Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Updated on Friday, July 13th, 2012 at 5:15 am in Football.

The Big Ten & Penn State

The Big Ten & Penn State

There was so much Penn State talk on Thursday with the Freeh Report being released, and for good reason. A lot of writers around the country were weighing in and most every article I read talks about how the NCAA has to do something…something…as it relates to punishing Penn State.

Most don’t articulate what type of punishment, just that there HAS TO BE SOMETHING…and I agree with that. I think the NCAA set forth a foundation of what they would be looking at related to Penn State and this instance, way back in November.

The Freeh Report spoke to an environment lacking oversight, compliance and institutional control. For me, this is the worst case of all time as it relates to Lack of Institutional Control….or rather, the most controlling atmosphere where a sports program has operated outside the boundaries of local, state and federal law (Clery Act, lack of reporting, trying to handle things internally, making amazing judgements of ‘humane treatment’,etc).

The Freeh Report paints the picture that the ‘Big Four’ at Penn State, Paterno, Spanier, Schultz and Curley, made their decisions/inactions in order to not see their football program embarrassed or gain negative publicity.

To me, that has led to them having gaining an ‘unfair advantage’ by trying to avoid the negative fallout and all that could go along with it on the recruiting trail and program ‘prestige’ since 1998.

They allowed Sandusky to coach another year as Defensive Coordinator before his ‘retirement’, which in hindsight seems absolutely forced and due to the 1998 incident that went unreported, despite the Penn State police speaking to then PSU President Spanier about it. They paid Sandusky $168,000 in 1999 in a one-time, lump sum payment in addition to amazing ‘retirement’ benefits. They allowed Sandusky to continue to use the Penn State name and his nearly unfettered access to the program, facilities and trappings (bowl trips, etc) which allowed him to continue his predation of young boys.

In my opinion, they knowingly aided and abetted a serial pedophile.

If you are aware of such actions (1998 & 2001 incidents) yet do nothing about it, you are an accomplice. They didn’t even take the steps from entirely banning Sandusky him from the Penn State campuses. They buried their heads in the sand and kicked the can down the road, hoping the problem would go away and not suffer any embarrassment while never seeking out the 2001 victim, not even knowing his name. A complete and tragic failure.

While the ‘Big Four’ names here are no longer associated with Penn State and one of them is dead (Paterno), I think Penn State needs to be punished. An example has to be set. The institutional crimes that took place at Penn State cannot go unpunished by the NCAA. If you are going to slap Ohio State with a bowl ban over tattoos and an environment lacking in compliance, this has to ‘merit’ some punishment.

Louis Freeh said his team was in communication with the NCAA and Big Ten conference during their investigation, while not sharing details of the investigation as it was ongoing.

My hope there is that both organizations are considering all of their options as it relates to Penn State.

Penn State has tens of thousands of great fans, good people, people who are shocked, sickened and saddened by this. My guess is that the vast majority of them fall into all of those categories. Yet fair or not, those faces and stories are not the ones that emerged on Thursday.

The stories we read saw roses placed on Joe Paterno’s grave and the person doing so refusing to read or listen to the Freeh report as to not tarnish his memory of ‘Joe Pa’. There was someone who changed the channel in the PSU Student Lounge just as the Freeh Report TV coverage was about to begin.

There are still people who would bury their heads in the sand, just like the Big Four did, and hope the problem goes away if they close their eyes and click their heels enough times, whispering ‘There’s no place like Penn State. There’s no place like Penn State.”

Indeed, there may be no place like Penn State.

Penn State dedicated one officer to Clery Act compliance, yet that person received no training until 2007. Penn State failed to follow Clery Act regulations for the reporting of crimes of this nature while Spanier was the head of the NCAA Board of Directors. The Freeh report stated that Penn State has no centralized office, officer or committee to oversee institutional compliance as it relates to laws and legislation.

Complete and total lack of institutional control. Yet since we aren’t talking about buying recruits a meal when that shouldn’t happen, or since it’s not a $100 handshake or some rogue booster gone wild, some still assert that the NCAA can’t punish Penn State?

If the NCAA doesn’t do something, then it needs to be disbanded. Every other institution who is a member (which is all of them, and they are the ones who created the NCAA) needs to call for the dissolution of the NCAA at that point as it would prove itself nothing other than a kangaroo court.

I do believe the NCAA is going to punish Penn State in some way, shape or form. As to whether or not it will be ‘enough’ or what would classify as being ‘enough’, I don’t know.

The Big Ten will also need to consider its options, and I am guessing those conversations have taken place at the highest levels and for some time. Jim Delaney is a shrewd businessman and one of the most influential persons in the history of major college athletics. He also doesn’t suffer fools well or those who would go against ‘the family’, which in this case is the good name of the Big Ten.

It’s not yet time for the NCAA or the Big Ten to do anything other than continue to compile facts, wait until the criminal proceedings are finalized as it will relate to Spanier, Curley and Schultz. At that point, actions can then be taken.

Should the Big Ten consider removing Penn State from their conference? I think that should be considered as one option. It may sound like a drastic measure, but good heavens, these are drastic crimes. These are the worst things, ever.

