't prepared for the football culture in which most of my cohort had been steeping since the womb. It was the post-Bear interregnum; on field performance was off, and the current coach (Bill Curry) was withering under charges that he was not Bear Bryant. These charges were, inconveniently, true (just as they had been for his predecessor), since Bear died in 1983. Nevertheless, angry alums hounded him from the job despite solid records, and counted themselves wise and correct when his replacement brought them a title in 1992 (my senior year, and yes, I cheered from my apartment).

The whole thing never stopped being completely surreal and disturbing. I mean, if you drink beer with a funny, irreverent crowd all week, and then on Saturdays in the fall they become a raging mob of weirdos over a game, it sticks with you. I saw chairs thrown, walls punched, and oblivions acquired via alcohol in response to games or even individual plays going badly, and this was in the NERD DORM.

I was never much of a football fan growing up, and suffice it to say that I didn't become one living in the shadow of Bryant-Denny and in the middle of this culture. It shocks people when I tell them this, but did you know that women living in Tutwiler Hall, the largest women's dorm, had to move their cars off campus on Thursdays of home game weeks so that RVs could park in their lot? And that this was going on while a serial rapist worked the other side of campus? The whole thing was too obviously bankrupt and cancerous. I attended 2 or 3 games my freshman year, and haven't been to one since.

Then I moved away, and as I got farther from living there, I remembered more good things and fewer bad ones, and started following the team a little more. I live in an immigrant city with plenty of college team flags; I wanted to fly my own. And then I paid a lot more attention when they started paying Nick Saban enough money to burn a wet dog (as Rick Bragg famously wrote); I even tracked a "winning points per million" stat on my blog his first two years to illustrate the absurdity of it all. And somewhere along the line, I got pulled in as an actual fan for the first time in my life.

I stayed there, until the end of last year. A bunch of things combined.

First, the aforementioned realization that the Tide program would certainly have behaved precisely as criminally as Penn State's sank in and kept making me feel worse. That they have not, to our knowledge, is a matter of circumstance, not principle.

Second, I realized that, between costs and the differences between haves and have nots and medical issues, college football in this form is probably doomed, and (more) that it should be.

Third and most importantly, I realized watching the games wasn't fun anymore. I sort of dreaded them. It was stressful and ridiculous and at the end of it I always felt like I'd wasted time -- either immediately, after a loss, or a few hours later if they won. I wasn't present with those around me, even if we were all watching. Couldn't I have done something better with that time? It really feels like I had what I think alcoholics refer to as a "moment of clarity" about the whole affair.

I kept quiet about it for a month or two, and then Alabama had an ignominious end to its season (which, I'll note as a fan, I had predicted in the fall -- most of the defense from 2012 was playing on Sundays last year, so the fact that they only lost twice is sort of amazing to me) I realized I might be done. And I think I kind of am, at least at that level of fandom. I'll watch a game or two, but only if it's fun, and only if there's not something better to do.

To say that some of my friends are surprised is an understatement. But I feel good about it.
posted by uberchet at 3:15 PM on September 8, 2014 [28 favorites]


"progress toward" Are the weaseliest words ever spoken. How about you let us know when the athletics department actually functions with integrity.
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:21 PM on September 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


uberchet: So what you're saying is call you Deacon Blue?
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:21 PM on September 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


As a former PSU grad student -- who doesn't understand how football is played and who went there only to work with a particular scholar -- I am pretty glad to be a former PSU grad student. When my family came to see me graduate last month, they were shocked at all the Paterno merch for sale, "409" bumper stickers (referring to Paterno's former win count), and such. It really is a toxic environment. I do think that salting the earth as a "death penalty" would have done was necessary. I thought that what PSU ended up getting was a slap on the wrist, though perhaps "understandable" given the fact that so much of Central PA depends on football revenue of one kind or another. Lifting all of these sanctions early just makes me sick, and reinforces a kind of "redemption" arc that makes for a tidy story. I can just imagine PSU doing well next season and being hailed as a "comeback" etc.
posted by dhens at 3:23 PM on September 8, 2014 [7 favorites]


Poor Penn. The only Ivy that's constantly confused with a state school.

Well, Cornell too, but there the confusion is understandable and the truth complicated.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:29 PM on September 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


"Are you arguing that despite the findings that the university participated in the coverup, that they should not have been sanctioned? Because....the surrounding area depends so enormously on the economic engine of a game that both the civil and criminal wrongdoings should get a pass?
"

Why punish innocent people? The sports department of the university is not the entire community. The university is a nebulous concept and football is not the entirety of Penn State. Punishing honest teachers and decent students as though they are somehow responsible is fucking absurd. If you are not in favor of college sports then just say it.
posted by vapidave at 3:29 PM on September 8, 2014


Why punish innocent people?

