Fake Penalties for Penn State, Fake Grades, Fake Success: Learning Nothing from a Scandal

Categories: Schutze

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The important image is Jerry Sandusky down there in the shower-room doing it to kids. Somehow a penalty that involves not being able to play in bowl games just seems terribly out of whack.

I do get what's right about it. Sandusky and others in this matter face tough criminal penalties, and that is not out of whack. That is as it should be. This is primarily a criminal matter.

As an aside, Joe Paterno's family ought to shut up and count themselves damned lucky their old man died when he did or he would be doing the perp walk with the rest of the bastards who covered this thing up.

And college football did need to pay some price for this too, apart from the criminal penalties. I sort of get that. There had to be a response.

I still don't get why SMU got the death penalty in 1987 for doing what all these teams do today, finding creative ways to put money in the pockets of players, but Penn State did not, for covering up child rape.

It sure looks likes the NCAA was willing to spank every part of Penn State but its bottom line. A $60 million fine? Piffle. Look at businessofcollegesports.com for a rank of college football programs by sheer profitability (UT Austin is No. 1), and you begin to get a picture.

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Mike Ozanian at Forbes offers a stunning portrait of the way in which college football outperforms capitalism itself as a means of wealth generation.

But in reading the morning newspapers today, I am struck by something at an entirely different level. I don't think the real problem is about sports. It's way deeper. It's really about how we view success.

The Dallas Morning News has a pretty good story -- even if it's presented in sort of an odd way -- about private school drug addicts whose pushers are their parents. Oh, excuse me, that's not really how they put it. The story, which appears under their "Education" sig, is about how maybe possibly a little bit some certain kids under pressure to be high achievers maybe sort of misuse a little bit some of the performance enhancing drugs like Adderall and Vyvanse that their parents get prescribed for them so they can earn better grades.

Are you kidding me? When my kid was a freshman at UT Austin eight years ago, he came home with stories -- he thought they were funny, of course -- about Adderall gangs in the dorms who were breaking into rooms to get pills to sell. That junk is a middle class epidemic. The News just barely suggests way down deep in its story where it winds up -- cocaine.

Hey, teach your kid he can kick ass on Adderall. How long do you think it will be before he figures out he can kick even more ass on cocaine?

What does this have to do with the Nittany Lion? I don't know. I'm probably just nuts here. But I can't help thinking there is a shared theme in these two things, in profit-spewing commercial sports masquerading as education and in people willing to turn their kids into junkies in order to get good grades.

The theme is fake success. Moral bling. Life as a showroom. People on their feet screaming getting a big rush out of some showbiz crap that doesn't mean a thing.

Go back to the grade-getting drugs. And I am not talking here about the kids who have genuine diagnosed syndromes for which these drugs are effective when prescribed and monitored by people who made it through med school. For those kids, the drugs represent incredible breakthroughs in brain research, and when the drugs work the way they are supposed to work, the drugs are like miracles out of the Bible. That's not what we're here to talk about.

I'm talking about the kids who get them off the street (from friends, in other words) and take them to cram. I'm talking about the parents who wink at it, because they know their kid, left to his or her own merits and devices, is a B-minus student, but with a pharmaceutical boost and a 30-hour sleepless cram session that mid-term grade can come in at Triple-A.

Does anybody really think that kid is smarter? Does anybody give a shit? Isn't that Triple A grade an example of what I'm talking about -- a fake and empty success?

So I attended UT Austin football games when my kid was there, of course, and I never sat down, because nobody sits down. Everybody stands up and screams during the whole game. I believe once or twice I may have worn an orange garment. Not saying I didn't have fun. And I do have a certain love and reverence for UT, where my kid got one hell of an education.

But the enterprise I was looking at in that roaring stadium generates annual profits of almost $70 million after expenses of $25 million. So what if it's good at doing football? It better be good at football. What does that have to do with education? And why do we attach a connotation of success to UT Austin because of it?

