We've created a monster in this country, and it's called "College Football." As fans of the sport, we've spent obscene amounts of money supporting our favorite teams by purchasing tickets and jerseys. Alumni (and people just wanted to be close to the programs) have donated millions of dollars to these schools to in the name of charitable support but in reality it was to give themselves personal access to the coaches and players.
The price we've paid for being entertained on Saturdays between August and January is the loss of our moral compass, the inability to distinguish between right and wrong. We now make excuses for breaking the rules because we want our team to play in Bowl Games and we want our favorite players - the really good ones - to be on the field. We've allowed our desire for this game to send the message to our children that the rules don't matter. And neither do they.
There have been many "Football Scandals" over the years. Most involve recruiting violations, giving gifts to young men to influence them to play for a specific school, and players receiving "improper benefits" while already in a program. We justify breaking NCAA rules by crying about how much money the NCAA makes and how broke these poor college kids are. We set the example to our children that if you don't like a rule, just break it. Why try to change it?
This week, allegations of child abuse have hit one storied program and should bring home to each and every one of us exactly how far up on a pedestal we have put College Football in this country and exactly how much damage this has done. At first, I tried to understand why it was being labeled as a "College Football Scandal" instead of just a "College Scandal." Yes, it involves a former coach, but he was not working for the school when the abuse was discovered and it didn't involved any team players. Now, I realize that his behavior was allowed to continue in an effort by the university to AVOID scandal hitting the football program. And that is truly disturbing.
One thing that each and every one of us can agree on: child abuse (in any form) is the single most despicable, terrible, horrendous thing that an adult can do. Children rely on adults to care for them, nurture them, act in their best interests. There is a sacred trust placed on every adult on this planet that children are to be cared for and, in my book, the abuser is just as guilty as someone who knows of the abuse and says nothing. You simply cannot allow anyone to hurt children. Period.
The allegations at Penn State University, from articles that I've read over the past few days, are this (based on grand jury findings):
1999 Jerry Sandusky retires as defensive coordinator to work full time at "Second Mile," a group home for boys
2002 Grad student witnesses Sandusky sexually assaulting a boy around 10 years old in the locker room at Lasch Stadium. He tells Coach Joe Paterno what he saw. Coach Paterno reports his story to AD Curley. University VP Schulz and AD Curley interview the grad student and then inform Sandusky that he is banned from bringing children onto campus. University President Spanier was informed of the ban and approved it.
Done. That's it. No further action was taken. No effort was made to find the child involved and see to his care. No report was filed with the police so that they could investigate the allegations. And as a result, Sandusky was free to continue to "help" boys for 9 more years. Who knows how many other boys have been assaulted in this time? Who knows how many young lives have been forever tainted. Who knows how much money the families of these boys will get in their lawsuits?
I am shocked that the investigation has taken three years to finally end up with grand jury charges, but I guess I've been spoiled by "Law & Order SVU" where we wrap everything up neatly in 60 minutes. And as I said, I considered this to be a failure of the University to report the alleged abuse to the police and not necessarily a football scandal until I saw this: Pennsylvania’s attorney general cited incidents involving Sandusky that ran from 1994 until 2009, including the above act.
The appalling fact that the allegations go back to 1994 tells me that rather than being concerned about the welfare of children, Curley and Schultz were worried about the football program, worried that Sandusky had taken advantage of his coaching position WHILE HE WORKED THERE to have access to children and that further acts of abuse would come out that would cover the Football Program. They were worried about losing all of the money that the football program brings in, not to mention their own jobs and the perks that go along with their positions.
In other words, they sacrificed a few children to keep their ivory tower supplied with riches. I'm deeply troubled by this. Sickened. And I feel partly responsible. I have contributed to this situation, I helped build this monster, we all have.
Perhaps this is finally the wake up call we all need to put College Football back where it belongs.... these should be student-athletes playing a sport as a way to get a college degree. Or officially just separate the team from the school and form a Minor League Football program for the NFL.
But something must change. It is not enough that a few men will lose their jobs or do time in prison. Punishment of the offenders is necessary but it does nothing to get to the root of the problem. It's time that we all faced the fact that we have created a monster.
If the abuse of children isn't a good enough reason to prioritize the importance of College Football in this country, then I don't know what it will take to wake us up and make us face the monster.
Edited November 7, 2011
I didn't think it was possible, but I am even more outraged today as new information comes to light. This morning, I was thrilled to hear that Curley and Schultz have left their positions at Penn State, one to a "leave of absence" and one to "retirement." I figured it was just a matter of time before President Spanier also resigned.
Then I read an article on Yahoo! Sports by Dan Wetzel that says numerous people have come forward to say that Sandusky was on campus last week watching a practice and working out in the weight room.
ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME? How do you testify before the grand jury and then let this monster on campus? I was willing to let Head Coach Joe Paterno off the hook. I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he, in good faith, thought that the administration had reported the allegations and agreed to the ban placed on Sandusky to keep him off campus in 2002.
But to hear that he was on campus last week? That apparently the ban was simply against him bringing his victims to campus? That he was still allowed to associate with the program? ENOUGH.