That is not what happened. The NCAA and the local prosecutors set punishments for those who perpetrated and covered up the molestations and rapes of multiple children. They did not punish innocent people.

You seem to blame the NCAA and the prosecutors rather than the university and football program administrators, who are the parties responsible for the fallout. They are the guilty parties. It is their bad acts that caused the ripple effects.

Blaming some nebulous people who hate college sports - something you have no evidence that I do or do not - is part of the problem that drove the coverup in the first place. Putting the reputation of the university and the football program above the safety of children is the problem, and it wasn't caused by people who don't like college football.
posted by rtha at 3:37 PM on September 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


Why punish innocent people? The sports department of the university is not the entire community. The university is a nebulous concept and football is not the entirety of Penn State. Punishing honest teachers and decent students as though they are somehow responsible is fucking absurd.

You can't have it both ways. If Penn State is so handcuffed to their football program that they'd cover up the presence of a child rapist for many years wait I'll start again.

If Penn State is so handcuffed to their football program that they'd lose their academic standing, charity work, alumni support, financial well-being and credibility as a university if the football program was deep-sixed, _that alone_ is sufficient reason to blow it all up and start over. That's not a tumor on a community, that's a community so overrun by cancer that it's harder to find the healthy bits.

On the other hand, if Penn State can go on as a productive institution of learning without a football program, and it's NOT hooked through the bag by football-obsessed students, alumni and donors... then what's all the fuss about?
posted by delfin at 3:39 PM on September 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


Also - if the football program was not "the entirety of Penn State", then its 2-year sanction could not have had such an economic impact, no? If the archery team had been suspended for two years, I imagine not much impact would have been felt. But the impact was large, which indicates that the football program did indeed have a disproportionate role in the university's regional economic impact. That's a problem.
posted by rtha at 3:40 PM on September 8, 2014 [7 favorites]


Yeah, "We depend on our football program." is a very good reason to police your fucking football program before this happens.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:41 PM on September 8, 2014 [10 favorites]


Fucking NCAA. Just when I think they couldn't sink any lower. They make FIFA look virtuous.
posted by persona au gratin at 4:02 PM on September 8, 2014


Well, as much as I think the NCAA are bankrupt, FIFA make them look like amateurs.
posted by uberchet at 4:03 PM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Well, as much as I think the NCAA are bankrupt, FIFA make them look like amateurs.

Which, of course, is ironic after a fashion.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:08 PM on September 8, 2014 [10 favorites]


Bear Bryant started his coaching career at Alabama while it was segregated. How the fuck is someone like that lionized?
posted by persona au gratin at 4:09 PM on September 8, 2014


Sorry, uberchet; that wasn't meant as a personal attack on you. I just was shocked when I did the math a couple years ago, and now mention it when his name comes up.
posted by persona au gratin at 4:12 PM on September 8, 2014


delfin, you're making a false dichotomy, and a highly hyperbolic one, at that.

I have to take responsibility for making my initial derailing complaint about the "burn the whole place down" vibe in these discussions, when in fact this FPP is about specific sanctions. For the record, I have little concern about the sanctions. Which is to say: I accept them, and would have accepted harsher. (Or, more accurately, I wouldn't have paid much attention to them.) In fact, I wanted to see, in my utopian inner vision, the administration step up a few years back and say that they realized how much football had become a distraction from the University's real mission. But my outer cynic knew that wasn't bloody likely. Too much money is involved, and this is America, after all.

But if you look at the very beginning of this thread, the comments didn't seem to stay focused on the specific point of the FPP either, but instead talked about how Penn State wasn't likely really doing anything, the community sucks, etc. As if all of the educators, administrators, students, citizens here are complicit. And I, by speaking up, was just being the quintessential "good German". Or, perhaps that was just my sensitivities skewing my reading?

My main point, I guess, was that if Penn State is guilty and deserves sanctions, what about the entire NCAA? Is Penn State's (and, by extension, the State College area's) "culture" really more depraved than what you see every week on the TV broadcast from any football school? Of course it isn't. When we talk about how much money is involved, and the toxic effect that has on universities, we are talking about the entire network of big-time college sports, and that ramifies all the way out to the national media stage. It couldn't even function if there wasn't a network, and that entire network is acting to cover it's collective ass. If that means throwing the place I live under the bus, so be it. That's the unfairness I was trying to address, not PSU's particular sanctions for this particular crime and cover up.

It's really easy, if one is not at all invested in making a place a good place to live, to wish for it to just wither and die. But I am invested. I love my community, and I know just what parts of it pertain to the Sandusky scandal, and what parts don't. Many here can't say the same thing. And I mean no disrespect, but just passing through a college town, even as a grad student or short-term faculty, is not necessarily the same thing as actually being invested as a community member. I know this because it took me a long time--until well after I got tenure--to "commit" to actually living here.
posted by mondo dentro at 4:14 PM on September 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


With a clamor of bells that set the swallows soaring, the Festival of Football came to the city College Park, bright-stadiumed by the NCAA.
posted by Metafilter Username at 4:16 PM on September 8, 2014


"culture" really more depraved than what you see every week on the TV broadcast from any football school? Of course it isn't.