It's bling. It's bullshit. And there is a reason, I believe, to weave the Adderall issue into this. Is it possible that we as a society and a culture just don't know what real success is any more, real character, real achievement? Have we all adopted the values of the dumbest reality TV shows?

Forget penalties at Penn State. I don't even like the term. It reminds me of time-out. Think about Sandusky down there in the shower room raping children. We don't need penalties. We need change.

Forget about change coming from the NCAA. They're the uber-corporate holding company for college football profits. The last thing they're ever going to be interested in is any kind of change in moral values that might diminish those profits.

Change would happen at the universities, and that would start with parents and students. It would come from parents strongly discouraging their kids from attending colleges and universities that make huge profits from fake success in fake college sports.

And the same parents might also tell their kids, "Bring me an honest C-plus or B-minus any day before you show up here with Adderall grades, and, by the way, who is your favorite professor and what's the best book you read this semester?"

How likely is that? Forbes reports that last year while the image of Sandusky doing it to children in the shower room was new and vivid in the minds of Penn State alums, 191,712 donors were motivated to kick in $209 million for the second richest fund-raising year in the school's history.

I don't kid myself. I'm rattling around in the dark here. Anybody see my keys?



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30 comments
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Penn State is simply the model for all big state football factories.

Zinger
Zinger

You would think that all the money that UT rakes in would afford them a decent quarterback.

Honeybee
Honeybee

Amen about the Paterno family.

No one wants to hear from them or about them or listen to them whine about anything.

Who is giving them advice?

 

The perk-filled life they enjoyed is over and they need to get used to it.  

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

Jim, it is really quite easy ... according to the NCAA philosophy, slipping cash payments to your players is worse than your head coach covering up child sex abuse ... This is the NCAA, all that matters is the bottom line of dollars.

 

After all this is an amateur sport, where the myth of the student athlete lives on.

travishuse
travishuse

After the Freeh report, you can expect many more lawsuits aimed at Penn State for allowing this to happen. The president of the campus was ousted, as were the rest of the people found to be involved in the scandal. It's a tragedy. And I do think that it's wrong for universities to make such a profit on sports, would you really tell your child to not attend UT because of problems at Penn State?

herbalmagick
herbalmagick

I really don't seen a lot of difference between taking an Adderall to study or drinking two pots of coffee.  Both are stimulant drugs being taken to offset sleepiness.  The Adderall would be a lot easier on your digestive system.

icowrich
icowrich

"I still don't get why SMU got the death penalty in 1987 for doing what all these teams do today, finding creative ways to put money in the pockets of players, but Penn State did not, for covering up child rape."The difference is in how widespread it was.  SMU's scandal went all the way to the governor. Very few people knew about the Penn State molestations.

seasincarnadine
seasincarnadine

I want the school to still be able to earn money through its athletics program.  Vast amounts.  Because the family of those children should have ample coffers to take their civil retribution from.  What I would hate, is for these kids (who will need years of expensive therapy) to have an empty judgment and no funds from which to collect.

 

The criminal penalties will take care of the people personally responsible.  The NCAA penalties will do its purpose in shocking schools into the realization that they must be bigger than their sports programs.  That if they do not, the financial reprocissions will reach beyond the sports programs, so they have a vested interest in controlling their sports programs (and any police or security in the area). 

 

However, I also want the professors and students of the university to have funds for bunson burners and text books.  Remember, heavy financial ruin would affect more than just sports. 

PerryMoore
PerryMoore

This article reminds me of the Robin Williams performances in which he took random word suggestions from the audience and built his stand-up routine around them. What do pederasty, speed, football, and social decay have in common? See punchline above.

Cliffhanger
Cliffhanger

Well, as consumers we have some choice. D-III schools, anyone?

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

I could see the NCAA not doing anything.  I doubt they have rules about pedophilia, and ad-hoc laws are generally unConstitutional.  The real pity is that those who had nothing to do with this, the citizens of PA pay, while McGreivey, (or whatever) should loose his house, and all assets to pay the victims families.  I don't want him to go homeless, I want him in jail.  I want the people responsible held accountable, fully and directly accountable.  Not the institutions, and others. 

