Notes on a Scandal.

I have stayed silent (online) as everything connected to Penn State was coming to a head. I am still grappling with all that I feel. But I want, no need to say something. The problem is that I have so many things and groups I’d like to address – from the former and current Penn State leaders I am disappointed in and ashamed of, to the angry mob wanting only blood from Penn State instead of support for the victims, to my friends and family.

In light of the sanctions that were leveled against Penn State this morning, Monday, July 23, 2012 by NCAA officials – specifically NCAA President Mark Emmert – I want to first address the sanctions on a critical level, something befitting my sports journalism degree.

In an unprecedented power move, Emmert dropped the proverbial hammer on Penn State, including scholarship losses, a multiyear ban in postseason competition, a $60 million fine (which will thankfully go to foundations to help child sexual assault/abuse victims), and the nullification of all wins between 1998 and 2011.

Sources say the sanctions came almost solely from Emmert, who appealed to the NCAA Board of Directors to provide him power status that does not currently exist for an NCAA president.

Let me be clear – Emmert based his sanctions on emotion and public uproar, as well as his personal interpretations of the findings in the Freeh Report (Freeh’s investigation was set in motion by Penn State, not the NCAA). Emmert did not call for an NCAA investigation, there were no hearings before the Committee on Infractions or letters of inquiry, there was no discourse between the NCAA and Penn State to allow for a formal response. Most importantly, the criminal cases are ongoing, evidence is still being uncovered – but Emmert did not want to wait.

From Dan Wetzel on Yahoo Sports, “this isn’t how the Association has conducted business in decades. Toes were stepped on.”

“The man with a Ph.D in public administration just went pseudo dictator in a move right out of the playbook of Roger Goodell or Bud Selig.”

To expand on the Goodell thought, it should be noted that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell operates as the leader of a private business. Therefore he can pull those power moves. The NCAA is what you could call (and what SI.com’s Andy Staples does call) a “representative democracy”. That is, the members, consisting mainly of public universities, make the rules.

With today’s ruling and the complete lack of due process, it is no longer clear whether the NCAA is a representative democracy. To quote Staples again, “not if its executive branch has decided that the best way to punish an abuse of absolute power is by granting more absolute power.”

Stewart Mandel writes today on SI.com about the implications of the NCAA’s actions.

“Children were raped. Lives were destroyed. High-level administrators stood back and enabled the crimes. A once-revered coach betrayed his followers.

But the legacy of the Penn State scandal will no longer be Jerry Sandusky’s heinous crimes or the courageous victims who stood up to him. Thanks to a brazen power play and a carefully orchestrated p.r. extravaganza, this human tragedy will take a backseat over the next four years (or longer) to a more trivial narrative: Whether Penn State football can recover from crippling NCAA sanctions.

“Justice has been served, assuming your idea of justice for rape victims is to deprive a school of its next four Outback Bowl invitations.

“And so, Emmert made sure his organization responded accordingly — even if that meant revoking the traditional due process afforded every other school that’s ever been punished by the NCAA; invoking a nebulous, generalized bylaw about promoting integrity that could easily apply to hundreds of lawbreaking players, coaches and staffers across the country every year; and creating a precedent for dictatorial-like intervention that must now be considered every time a scandal of any proportion arises in college athletics.

Perhaps this truly is a turning point in the history of the NCAA. Perhaps this is the beginning of a new era where Batman Emmert flies in and saves the day every time the forces of athletic evil make a mockery of academic virtues.

He better. Otherwise, this will instead prove to be a crowning moment in NCAA hypocrisy.

“‘We don’t see this opening a Pandora’s box at all,’ said Emmert. ‘This was a very distinct and very unique set of circumstances.’

That’s easy to say now. Nothing in the history of NCAA scandals has come close to the level of allowing a serial pedophile free reign to a school’s football facility, and basic faith in humanity makes us inclined to believe that it will never happen again.

But there will undoubtedly be another high-profile college scandal, involving yet another unthinkable scenario, whether it’s three months from now or three years from now. And the precedent has now been set. Will Emmert send that program back to the stone ages, too? Or was this a one-time-only, made-for-TV display of power?

