No Smiles in Happy Valley

The Penn State sex scandal is without a doubt the worst scandal to occur in college football, a sport with more scandals than the Kardashian household. Jerry Sandusky truly is a monster, and jail is too good for this man. The debate lies not with his actions, but with the actions of the university itself, most notably Joe Paterno. People seem to have the idea that there is no way something this heinous could be occurring in a public institution, and no one knows. The next question is simply “Why?” Why would a university cover up the rape and sexual assault of countless boys, many of whom were already abused? The simplest answer is football. Football is the reason a university covers up such a wide-reaching scandal. Football is the reason a small private school from Texas decides to play their sports in the Big East, sacrificing every other athletic program they sponsor. Football has become a god-like figure in colleges, and it has finally been taken too far. When kids were getting free tattoos, fine. When kids were getting free yacht rides, fine. A free house for mom? Sure. But when the innocence of countless boys is stolen by the monster that is Jerry Sandusky, things have gone too far.

Big time college football has long ignored the idea of the student athlete, and programs have been openly corrupt for decades. The SMU death penalty is the most famous, but Miami (FL) has long been known as a dirty program. However, any infractions could be ignored for the almighty win, integrity and morals be damned. So when Miami brings in a coach that actually emphasizes the student athlete, and pulls Miami’s football graduation rate up to 3rd in the country (behind Army and Navy), Shannon was fired with a .500 record after a mere four seasons. Simply put, the values in college football are only measured in dollars and wins, leaving Paterno’s “Success with honor” mantra a tad hollow.

If the allegations of the cover up of Jerry Sandusky’s actions are true, there is almost little reason to be surprised. Think of it in a business mindset, ignoring the emotional connection that a place like Penn State evokes. Would you spend your money at a corporation where dozens of previously abused children were molested? If they were holding an event open to the community would you still want to attend? Of course not. The same logic applies to Penn State. Yes, they have an eternal fan base, thick with passionate alums. However, the casual fan is so nauseated by this scandal, there is some discussion if the 9-2 Nittany Lions will be invited to a bowl game this postseason despite having a very successful season in one of the premier football conferences in the nation. The cover up allowed Penn State to have nearly 10 more profitable years, and they were very profitable years indeed. In 2009, Forbes calculated Penn State football had a net worth of $99 million, trailing only Texas and Notre Dame. Forbes also calculated that this scandal could cost the university at least $10 million in sponsorships and alumni donations, and probably more when top recruits avoid the firestorm that is Penn State, causing a perennial powerhouse to decline, resulting in trips to irrelevant bowls, costing them even more money. Simply put, the value of those millions must carry more weight than bringing Sandusky to justice.

To be fair, this isn’t entirely Penn State’s fault. They didn’t create this system, or even endorse it. Joe Paterno truly gave a lot back to the school, and did great things for the community. If a cover up like this could go on underneath Grandpa Joe’s watch, what would have happened underneath less moral coaches? Would Lane Kiffin or Nick Saban, both less than trustworthy, have even bothered to report such an allegation from some no-name graduate assistant against their long-time assistant? I’m not accusing these men of doing such a thing, just highlighting that Joe Paterno was one of the “good guys” in college football, and this went on in his program. The system of college athletics needs to be changed, because what happened to those young boys on Penn State’s campus simply cannot happen again.

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