 

As to Adderal, it's speed, "reds"  it's no breakthrough Jim.  Jack Kerouac wrote "On the Road" on them.  I re-read all my literature the night before Summer School tests, on Minithins and Coca-cola.  Minithins, a derivative of the herb, "Mormon Tea" or Ephedra is no break through either.  I made a 100 on the lit-test, and I don't understand how that is wrong. But, Adderal is more like speed than cocaine.  It seems to me it would really tough to study on Coke, but speed, reds are another matter.   Of course, reds were developed as stim-pills for our soldiers.

 

Now Paul Tillich, the noted religious scholar said, "all institutions are inherently evil."  And, we set ourselves up when we give too much power, and leash to institutions.  I don't have a big problem with the NCAA imposing penalties, but I want to see the individuals punished, not the institution.  A similar thing happened with Bank of America.  The CEO defrauded the stockholders, and the stockholders were punished with fines, while the CEO kept his job, and enjoyed personal indemnity.  Assail the perpetrators, not the institutions that house them.  An institution can't act, it's the individuals who must do that, and if they personally face repercussions that seems to be more effective than personal indemnity, and let the consequences roll down the chain.

RTGolden
RTGolden

In your own crotchety way, you dribbled this one down the left field line and managed to get an inside the park home run.  Congrats.

 

Football IS money in the US.  Period. End of story.

 

2010 Super Bowl - most watched broadcast ever.  2011 Super Bowl 2nd most watched ever.  Behind NFL Football, NCAA Football cleaned up in the ratings.  All those viewers mean commercial ad time, which means dollars.  For this reason, Penn State's punishment IS a punishment, even if it not much of one.

 

Butts in seats matters, but not as much as viewers in front of corporate ads on TV.  And the Bowl games (all 35 of them) put eyeballs on Apple, Gatorade, Ford, Chevy, etc (ad infinitum) ads.  Some of that money works it's way to colleges and conferences ($282mil last year).  Penn State will lose the opportunity to get hold of some of that cash.  I imagine a lot of their TV draw during the season will fall off as well.  Couple lost TV revenue with the $60mil fine and you DO have a pretty hefty hit to the Nittany bottom line.

 

All that being said, you're absolutely right that more needs to be done.  Sports in general and college sports in particular need to be shown that they are not special.  Like all of our cultural icons, elite athletes and the organizations they belong to need to face real and meaningful punishment whenever they cross the line.  Unfortunately, with the money involved in college and professional sports, it will be rare occasions when punishments actually fit the behavior they're meted out for.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

whats $60 mil to an endowment worth $1.5 billion?  oh yeah nothing.  The NCAA is ajoke, Jay bilas takes them to task daily.  For all the touting of standards by the NCAA, they broke their own by punishing PSU w/o due process.  Do they deserve what they got, sure , probably more.  But the NCAA blackmailed them into this.  If EVER there was a time an instituion deserved the death penalty, this is it.  What more lack of instituional control can you have than from the board of regents and the president on down to the coaches hiding this aweful tragedy?  They should have been removed from NCAA membership and have all governmental assistance pulled. 

GregMarcydaGama
GregMarcydaGama

Just a brilliant analysis, Jim. Thanks for that. A lot to think about. You are on the mark. The question is, what can be done? Rome burns .  . .  The time of The Great Evolution draws near. ~ / ~ OM

