When the NCAA gave Southern Methodist University the death penalty in 1987, they fundamentally killed a University who had repeatedly done wrong by cheating the game of collegiate football.
On Monday, the NCAA gave Penn State a penalty far worse than this for a scandal larger than the game of football; if what was done to SMU was the “death penalty” what was done to my University can be referred to as a “mass homicide of the guilty party’s immediate family.”
The NCAA hurt not only the football program, not only the current coaches, they hurt every person ever connected to Penn State and every student-athlete. They hurt the sophomore golfer who came to Penn State because he wanted to be a part of “success with honor”. They hurt the senior gymnast whose travel arrangements may be limited because of a lack of funding. And lastly, they hurt the brand new men’s Division I hockey team, who is looking to break into the NCAA, however much they may regret that decision now.
But what is the most frustrating about these actions isn’t the $60 million fine or the egregious scholarships taken. What hurts the most is that the mindset every Penn Stater has about their University, their town, and their team is now questioned by the entire country. Let me make one thing clear, this mindset has never faltered in the Penn Staters I know. This is that same mindset that changes every student forever from FTCap, Penn State’s freshman orientation, to their graduation day as they strive to represent our dear university to the best of their abilities.
“Thou didst mold us dear old state”
Ask any Penn Stater what they learned at Penn State and it won’t just be a physics equation or when to properly write out nine and 10 in AP style. We learned about life. We learned who we are. And we learned that the “grand experiment” trickled-down from a mindset instilled in the football program by Joe Paterno. It ran through Pollock Road to every athletic facility, dormitory, and lecture hall: and that was his goal. Not to be the winningest coach in Division I history, not to have a statue pointing a “No. 1” finger in the air, but to make Happy Valley the best damn place in the world through education, integrity, and Penn State pride.
And yes, that man may have made a grand mistake, his “grand experiment” may be looked at as a fail. His legacy and pride may have gone too far, he may have feared what would happen to it all if his friend and coworker were brought about as the disgusting man that he indeed is. But personally, I will reserve my judgment on Paterno and others until they are given due process by a court of law. I will not instinctively panic on what may have happened in a chain of emails to save myself or look better in the court of public opinion. Sound familiar?
For four years, I was given the opportunity to serve as an assistant at the Penn State Athletic Communications department; a working experience that I would trade for nothing else.
I saw the rise, and I saw the demise.
I had to keep my mouth shut, quiet to all comments and concerns. I quietly brushed aside news reporters on my way to class, while my head was bursting with comments.
I wanted to comment on their careless and biased reporting. I wanted to comment on the lack of diversity of interviewees. I wanted to comment on the improper use of convicting language. And lastly, I wanted to comment on the lack of journalistic morality when providing enough information on one of the victims to make him easily identifiable in the State College community.
I watched one of the most respected sports information directors in the country take all of the blame, expect nothing from anyone, and expect everything of himself. A man who had nothing to do with the scandal was burned to the stake by the media. They said he didn’t do enough, they said he did too much, they said he should have had a press conference, they said he should have cancelled it.
Student-Athletes were forced to answer questions about something they knew nothing of: with no chance for success. Any answer would only be taken negatively. Say the wrong thing or say nothing at all, that’s all they could do. The media was winning, and the athletes weren’t even playing.
What many fail to realize in this grand scheme is the success Penn State has had across the board throughout ALL athletics. These student-athletes came to Penn State because of the ideals, because they wanted to come to a place that honored both academics and athletics. Not because on football weekends Penn State becomes the third largest city in Pennsylvania.
Since 2007, Penn State has won 11 NCAA titles, tied for best in the nation with USC over that span. Since their first full year in the Big Ten, (1993-94) the Nittany Lions’ 22 National Championships are more than double every other school in the Big Ten Conference. (Iowa is second with 10)
Penn State is NOT a football school; it is an academic institution that excels in providing a balance between academics, athletics, community service and stewardship throughout MULTIPLE athletic programs.
But the media would never let you know this. You would never know the turnaround that the Penn State wrestling team has had over the past three years including back-to-back national championships after hiring the most successful wrestler to ever dominate the mat, Cael Sanderson. Or that Penn State will have a school-record 19 athletes competing in the Olympic Games, including four current student-athletes.
These stories aren’t media friendly. They don’t drive the average joe to Penn State, all that the media cared about was hero Joe.
That drive for business, that drive for profit that every media member has grossly taken advantage of over the past eight months is what single handedly has driven me away from the media business. Journalism and reporting is no less a money making business than the tobacco industry.
When riots took place on Beaver Avenue, media members flooded downtown to get the students perspective who were at the riot. They asked students “Do you feel at danger here?” Danger? At Penn State? The safest place I’ve ever known was no more dangerous than the ball pit at Chuck-E-Cheese. Students were mad, students were frustrated, and students were confused: but in danger of harming their own? Get educated.
Penn Staters will protect each other like nothing I’ve ever seen. “We Are .. Penn State” is not a chant, it’s a belief in the ideals set by this university. WE ARE, not you, not our gutless leaders. WE ARE the students who were studying in the PATERNO Library when news broke of his firing via a phone call on a Wednesday night.