Of course it is. Or at least we know it is. We know it because Penn State and Penn State culture allowed Jerry Sandusky to rape children. If any one of these other schools was in a similar situation I would also want their football program abolished.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 4:17 PM on September 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


Is Penn State's (and, by extension, the State College area's) "culture" really more depraved than what you see every week on the TV broadcast from any football school? Of course it isn't.

Well, except for the cover up of decades of child rape
posted by Metafilter Username at 4:18 PM on September 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


It shocks people when I tell them this, but did you know that women living in Tutwiler Hall, the largest women's dorm, had to move their cars off campus on Thursdays of home game weeks so that RVs could park in their lot?

Oh that's nothing. My alma mater Big Ten school closes off their hospital parking ramps on game day so people can tailgate there. And I hope you don't need an ambulance ride to the ER entrance.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:18 PM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Shit. My deepest apologies to Penn for forgetting about it and assuming that everyone would know what I meant.

My bad.
posted by eriko at 4:27 PM on September 8, 2014


Well, except for the cover up of decades of child rape

Yeah, most colleges are oasis where toleration of rape is totally unheard of.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:28 PM on September 8, 2014


of children?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 4:36 PM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


of people.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:38 PM on September 8, 2014


Is Penn State's (and, by extension, the State College area's) "culture" really more depraved than what you see every week on the TV broadcast from any football school?

I don't know if it's any more depraved than any other football school, but I do know from listening to that piece This American Life did on Penn State a few years before the Sandusky scandal broke that the combination of alcohol, football, and donor cash creates a situation that's ripe for depravity.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 4:41 PM on September 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


mondo dentro: that's a good point, and I think uberchet also made it very convincingly. I agree that while this did occur at Penn State, there are many other programs where it could have happened.

I grew up in a household where most of my family went to SMU. SMU was absolutely corrupt (and 30 for 30 did a great episode on this, called "Pony Exce$$," which is worth a look) but in my household, the story was that everybody else in the conference was just as corrupt if not more so.

And that's probably true. There are conflicting accounts of where Eric Dickerson's gold trans-am came from, but the most likely version has A&M buying it for him as a recruitment gift and the SMU scout (who had befriended Dickerson's grandmother while the other scouts largely ignored her) told her to put it in her name immediately before the thing became too big a scandal for Dickerson to handle. UT, A&M, OU, Arkansas, all had better-built and more longstanding booster communities than SMU did.

But SMU was in Dallas, which had a culture in the '80s pretty well exemplified by the eponymous tv show, and the damn governor was one of the boosters. And they were just really, really flagrant about it all.

So did SMU get unfair treatment? Probably. They were far from the only guilty ones in the conference and the Death Penalty was so harsh that the NCAA basically vowed never again, but SMU was also absurdly guilty.

My point being that while this could happen at UA or USC or Auburn or UT or OU, it did happen at Penn State, and was indicative of a culture in Happy Valley that was so wrapped up in the Nittany Lions' Footbal Program that when McQuarrie witnessed the molestation he seemed to genuinely not know what to do, and the police and authorities he told decided it was better to stay away from it.

That's what we've got, and what we've got to deal with now. If there's a way to make the big-program school reprioritize so that this sort of thing doesn't happen, that'd be amazing. It's not going to come from the NCAA in this case (or Roger Goodell in the Ray Rice case, or Bishops in the Catholic sex abuse cases, or FIFA for any number of things) because that is a "self-policing" body focused primarily on covering its own ass.

It would have been amazing if the school itself could have said they were bowing out for a bit. It would have been unpopular as hell, but it would have shown clarity, I think.

Right now, I don't know what to expect from the athletics department or school the next time a scandal starts brewing.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:45 PM on September 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


My main point, I guess, was that if Penn State is guilty and deserves sanctions, what about the entire NCAA? Is Penn State's (and, by extension, the State College area's) "culture" really more depraved than what you see every week on the TV broadcast from any football school? Of course it isn't.

And I said something similar upthread; I would be positively shocked to find that other big-name athletic programs (mostly football and basketball, they're where the money is) didn't have their own piles of skeletons worthy of sanction and/or shutdown. Are other institutions covering up similarly shocking depravities? I, um, HOPE not, but I suspect I would be disappointed in that.

It's just that, well, Penn State was the latest to get caught. Not just caught in one moment of misjudgment, mind, but in a sustained coverup. Not just covering up one incident, but many. Knowing about a gigantic black cloud of suspicion over Sandusky in the late 90s, having someone catch him in the act in 2002, but allowing Sandusky to run sleepover camps with children on Penn State splinter-campus grounds as late as 2009. When a pattern this unspeakable is revealed, and when the corruption in this case all circles around one program, I find it hardly credible that anything short of a program death penalty should be considered, with current students and student-athletes allowed to transfer freely if desired.

