The events at State College simply remind us that different dualities lead to tragedies. Two kinds of humans can contribute to tragic outcomes – the good and the bad. Two kinds of actions can lead to tragic outcomes – acts of commission and acts of omission. Two kinds of people can be silent when bad things happen – the powerful and the powerless. Unfortunately this will not be the last time that something terrible happens.
But in the present circumstance, hopefully there will be no more cover-ups and whitewashing. What is still happening in the Catholic Church should not happen in State College, PA. Those in positions of power must do everything they can to see that the appropriate things are done. Clearly the legal authorities must act and the law must prosecute all those responsible. The right thing must not only be done, but must be seen to be done.
What should Penn State do? The Trustees of Penn State University will be meeting shortly. I hope they simply announce that Penn State will not field a football team for the next five years. The logic is simple – irrespective of the details of what actually happened, and who is responsible for the specifics of the tragedy, as an institution Penn State failed. And central to the failure was the importance of football in the identity of the university. This is not unique to Penn State. And it is easily explainable. NCAA Division I Football (among many other College sports) is an institution which delivers money, prestige, and power to its participants. Money, prestige, and power corrupt, and scandal is nothing more than corruption exposed.
Calling a halt to the activity sends a strong message – there are more important things than Football at State College. And Penn State should reflect on those things and begin a serious national dialogue on the role of sports in American colleges. Among the things Penn State should reflect on are – doing the right thing, keeping things in perspective, understanding balance, setting one’s priorities right, defining the appropriate role of sports in the life of a university….. the list is endless. And to do it right we need to reflect on this over the next five years at least. And as an act of repentance and redemption Penn State must take the lead. It is the right thing to do. And for a long time the right thing has not been done at Penn State.
Joining Penn State in starting a national dialogue on the role of sports in American colleges should be the NCAA. It is time for the NCAA to think long and hard about the (possibly unintended) consequences of its existence, organizational structure, and incentive framework. The NCAA takes actions that young eighteen years old may do which are completely legal (like getting goodies from a booster) and makes it against the rules, and does not have rules for things that are blatantly illegal and unethical that fifty year olds may do. Something has got to change – it might as well be the NCAA.
Do I expect my hope will be realized? Absolutely not! Why? Because NCAA Division I Football is an institution which delivers money, prestige, and power to its participants. Money, prestige, and power corrupt, and those who participate in corruption will not stop it.
Unfortunately, I will have the opportunity to reprint this blog with a few changes in the not so distant future. There are many more Penn States out there – this time the one in State College, PA got exposed.
P.S. For readers outside the U.S. who are wondering what this blog is about, please Google ‘Penn State Scandal’ and you will learn all that you need to know. If you are a reader inside the U.S. who is wondering what this blog is about, you may want to come out from under that rock!