cactusflinthead
cactusflinthead

I am afraid the horse is out of the barn, down the road and three counties away by now. As much as I dislike calling all athletes students, some of them actually are just that. The vast majority will go on to jobs that have zero to do with their on field experiences. Btw it isn't only athletics that gets the benefit of having dirty things hidden away from the public, predatory professors have enjoyed having their sins hidden away too. Don't for one second think that a prof that got caught with their pants down, but brings in heaps of grant money and prestige, will get fired. How exactly are we supposed to wean the Uni from dollars? Is the Lege going to suddenly wake up and think that they ought to increase funding for them? Snowball in hell>chance of that happening. Sure I would have liked have seen the NCAA go the full monty and give them the death penalty, but what they did was pretty damn close. I don't think that Penn State is going to recover from the pr hit any time soon. The lack of bowls, tv coverage and the freedom of current players to leave will mean their program is going to suffer. Will it mean the Happy Valley faithful are going to quit going to the games like they did over at SMU? I doubt it. The fickle Dallas bandwagoner is still not going to the games like they did back when they bought players. SMU has come a long way since the death penalty, but the tailgate culture, the overall community culture is vastly different than that of PSU. I expect they will still sell out games and still see revenue coming in even if the product on the field isn't up to par or even stinks to high heavens. See Notre Dame. They have not been good for years and yet they still draw crowds. Why? Because the faithful will keep going no matter what, no matter how bad they stink. They might roll through coaches like underwear, but they will still go see the boys play. This is all said as a Longhorn fan. I also attended. I grew up watching them. Would I still go if Darrell Royal was in the same boat as JoePa? Maybe. I can't lie and say I would turn my back on them totally. There will be some that do leave PSU, but I think the majority will stay. 

cheeseburger
cheeseburger

 @herbalmagick That is so far off, you have no idea.  Adderall and Vyvanse are actual amphetamines.  Coffee's got nothing on those.  It's not just about keeping you awake at night.  Adderall actually improves your brain function significantly.  Your focus is laser like.  The least interesting things become fascinating.  You actually become smarter while using them.  They are very addictive because you really feel amazing on them.  Like more than human.  Two pots of coffee will just make you jittery and scatter brained.  Almost the complete opposite effect. 

Cowtown
Cowtown

 @icowrich

 Stay tuned icowrich, because according to several people, the PSU scandal goes all the way up to the Pennsylvania governor Corbett.

whizzer
whizzer

 @RTGolden sports in general? the majority of college or high school athletic participants never appear on TV or receive the influence of large amounts of money and "only" benefit by achieving superior physical conditioning and improved mental toughness.

Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

Can't even stop it on the high school level, good luck with colleges

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

 @RTGolden RT this is pretty scary. We can't keep meeting this way.

AmyS
AmyS

Any chance UT will fire that fracking professor who failed to disclosed his obscene income and investment in the oil and gas industry before publishing a (now tainted) report on fracking?  Good work Jim, good work Eric.

TexOHara
TexOHara

 @cheeseburger Sounds like the drug from that Bradley Cooper movie from a couple years back, the one where he takes it and becomes a stock market genius, writes a novel in a day, etc.

RTGolden
RTGolden

 @whizzer High School and college athletes fall into this in two ways:  1) HS athletes have, to various degrees, gotten a pass when it comes to academics.  If they're good enough, and the sport means enough to the school, classroom achievement is rarely a factor in their grades.  Same goes for college athletes to a somewhat lesser extent.  They have to be stars in the money sports or notable sports to get that kind of treatment.  Scholarship athletes get this pass often.

 

2) HS and aspiring college athletes see what goes on.  The sports world in general needs to do a better job of policing itself.  Like it or not, sports icons are role models for youth, even in little known sports.  I wrestled in HS, I couldn't have named half the starters on my favorite football team, but I could run down names and weight classes of Olympic wrestlers, college wrestling notables and freestyle/greco-roman greats without batting an eye.  I consumed every bit of information I could about Dan Gable, Mark and David Schultz, Bruce Baumgartner and others.

RTGolden
RTGolden

 @JimSX Trust me, it was more difficult for me to write that than it was for you to write your, somewhat lefthanded, complimentary article about the DMN last week.

Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

 @whizzer And this offsets any corruption for the sake of a winning program and over glorification of athletics over academics?   

whizzer
whizzer

 @Sotiredofitall Been sitting in that chair staring at your screen too long? Or are you oblivious to the well known effects of the increased physical activity inherent within the broad spectrum of both popular and not so popular participatory sports?

http://tinyurl.com/c77w2do

 

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