I agree that ending the current big-collegiate-sports money train in our lifetimes is an admirable, utopian idea and about as likely as a Jewish Pope to happen. To paraphrase from earlier, the NCAA's finances depend on them not understanding how out of control their major programs are. But if something this egregious is slapped on the wrist and paroled after two years, what kind of atrocity DOES it take for real sanctions with teeth in them?

Penn State could've ended football voluntarily once the depths of the scandal were revealed, focused on academics, charity and non-professional sports, and stood up as a modern Hadleyburg University -- daring the world to catch it napping again. But... well... that money thing again.
posted by delfin at 4:52 PM on September 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


It would have been amazing if the school itself could have said they were bowing out for a bit. It would have been unpopular as hell, but it would have shown clarity, I think.

That would have taken more vision and courage than can typically be found in your standard-issue upper-level administrator.

I don't know if it's any more depraved than any other football school, but I do know from listening to that piece This American Life did on Penn State a few years before the Sandusky scandal broke that the combination of alcohol, football, and donor cash creates a situation that's ripe for depravity.

Indeed it does. Indeed. It. Does. And you have no idea how much the actual community members (including the University) are engaged in an ongoing struggle to deal with the bros and hos binge-drinking scene. Again, this is a sizable fraction of the student body, but a fraction nevertheless. And, guess what? It's the local bar-owners who keep impeding doing much about it! Are you shocked? (Probably not.) Last year, the Borough of State College actually paid bars to stay closed on one notably problematic party day (to the tune of several $100K), and that really pissed off a lot of the taxpayers. (Wew! What a relief! I was able to bend it back around to capitalist bashing. My comfort zone.) But I don't really like focusing on the college kids getting emergency-room drunk. That's a problem, but I think of it as a health problem. But the returning alumni who come back to relive their glory days, I think of them as a bigger part of the "culture" problem we're talking about.

Also, I'll have to admit that my attempt at the Socratic method failed, so let me answer my own rhetorical question: no, it is not different than any other big football school.
posted by mondo dentro at 5:04 PM on September 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


Wow, those bars sound like a real problem. Good thing the football team hasn't done anything to impede protection of the health and safety of young people on campus or someone might try to shut them down too.
posted by Metafilter Username at 5:13 PM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


The bars have killed many people, yeah. It's possible Sandusky's actions have resulted in deaths as well but I'm not aware of a specific example.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:17 PM on September 8, 2014


It's possible Sandusky's actions have resulted in deaths as well but I'm not aware of a specific example.

Well, victims of sexual assault often contemplate or even go through the process of suicide. I don't know how many children were noted during the investigations, but how what I wonder is how many weren't because they had already made a permanent choice. That choice was made because of the actions of that child rapist.

So yeah. Pretty likely that there has been some death. We may never know the specific examples unless we look at the mortality rates of the kids who were in that program.
posted by hal_c_on at 5:35 PM on September 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Also, I'll have to admit that my attempt at the Socratic method failed, so let me answer my own rhetorical question: no, it is not different than any other big football school.

Because all big football schools have similarly depraved cultures that, without serious reform, could breed their own scandals thus making them the next Penn State?
posted by RonButNotStupid at 5:37 PM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


But the returning alumni who come back to relive their glory days, I think of them as a bigger part of the "culture" problem we're talking about.

And what better way to bury that "culture" in the ground than ending the football program and telling those alums to get over it?
posted by RonButNotStupid at 5:44 PM on September 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


My, money does talk, doesn't it? It says We're fine now. We'll be good. We pinkie swear. Sure, that'll work. You made policies, and acted sincere. Sure, that'll be just fine.
posted by theora55 at 5:58 PM on September 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


As someone who doesn't really follow college football I want to weigh in here. Something that is not being mentioned in this thread is that Joe Paterno was, in his tenure, a football legend. A squeaky-clean guy, a straight-shooter, an anchor and an icon. What coach stayed so long at the same school as he did? Surely no more than a handful in the history of college football.

This isn't similar to just any (great) sportsman sullying his sport. This is like finding out Cal Ripken took steroids or Lance Armstrong doped or Joe Montana & Jerry Rice colluded to add time to the clock, or Pele had a third foot. Only worse.

Any coach covering up such a horrible, awful, evil thing deserves a great deal of punishment and so do the enablers. But, surely, the aura of such a 'great' coach as Paterno takes an extra scrubbing. That is why this foreshortened penalty is so distasteful to me. Paterno, for decades, was a myth, a legend. Not some coach who won a few games.

