This week has been one of the worst, if not THE worst, things to happen to NCAA football in history. The news of child molestation and cover-ups has stricken Penn State and the nation like nothing we have ever seen before. While people debate whether Joe Paterno should or should not have been fired, one question keeps coming to mind. Where is the NCAA amongst all of this? The governing body that rules, and I mean rules, college sports has been absolutely silent while the nation watches Penn State University’s football program completely dismantle itself. With riots, claims of corruption, and cover-ups, it sounds like an episode of Law and Order SVU the NCAA is silent. Why hasn’t the NCAA stepped in?
These days it is hard to bring up a conversation about college football without using the words sanctions, probation, and investigations, especially when referring to teams like USC, Ohio State, Miami, and North Carolina. All have been accused of rule breaking or cheating in some form or fashion, and the NCAA has come down on them. In recent years teams have lost scholarships, had wins vacated, and been banned from bowl games due to what the NCAA has ruled injustices. I personally am all for keeping the rules of sports just and having someone governing over the colleges to do so, but if that organization is going to rule with an iron fist over these schools, then it has to step in right now.
In 1987 the NCAA handed out its stiffest punishment, the death penalty, to SMU for paying players. The program that at the time was a contender for the national title has never been able to bounce back from its punishments. Should Penn State face anything less? In the hierarchy of things, cheating and paying players is a bad thing, but it pales in comparison to a program that has child molestation and rape involved in its athletic program. The NCAA is there to make sure that schools are sound in athletics as well as academics, but shouldn’t these schools be held to a certain moral fiber as well? In 2006 the Duke Lacrosse program suspended play due to claims of its players’ involvement in sexual assault. While the suspension was not brought about by the NCAA, I think nothing less should be set by Penn State.
On Thursday, Penn State fired coach Joe Paterno, a controversial move that has led to riots in State College. I think this was a move that the university had to make. Paterno was not directly involved in the scandal that has been brought to light in the past week, but he has been under fire for what he didn’t do. A lot of the scrutiny on Paterno has been that some felt he did not do enough in stopping the inhumanities that were going on behind closed doors. Some felt that he merely sat back and let it go on without doing enough to stop it. Can the same thing not be said about the NCAA? While all of this is going on with the University, they stand still. It was difficult to find where the NCAA has even made a stance on the controversy at all, but a quote from NCAA president Mark Emmert stated that “As the facts are established through the justice system, we will determine whether Association bylaws have been violated and act accordingly. To be clear, civil and criminal law will always take precedence over Association rule.” While, yes, I agree with Emmert that the legal investigation should take precedent over anything brought forth by the association, I don’t think that it should sit back and wait for the dust to settle before it takes action and at the very least puts its own investigation into action. The very meaning of the association defined by its own website, NCAA.org, states that it has a commitment to “The collegiate model of athletics in which students participate as an avocation, balancing their academic, social and athletics experiences. The supporting role that intercollegiate athletics plays in the higher education mission and in enhancing the sense of community and strengthening the identity of member institutions.” If the NCAA can’t find just reason to set into action from that, then what must they need to happen before taking a stance?
In the big picture of things, there is fair and unfair and there is right and wrong. At the end of the day am I unhappy if a school influenced an athlete to go to one school based over the other because they will buy him a car or take him on a joy ride on a yacht? Of course. On the same note, if there are schools participating in crimes against humanity, then just punishment should be brought down on them as well. I am not saying that I don’t think Penn State is not doing everything they can do in light of the situation at hand, but I believe that the NCAA as the governing body that presides over college athletics has to get involved in this situation.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog, do not necessarily reflect the views of WFNZ or CBS Radio.