Monday’s one truly punitive action against one of the figures implicated in the Freeh Report was vacating Penn State’s victories from 1998-2011, thus stripping Paterno of 111 wins and demoting him from the sport’s alltime leader to 12th place. It seems fair and just, but here again, the NCAA seemingly rewrote its rulebook on the fly. Traditionally victories are vacated when schools are found to have used ineligible players. Nothing of the sort happened here.

But of course, that didn’t fit Emmert’s message.”

SB Nation adds this – “And please — please — don’t think the public zeal for specifically hurting Nittany Lion football does anything to change the perception that football is more important than everything else. Otherwise, why aren’t the prospect of jail time and/or ruined careers for all living, responsible parties to this debacle, the pending loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in civil litigation and the looming specter of punishment from the Feds not enough?

So what will these punishments accomplish? Yeah, let’s talk about that…

Giving Emmert the power to unilaterally punish Penn State is a step toward making investigations irrelevant. And I mean that in the most frightening, totalitarian sense possible. If the semblance of due process can be thrown out to conveniently hammer a cash cow program — and cripple its surrounding community and its non-revenue sports with a hefty fine — what might happen to a player on the wrong side of Emmert and the NCAA’s agenda?”

I am sure I lost many of those who belong to the angry, bloodthirsty mob, but anyone who truly cares about NCAA athletics should consider this situation critically.

On the other side of all of this is of course, my purely emotional response.

To the leaders of Penn State:

I am gravely disappointed by your leadership and its continuing to fail its community – turning blind eyes on the horrors being committed by Jerry Sandusky then, and not standing up to support all of those who were not involved with what happened now. You and your peers (especially those still sitting on the Board of Directors) are at fault, and yet the entire Penn State community will suffer (for many years) on your behalf. I am glad that at least the $60 million fine will go toward foundations to support/prevent victims of child sexual abuse, because that is at least connected to the real victims in this whole mess (those victims that so many have seem to have forgotten).

Mr. Erickson, in your official statement today you write that “the NCAA ruling holds the University accountable for the failure of those in power to protect children and insists that all areas of the University community are held to the same high standards of honesty and integrity.

It is important to know we are entering a new chapter at Penn State and making necessary changes. We must create a culture in which people are not afraid to speak up, management is not compartmentalized, all are expected to demonstrate the highest ethical standards, and the operating philosophy is open, collegial, and collaborative.”

I understand fully well that we are entering a new chapter at Penn State. What I do not understand is why the University has not stood up for those who were and are not responsible, instead of lumping us in with your lot. You call for a culture wherein people aren’t afraid to speak up, so please explain the disconnect. With a sweeping hand, you include all of us in something terrible because that is easier for you. Not making sure Sandusky was immediately held responsible for his heinous acts was (somehow) easier for you. I don’t see any evolution, and this is something I am truly distraught over as an alumnus.

I support the acceptance of the sanctions, as there is really no other course of action for Penn State. Those men can never get back what was stolen from them. End of story. But I implore you as leaders to be better. As time inevitably moves forward, strive to earn the trust of your community, and more importantly, your fellow man. At the very, very least, you owe that to every single one of the victims. Where you and your predecessors failed out of weakness, you must never do so again. We expect so much more from our leaders. As we should.

And finally, to my friends:

I woke up this morning knowing what was coming. I wore a Penn State shirt to work. I will continue to be proud of the student body, alumni, and the fact that in that small town, I met the best people I have ever known (all of you). I am proud of who we became there, are now, and will continue to be…what we all stand for, how we handle ourselves at work and in our communities (always striving to be the absolute best), and how we are extremely passionate about what we believe in.

WE (and I use this loosely to include our comrades across the world) are what made and what continues to make Penn State great. From one of my best friends and fellow alum Pat Carr, “as a Penn Stater I know who the real victims were and are. They are not football fans having to deal with a devastated football program. Penn Staters always remember who the victims are. We are remorseful. We are embarrassed but still proud.”

It is up to us to represent our alma mater with the utmost respect, professionalism and very importantly – heart. We Are.

Love you all.

Cait

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