I remember being 8 years old (a few decades ago) and visiting my grandmother in Pennsylvania and how my father pointed out Paterno on the televised sidelines and touted his character and respectability. Do I feel bad for the players and students who were lured there by such a legendary program and university? Yes. But not as bad as I feel for the children who were molested and ignored.

This is not any old coach and any old football program. This is a standard-bearer. The flag should be burned.
posted by zyxwvut at 7:20 PM on September 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


I think part of the incredulity most MeFites feel about Penn State still having supporters stems from an essential disconnect: Those people see "football" as a good in itself, like a MeFite might see "libraries," or "the Humanities Department." For them, a good school means a good football program and vice versa. If you feel that way then collective punishment makes less sense. It's hard to imagine a world where a librarian would have the sort of pull that Paterno or even Sandusky had, but I think it's fair to say that even if the entire staff of the Penn State library had been involved in a criminal conspiracy, MeFi would call for their imprisonment, but maybe be a touch less enthusiastic about targeting the library as an institution.

I don't agree, that Penn State as as an institution deserves no punishment, BTW. But I think the root problem is the disproportionate importance laid on sports, and not a baffling moral failing on the part of the Penn State apologists.
posted by tyllwin at 7:39 PM on September 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


I think that's an astute way to put it, Tyllwin.
posted by cribcage at 7:46 PM on September 8, 2014


"At least one of them was a "Take back the night" anti-rape activist back in the 80s. How that squares with what happened at Penn State, I can't figure."

"Well, it's not called 'Take Back the Lockerroom Shower.'"
posted by klangklangston at 8:24 PM on September 8, 2014


How exactly were the faculty and students of Penn State punished? Were faculty salaries cut? Faculty P&T put on hold? Was tuition raised? Students no longer able to graduate in a timely fashion? Can someone please explain?
posted by Squeak Attack at 8:50 PM on September 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


In NCAA math, l'affair Sandusky (2-year bowl ban, 20 scholarships) is now officially less egregious than Reggie Bush taking money (2-year bowl ban, 30 scholarships).

Glad someone else noticed that. "High profile players demand high profile compliance." But apparently high profile molesters aren't quite as serious.

Is Penn State's (and, by extension, the State College area's) "culture" really more depraved than what you see every week on the TV broadcast from any football school? Of course it isn't.

To say that is to be a bit ignorant of college football and the culture that surrounds it, and how this culture varies greatly in different parts of the country. At schools out west (and I don't mean Texas, I mean California and Pac-12 country, for example), the level of worship is nowhere near what it is in the South, let alone at somewhere like Penn State.

Now, are they serious enough at these schools about football (or in some cases, basketball) that they'll cover up cheating or illegal activity? By all means, yes. But is the self-righteous and obsessive worship there to the degree that you see at schools like Penn State? No.

If your point was that this culture is still at a toxic level everywhere, though... then I'd agree with that. But it's a hell of a lot more toxic in some places than in others.
posted by Old Man McKay at 9:11 PM on September 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Responding to rtha above: amongst the sanctions is "directing $60 million to be put into a national fund for sexual-abuse survivors" which certainly is a good thing but where is that money diverted from? If anything they should asses all universites a proportional amount. There were students who didn't participate in sexual abuse at Penn State. I understand that we may have to tear the whole mess down. Don't mistake me, I think the NCAA is a joke. But Penn State students are effectively paying for a crime that they didn't commit.
posted by vapidave at 9:48 PM on September 8, 2014


Not all Penn State students and faculty…
posted by truex at 10:09 PM on September 8, 2014


vapidave, that money would likely be "diverted" from the football program that has historically generated about 50 million dollars of profit a year.

I'm fairly confident that they have the money. Penn State ain't no charity.
posted by truex at 10:17 PM on September 8, 2014


Penn State is not in the NFL.

Well maybe not, but they certainly play at a professional level.

I mean I'd stack up a decades-long history of child molestation covered up by the school administration and supported by pro-child rape student riots when the truth comes out up against dogfighting and beating your fiancee into unconsciousness and punching a valet and brandishing a gun during a road rage incident and failing to pay child support and attempted murder and felony cheating at a casino craps game (apparently that's a thing) and aggravated assault and aggravated assault with a firearm and felony burglary and fracturing somebody's skull because he said you looked like Eddie Murphy and forcible sex with an intoxicated woman and third degree assault and stalking and honestly more DUIs and weapons charges and domestic violence incidents than I could even begin to count... [deep breath] ... pretty much any day. Wouldn't you?

(all those from the NFL Arrests Database, all since September 2011 except Vick)
posted by Naberius at 10:49 PM on September 8, 2014


I think part of the incredulity most MeFites feel about Penn State still having supporters stems from an essential disconnect: Those people see "football" as a good in itself, like a MeFite might see "libraries," or "the Humanities Department."

