Memo to Penn State Board of Trustees – Please Pass it Along

Apparently Penn State’s Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet this weekend to ratify the university’s agreement with the NCAA. Yahoo reports that the Chairwoman of the Board of Trustees told her fellow trustees that they were leaders of the university, and that they needed to lead. That would be nice. And in case they plan to act on the need, I have a memo for them. It is a workable outline. The details can be filled in if they are willing to think on these lines.

To: The Board of Trustees, Pennsylvania State University
From: The guy who writes the No Consensus Here blog.
Subject: Center for the Study of Corruption in College Sports (CSCCS)
In the wake of all that has happened since the Sandusky tragedy, there are a number of levels at which the university must respond. One of these is to take a forward looking, thoughtful, intellectually rigorous approach to being able to understand the circumstances and culture which led to the tragic events on your campus. The still unfolding tragedy is one of a number of tragedies associated with college sports in America. The easy part of the analysis is to understand that these tragedies are cultivated on ground fertilized by incredible amounts of money involved in college sports, and watered by the jingoistic, emotional investment of alumni and other well wishers who want to see their institutions victorious in stadia and sporting arenas. The more difficult part is to tease out the causal financial, social, and power relations that lead to unwanted outcomes in college sports. This memo proposes a start in that direction. It proposes that Penn State University establish a Center for the Study of Corruption in College Sports.

What Will the Center Do and How Will It Do it?
This memo is not the place to outline all that is wrong and corrupt with college sports in America. Suffice to say, among the things that college sports can be charged with are that it is exploitative and ethically challenged. Different aspects of these two ‘Es’  can be studied from the perspective of many an academic discipline including economics, ethics, law, medicine, politics, and sociology. This is precisely what the center should do.

It isn’t very difficult to put the infrastructure into place. The center can start with a core group of 20 people – a Director, eight other faculty, eight post-doctorate positions, and three secretarial staff. Clearly this core group will collaborate with interested folk across the country in developing a research program. While it is difficult to predict the path that academic research will take, it clearly must be to understand different aspects of the seamy underbelly of college sports in America. The more structured mandate of the center will be to establish academic and outreach programs in a number of areas related to college sports.

What About the Finances?
I haven’t crunched the numbers, but it seems to me that If the university was to pledge $60 million (symbolism matters) then the program will be well funded. An endowment of $60 million should conservatively generate a working fund of about $3 million – a decent sum to start the ball rolling. Part of raising the money will be Penn State’s way of putting its resources where its apologies are, as it starts to dig itself out of the nightmarish circumstances in which it finds itself. Also, I think if Penn State takes this step, there will be a number of folks who will be willing to contribute to the project. I can already see the outlines of a proposal that can go to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation!

And Where Will You House This Center?
A fitting place to start will be somewhere in Beaver Stadium. As the center grows over time, it may outgrow Beaver Stadium, and may need a building of its own. In fact, ideally, over time, one can hope that the center does such a good job of understanding and changing the culture of college sports in America, that it no longer needs to exist. However, we all know that is not going to happen soon.

So instead of worrying about how to end the story, I request that you do the needful to establish the Center for the Study of Corruption in College Sports (CSCCS).

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