WE ARE the students who stayed in their apartments and mourned the firing and questioned: why? Why is this happening so quickly? Why are we rioting? Why did the most trusted individuals in a position of power choose not to move forward on the single greatest catastrophe in the history of higher education?
We may never quite know. But what we do know is that the NCAA wanted no part of Joe Paterno’s name being anywhere near the top of the record books. How else can you explain vacating wins dating back to 1998, when an investigation took place that ended with the child welfare agency deciding not to pursue further charges, and the case was dismissed? Why this case was dismissed? We do not currently know, but it is information the NCAA should have had before making any decisions.
What about the past players? The Daryl Clark’s, the Derrick Williams’? I watched those players in one of the highest moments in Penn State athletics. Are you going to tell me that those games that I watched with 110,000 others in 2008 didn’t happen? Can you say that when Derrick Williams took a kick return to the house at the start of the fourth quarter before Beaver Stadium nearly collapsed in a White Out Frenzy while the entire stadium bounced to Zombie Nation wasn’t real?
Oh it was real.. and Beaver Stadium is no closer to collapsing than ever before.
Penn Staters dance for 46 hours in the largest student run philanthropy in the world. Let me say that again, STUDENT RUN. We never needed help from administration to put together the most monumental event at Penn State and one of the most inspirational events in the world.
And we don’t need them now.
Universities are comprised of the individuals who attend it on the hopes of becoming educated and finding themselves. It is not a collection of weak individuals who piggy backed off of the success of students, teachers, and coaches alike all to the top.
And they were at the top.
Remember when Graham Spanier sat on the board of directors for the NCAA?
Probably not: the media hasn’t spoken about it.
Spanier not only sat on, but also was the chairman. He was a part of the same NCAA that punished Penn State, a university that has punished his, among others’ wrongdoings. The hypocrisy behind this particular aspect is mind-blowing.
Punishments I understand, taking away the statue, something physical and meaningful to Penn State, was necessary for the healing process to being. In reality, the only way for the country to eventually empathize with Penn State was a punishment that was completely over the line. So for that, thank you NCAA.
But the punishments on my university were not only classless and unnecessary; they were plainly egotistical.
Instead of waiting for a legal process to play out, they acted on impulse of the same media that tore apart our university throughout the breaking of the scandal. One man has been convicted of a crime thus far, and that man is rightfully in jail for the rest of his pathetic life. However, three men have yet to state their case in front of a jury of their peers.
It was a fearful, cowardly and downright pathetic attempt to salvage their character.
The NCAA was embarrassed. Their “manhood” was taken, and the only way to get it back was to flex their muscles.
And they aren’t just flexing their muscles; they are crushing Penn State for the whole world to see.
The NCAA could have killed the football program for a year and sent a message that football is not ahead of child abuse. They could have allowed the Penn State community to heal, for the victims to cope, and for Head Coach Bill O’Brien to regroup.
But they didn’t.
The NCAA is the hot girlfriend that tells you that although you made a mistake; she doesn’t want to take a break and wants to continue dating you. The only catch, you have to watch her cheat on you for the next 10 years until you have another chance with her again.
They crippled an entire university not to change a culture, but to ensure that Penn State would lose on the football field for the next decade.
“The fundamental message here, the gut-check message is, do we have the right balance in our culture? Do we have, first and foremost, the academic values of integrity and honesty and responsibility as the drivers of our university? Or are we in a position where hero worship and winning at all costs has subordinated those core values?” President Mark Emmert
The last I checked, Penn State ranked No. 1 among academic standing in Division I football. We consistently rank in the Top two in the Big Ten with Northwestern and hold our incoming athletes to the highest standards, not offering scholarships to those who cannot live up to them. This constantly keeps talented athletes away from Penn State BECAUSE of the academic integrity that they hold.
The NCAA has determined that the logical explanation to solving what they viewed as a “winning at all costs” culture is to ensure that Penn State is unable to win at any cost…
The NCAA wanted this: they wanted it all. They want you to turn on the T.V. in three years and see Temple pounding on Penn State at Beaver Stadium. They want the students to stop showing up to games, to forget about football for a while. They want us all to think that they are bigger than our bond, bigger than our university, and bigger than Penn State pride.
Journalists think the same thing; writers such as Darren Rovell don’t understand who we are. As everything unfolded yesterday Rovell tweeted…
“Fact: Penn state community will only rally around its football team over time if the team is good”
My response to him garnered a retweet in which Penn State hate all over the country bashed my passion for my University. I was just another one of my fellow Penn Staters who fiercely protested his remarks, as thousands refuted what he was completely unaware of.
We don’t show up for wins, we don’t show up for losses, we show up because we love this university and everything that WE know it stands for. The NCAA can’t keep us from tailgating; they can’t keep us from singing “Hey Baby” and “Sweet Caroline”, or from standing tall for 60 minutes.
My call is this to every student, alumni, and anyone ever associated with our university. Show up early, show up loud, and show up proud.
Scream out your lungs when Bill O’Brien takes the field and show him how much we appreciate that he’s here.
Yell “We Are” with pride, because we always will be.
Cheer when Matt McGloin leads the team to victory, and cheer even louder when we lose.
Because lose we will.
But against the NCAA’s wishes, we will never fail, because we will always be proud.
Because in the end they are the ones who care about wins and losses: not us…
Joe taught us so.