Yup. I (again, a PSU grad student at the time) had a conversation with someone who is a big fan of another Big 10 football program, in which he argued that it wasn't fair to "punish" the football players and the football team. Basically, he seemed to argue that a football program was just as integral a part of the university as was my department in the liberal arts. I wasn't really able to convince him otherwise.
posted by dhens at 4:42 AM on September 9, 2014


resurrexit, although what Douthat is saying in general is true, if somewhat trite--absolute power corrupting absolutely is certainly nothing new--he's using it as yet another argument against singling out the Catholic Church for the ongoing revelations of sexual abuse by the clergy, and the efforts by higher-ups in the hierarchy to cover it up, by saying, look, all these other people do it too. (He also repeats elsewhere in his column the assertion that the sexual revolution is responsible.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:12 AM on September 9, 2014


"Significant progress": Penn State Students Celebrate Lifted Sanctions, Chant Joe Paterno's Name

Yep, all better now.
posted by mcstayinskool at 7:13 AM on September 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


And you have no idea how much the actual community members (including the University) are engaged in an ongoing struggle to deal with the bros and hos binge-drinking scene. Again, this is a sizable fraction of the student body, but a fraction nevertheless.

Perhaps in a conversation that includes discussion of sexual assault on campus we could avoid referring to female undergraduate students as 'hos'.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:44 AM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


@Persona Au Gratin:

"Bear Bryant started his coaching career at Alabama while it was segregated. How the fuck is someone like that lionized?"

That's a weird thing to ask. Obviously, every administrator or coach who worked at a segregated institution in that era could be slammed thusly for doing so, but it's weird to ignore ALL OTHER ISSUES, and you'd also catch the folks who forced the change. That seems unfair and intellectually dishonest.

As it happens, Bear was one of those.

Yes, he's rightly lionized for his success as a coach, but -- and this is important -- he's also remembered for integrating the team. He had pushed for it with administration, but couldn't get it done until a loss vs. an integrated 1970 USC team that beat the snot out of them on their home(ish) turf (game was played in Birmingham, not Tuscaloosa, but it's complicated).

It's widely believed (but not proved) he scheduled SC because he knew they'd get whipped, and it would give him the ammunition to recruit black players. If so, it worked.

According to Wikipedia, by 1973 the team was 1/3 African-American. And it took someone like Bear to push for it and make it happen. So saying "he coached in the segregated era! no lionization for him!" misses a pretty important part of the story. N.B. I know nothing of Bryant's personal racial thoughts, but assume they were in line more or less with other Southern men of his generation -- but, like modern obsessive coaches (e.g., his successor in Tuscaloosa today), he almost certainly cared WAY more about winning football games than he cared about anything else, including racial integration. USC (and Tennessee, I should note) were recruiting hotshot black players. Alabama was prevented from doing so, and he knew it was costing him games. Maybe his motivation wasn't racial justice, but the result is pretty solid.

And @navelgazer, that 30 for 30 was spellbinding. The whole series of films is generally excellent, but the SMU episode in particular is incredibly strong work.

@RonButNotStupid:

"Because all big football schools have similarly depraved cultures that, without serious reform, could breed their own scandals thus making them the next Penn State?"

Pretty much my point exactly.
posted by uberchet at 7:49 AM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Is Penn State's (and, by extension, the State College area's) "culture" really more depraved than what you see every week on the TV broadcast from any football school?

Yes, for one specific reason - Paterno's "Grand Experiment". For most schools, there is some attempt to grapple with the point that college football is a business, and that it needs to be dealt with as such. But at Penn State, Paterno pushed the idea that the football team was subordinate to the academic institution, even when it was abundantly clear that wasn't the case. Spanier was infamous for using the Experiment as a club to beat down NCAA proposals for treating players more fairly.

So yeah, Penn State did have a culture that was uniquely problematic.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:09 AM on September 9, 2014


"Significant progress": Penn State Students Celebrate Lifted Sanctions, Chant Joe Paterno's Name

Yep, all better now.


To borrow the quote (possibly misattributed) of Talleyrand concerning the Bourbon monarchs after the restoration of 1814/1815: "They have learned nothing, and forgotten nothing."
posted by dhens at 9:04 AM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Significant progress": Penn State Students Celebrate Lifted Sanctions, Chant Joe Paterno's Name

UGH GROSS I predicted that to myself yesterday and felt too gross about it to post it in the thread and now it has actually happened and everything is terrible but the most terrible of all things is that the people who were mad that for a brief moment, the punishment of perpetrators and abettors of child rape was held more important than college football, now get to feel justified somehow.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:36 AM on September 9, 2014


On top of that, I don't care one whit about football mania, but what was the basis for rescinding a bunch of Paterno's wins? The crime and the wins were orthogonal to each other. The NCAA just felt the need to "do something", so they did something unjustifed and stupid.