In 1929, Iowa was suspended from the Big Ten for lack of faculty control of the athletic department. They were shortly reinstated but the football program was mocked for years after and played just one league foe, Purdue, in the 1930 season. This was for allegedly having a slush fund of around $4,000 used to pay players, something that pales in comparison to covering up and concealing the acts of a child rapist.

In December of 2011, the Big Ten released a statement related to Penn State and the issues at hand. I have added the complete statement at the bottom of this piece so that you can refresh your memory, but one of the items included was this line:

“It (the Big Ten) will reserve the right to impose sanctions, corrective or other disciplinary measures in the event that adverse findings are made in the areas of institutional control, ethical conduct and/or other Conference related matters.”

Well, I believe the Freeh Report has produced adverse findings related to the areas of institutional control and ethical conduct, don’t you?

Which is why I believe the Big Ten will also have a say in this before all is said and done. It may wind up being a rubber stamp of what the NCAA chooses to do. It’s too early to go nuclear with opinions directed at either entity because both are still gathering information and considering their options and there are still criminal cases to be heard and tried.

One aspect related to the Big Ten’s view of Penn State in light of the current situation that came to mind on Thursday is the impact to the Big Ten Network. While the Nittany Lions will not appear on the BTN for the first two months or so of the 2012 season, you have to wonder if the sales team inside the BTN offices is experience any sort of blowback from potential advertisers not wanting their name and products associated with Penn State?

If you think that is crazy thinking, you need only look back to last December and remember how a 9-3 Penn State football program was passed over by the Outback, Gator, Insight and Meineke Car Care bowls and landed in the Ticket City bowl. The Gator took a 6-6 Ohio State team embroiled in their own scandal over Penn State while the Insight took a seven-win Iowa team who had been to the bowl the year prior as opposed to taking Penn State.

My friend Steve Deace likened the Penn State situation to a Chernobyl effect, back in November of 2011. Chernobyl is still on the map, but it’s a ghost town and cannot be repopulated due to the catastrophe from the late 1980′s. Scott Dochterman of The Gazette tweeted at me on Thursday that Penn State has ‘the mark of the beast‘ now, meaning a taint that will not soon disappear or be forgotten.

I agree with both of them. For the next quarter century if not longer, when the name ‘Penn State’ comes up the first thing most people will think of will be the cover up of a child rapist in their midst…the disgrace of Joe Paterno and administrators…innocent at risk boys being raped and nobody doing anything about it to protect them.

To heck with 25 years; that mental imagery will last until until those of us who lived through this era are dead. How do you think that is going to play on Madison Avenue? Might that ultimately be a tipping point factor in what the Big Ten may do with Penn State?

Of course we can’t answer that right now, but that day of reckoning is going to come. Either for Penn State, or the ‘watchers on the wall’ whose decisions will reverberate throughout this conference for the next several decades as it decides what to do about Penn State.

December of 2011 Big Ten Statement re: Penn State

The Big Ten Presidents and Chancellors express their sincere concern for any harm done to innocent young victims and their families. Protection of our children is one of society’s most central responsibilities and institutions of higher education should be particularly vigilant. We are committed to examining our own institutions to assure that effective measures are taken to assure the safety of children on our campuses.

It has been approximately one month since the initial release of the Grand Jury report in the Penn State matter and a number of federal, state and institutional investigations have been launched. While it is premature to reach any conclusions regarding civil or criminal liability arising out of these events, there does appear to be sufficient information to raise significant concerns as to whether a concentration of power in a single individual or program may have threatened or eroded institutional control of intercollegiate athletics at Penn State.

As a result, the COP/C has determined that:

-It will gather and review the facts arising out of the allegations in the Grand Jury report that pertain to matters of institutional control, ethical conduct and/or other compliance related issues

-It will request from Penn State University and the NCAA that Big Ten legal counsel be allowed to participate in the investigations or reviews, as the case may be, being conducted by Penn State and the NCAA as pertain to these issues

-It will reserve the right to impose sanctions, corrective or other disciplinary measures in the event that adverse findings are made in the areas of institutional control, ethical conduct and/or other Conference related matters.

In addition, the COP/C discussed the imperative of maintaining the public’s trust in the integrity of its member institutions and, in earning and deserving this trust, the importance of asserting each institution’s control over its intercollegiate athletics programs. The COP/C recognized and acknowledged that from time to time its institutions have failed to maintain the proper control of their athletics programs and that whenever this occurs at one institution in the conference, due to the common bonds and shared values of the members of the Big Ten, each other member of the conference is impacted. Accordingly, the COP/C has directed the conference to initiate an immediate review of the fundamental issues and systems affecting intercollegiate athletics, including the serious issues relating to the institutional control of athletics. It intends for this review to lead to the consideration of a common set of “stress tests” or other criteria that could be applied by the conference to its member institutions (a) to insure that each member is responsible and accountable to the collective membership of the conference for the control and operation of its intercollegiate athletics programs as well as (b) to prevent anyone, whether a trustee, administrator, faculty member, athletic director, coach, booster or otherwise, from eroding the effectiveness of an institution’s practices and procedures designed to protect the institution’s integrity and control over its intercollegiate athletic programs. The COP/C intends for the review to be completed and for the proposed standards, stress tests and other criteria, along with the proposed enforcement procedures and penalties, to be presented to it for consideration at a special meeting to be held in spring 2012.

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