Football is regulated not only on the field, but who you put in the locker room, and how you get your funding. Among those rules is a mandatory background check of your staff. Participating in the coverup of crimes by people who are running camps in your school's name is a breach as much as letting your staff use their access to run gambling or unlicensed memorabilia rackets.

and if you break the rules you don't get the wins.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:30 PM on September 9, 2014


It's just that, well, Penn State was the latest to get caught. Not just caught in one moment of misjudgment, mind, but in a sustained coverup. Not just covering up one incident, but many. Knowing about a gigantic black cloud of suspicion over Sandusky in the late 90s, having someone catch him in the act in 2002, but allowing Sandusky to run sleepover camps with children on Penn State splinter-campus grounds as late as 2009. When a pattern this unspeakable is revealed, and when the corruption in this case all circles around one program, I find it hardly credible that anything short of a program death penalty should be considered, with current students and student-athletes allowed to transfer freely if desired.

Penn State had an easy "compromise" which wouldn't have been moral, but would have left them without significant liability. "Thank you Jerry, your pension is in the mail. This helpful campus security guard will help you clean out your desk and walk you to your car. Don't call us, and don't expect free tickets."

Instead, it was, "Someone saw you in the showers, Jerry, hand over your keys. And don't do it again."
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:39 PM on September 9, 2014


The focus on postseason belies the claim that it's about the love of the game itself.

But, one reason I dislike this decision is that it says that the consequences for covering up a crime committed by your team or staff in your locker room are ultimately negotiable.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:15 PM on September 9, 2014


I guess I'll start by linking to my comment from a couple of years ago (right after the Freeh report was released) where I tried to unpack my feelings at that time. Having direct, personal experience with kids from Sandusky's Second Mile charity, including having Second Mile kids sit on my lap and hug me when I played Santa Claus at a Christmas party we held each year for the organization, I find it hard to find the words to explain just how upsetting the scandal was for me on a personal level as it was unfolding. Nothing about the sanctions, the wins, the head coach, or the football team made a goddamn difference to me as the scandal unfolded, at least not when compared to my concern for the children and their families, many of whom I had a chance to interact with when I was an undergrad.

That isn't to say I don't have any thoughts about the football team, college athletics in general, and the institutional dynamics that led to a situation where people acted in a way to cover up for Sandusky's predatory behavior. Knowing that Jerry Sandusky will likely die in prison, and that the criminal cases against Spanier, Curley, and Schultz are moving forward, I've allowed myself to think more about the other aspects of the situation that frankly seemed almost irrelevant to me over the last few years -- things like sanctions, bowl bans, and financial punishment to University and the community. My experiences and affiliation with the school have undoubtedly influenced my views on these tangential issues, a bias I'm acutely aware of, but I still think I can contribute a perspective that's neither die-hard Penn State dead-ender nor of the "nuke it from orbit" persuasion, which is what I'll try to do here.

I think a vast majority of people (myself included) would agree that, over and above the individual punishments meted out to those who covered up Sandusky's abuses, there must be some punishment of the institution these individuals were protecting. The problem is that different people have used the word "institution" as a shorthand for a large number of very distinct (albeit overlapping) groups, including the football team, the athletic department, the University, and the entire community of anyone associated with Penn State, including current employees, alumni, and town residents who depend on the University as an economic driver for the region.

Of course, to some extent, all of these definitions would accurately describe "the institution the individuals were protecting", whether or not the people involved realized it at the time. For instance, Mike McQueary may have done the bare minimum to comply legally simply because he wanted to protect his own career and perhaps his coach and the football team, but there was certainly some pressure, conscious or not, to protect the economic welfare of the town that he grew up in and had family in as well. Similarly, just the police department's terrible police work could be attributed to a desire to avoid biting the hand that feeds them (the University) and the hand that feeds that hand (the revenue-generating football team), there was likely some thought about the larger impacts to the region, which would, in their mind, hurt a bunch of people who, again, in their mind, hadn't done anything wrong.

And here's where it gets hella complicated, because I think the disagreement here is to what extent the minor players in the saga -- the fan in seat 14 of row 50 in section NH at Beaver Stadium, the University professor of climate science, and the pizza joint owner on College Avenue -- have some level of culpability in contributing to a "culture" or an "atmosphere" where the community as a whole had a strong incentive to look past warning signs, excuse bad behavior, and preserve their position on a gravy train that, when most of them hopped on, they had no reason to believe was partially sustained by a criminal conspiracy to cover-up the actions of a serial pedophile.

I see mondo dentro's comments as emblematic of this mindset -- I just work here, I don't give a shit about football, why am I being punished? Now, I doubt many people think it's possible to implement a punishment scheme that would only target the individuals who covered things up or contributed to the decline in institutional control that led to the cover-up, because just as the conspiracy was designed to secure the continued financial success of the institution and surrounding community, a punishment for that conspiracy can't possibly avoid harming people who just happened to be along for the ride. The question to me then becomes how to optimize an equation that involves, on one side, ensuring that the people who did bad things are punished appropriately, and on the other side, trying to minimize the amount of collateral damage to people who had no reasonable expectation that they were part of something that was going to hurt so many people.

At this point, I think we also need to talk about another institution, that being the NCAA, which is the institution under whose authority the sanctions were handed down, but also an institution that is well known for being part of the problem, (or as some would argue, the central part of the problem) of what people are talking about under the rubric of "culture". People can disagree with my assessment here, but I think when people point to "culture", what they're talking about is simply the demand side of the college sports equation, where the supply side is the entertainment value of watching college athletes compete. There are probably other factors -- institutional attachment to alma maters that get non-football people interested in watching or attending the games, boosters who can use their money to get favors from universities that go above and beyond the value they get out of watching the games, etc. -- but in my view, the primary driver of what people are describing as "culture" seems to me the fact that people like watching the games, and will pay a lot of money do that.

The thing is, people will watch a lot less when the teams aren't winning, so there are incentives to cheat, and to cover up other things that could damage the reputation of the money-making enterprise. And here's where I think people are losing sight of (or at least minimizing the role of) the NCAA, which is a cartel designed solely to protect those money-making entities. Deadspin had, I think, a pretty sensible take on exactly why it's so distasteful to many that the NCAA was the entity that handed out the punishment, as they are the ones who benefit from big-time athletic "culture" in the first place, creating an obvious conflict of interest, and one that is reflected in both the "do enough to satisfy the angry public" punishment, and the "but, now that it's been a couple of years and people aren't paying as much attention, reverse some of them so that the very profitable enterprise isn't threatened any more than necessary" lifting of the sanctions that occurred yesterday.

My personal view, at this moment in time, is that the matters of whether Penn State plays in the Big Ten championship game or a bowl game this season, and whether they get 65 or 85 scholarships next year, are so infinitesimally small that I really don't care one way or another. These things have very little punitive value at this point, and the town and university have been doing okay with them in place.

There's also a larger question here of "what should have been done in the first place", and on that question, my desired solution would have been a more holistic effort, driven by federal and state policymakers, to evaluate the danger that the NCAA cartel and its member institutions, given their enormous economic weight, pose to our ability to enforce the law, and to put in place mechanisms to regulate them so that the impact of the big money is more transparent, shared more with those who produce the value, and less subject to the kind of Upton Sinclair effect described above, where people do what they feel they need to do in order to protect their livelihood, often blind to the effects doing so has on others.

I'm not saying that this would have been a feasible outcome at the time the NCAA imposed the sanctions, and certainly there was a "somebody must do something, even if it's not the exact right thing" feeling around the country then, but I do agree with the folks who've said this wasn't a uniquely Penn State problem, and though the individual circumstances of what happened there are very unlikely to be repeated, there will be other instances of people closing ranks in order to protect their economic engine, and the NCAA certainly isn't going to be a reliable vehicle through which to administer punishment. I am also unconvinced that upping the punishment to a full death penalty for the Penn State program would have had the desired effect of deterring other schools, not only because the individual circumstances of Sandusky's crimes are so unique as to not generally apply to the kind of wrongdoing that's usually going on to get better results on the field, but because people generally do these things with an "I won't get caught" mentality, and we certainly have had no shortage of academic, recruiting, and other violations at other schools since SMU was given the NCAA's most severe punishment possible.

Well, this has gotten to be rather lengthy, so though I have a lot more thoughts in my head about this stuff, I'll stop here to avoid too much of a tl;dr effect.
posted by tonycpsu at 3:22 PM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


tonycpsu, that was a great comment. I'm also reminded of Michael Bérubé's essay on his resigning the Paterno Chair of Penn State's English department.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:19 PM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


Having said all of that, this is some bullshit. Come on, guys -- let it go. We may never know with sufficient clarity whether Paterno's sins were those of omission or commission, but using the "cover up" lingo to kvetch about some wins being taken away is really fucking stupid.

The good news is that I'm sort of nutpicking here, since 238 people is such a tiny minority of the fan base. Still, these are the exact kind of things people point to when they say that Penn Staters don't get it. If you're bummed about the school's image being tarnished, the first step is to stop digging deeper.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:27 AM on September 16, 2014


That's one take. Mine would be that stuff like this is the inevitable result of deciding to "erase" a bunch of wins. This goes back to the old conversations about Lance Armstrong and Mark McGwire and why testing before competition is so important. Sure, that billboard is stupid. But it's also fairly predictable. Stupid in, stupid out.
posted by cribcage at 10:35 AM on September 16, 2014


I guess I just see "whether Joe Paterno or Eddie Robinson gets to be called the all-time winningest coach in NCAA football" as a weird hill for people to die on.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:55 AM on September 16, 2014


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