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Zach Clark (8:22 am)

Twenty-four hours after NCAA president Mark Emmert shocked the nation and essentially laid down the “modern-day death penalty” on Penn State I take a look at exactly what caused the entire mess to occur, the chances PSU fields a team this year and the immediate impact on the B1G’s Leaders division race. 

Of course, we all turn to ex-PSU president Graham Spanier, suspended PSU athletic director Tim Curley, ex-PSU vice president Gary Schultz and, last but not certainly not least, ex-PSU head coach Joe Paterno, when looking to place the blame for the entire mess.  But, as indicated by Emmert on Monday morning, a much bigger problem is nationally present than a few corrupt, utterly immoral men holding absolute power in State College, PA.  At many major universities across the nation, administrators, coaches, staffs and fan bases seem to elevate certain athletic programs to a very unhealthy level.  This “hero worship” is the basis of the cover-up at Penn State and very well has caused/could cause/is in the process of causing many, many other problems at other universities.  

As a diehard fan myself, I am the first to admit that it would be impeccably difficult to set aside my ultimate desire for Ohio State football to succeed for the sake of accepting supposedly just NCAA punishment towards my beloved university’s athletic program.  As immoral as that may seem, America has seen an
extreme example in the mindset from many PSU faithful.  I understand waiting for the Freeh Report and all other investigations to be completed before commenting on the situation, but through message boards and social media, countless PSU fans and alumni indicate their unwavering support for Paterno and denial of any
wrongdoing of anyone not named Sandusky.  This is “Exhibit A” of hero worship.  The Penn State football program’s success was considered the single-most important item at the university and was elevated over the well being of children, to put it lightly.

Although Emmert aimed to show that this type of behavior would be severely penalized and not tolerated in collegiate athletics, I do not believe this will have any effect on the prevalence of hero worship in collegiate athletics.  Maybe if numerous elite college coaches somehow made extremely convincing public statements indicating the multitude of other things in life more important than football (academics, personal safety of others, care for the community, etc.) it would help.  Maybe America witnessing these “heroes” actually “walking the walk” and emphasizing things other than football would help.  Maybe not.  Realistically, I do not see this ever occurring, at least not anytime in the near future.  Americans and sports fans (including myself) idolize athletes.  All universities and the NCAA want as much money as possible, and all Americans and sports fans want as much athletic success as possible.  I consider this a direct result of the current culture in America, and it is scary to think something as horrific as what happened is State College, PA, is even possible.  I am in no way meaning to put down or attack anyone in particular, but rather attempting to make a frightening observation of what can come of something as silly sounding as “hero worship.”

As difficult as it is to move on from discussing something as awful as what happened at Penn State, there are many immediate issues that need to be examined.  For one, the instant eligibility for players wishing to transfer from PSU has a drastic impact on college football in 2012.  Assuming players utilize this unique opportunity and decide to move on to another school for the remainder of their college years, one poses the question, “Will Penn State even be able to field a team in 2012, 2013 or 2014?”  Considering scholarship reductions, bowl bans and the general stigma assumed when playing football for Penn State, one would assume that a large number of players would choose to leave Penn State or not attend the school.  Only time will tell, but I fully expect PSU to compete and field a team in the coming years.  Granted he is really faced with no other choice but first-year coach Bill O’Brien has said all the right things and seems to be determined to not allow this to fully cripple Penn State football.  Penn State has had unbelievable alumni support, and initial reactions from top 2013 PSU commits TE Adam Breneman and QB Christian Hackenberg seem positive.  However, I still am not confident that many current recruits sign with the Nittany Lions come February when all is said and done.  Even worse, rumors circulated late Monday night that current PSU starting RB Silas Redd (and arguably the best player on their roster) is strongly considering transferring to USC (how ironic…).  Rival college coaches are certainly licking their chops, but, for the sake of the damaged PSU fan base and the B1G, I wish the best to Coach O’Brien in his effort to retain as many players and recruits as possible in the coming years.
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BREAKING NEWS: Indiana football has made it to the final four in the Leaders Division of the B1G.  But seriously, they have.  The Hoosiers, Illini, Boilermakers and Badgers are the only four teams eligible to win the Leaders division of the B1G in 2012.  How scary is that?  PSU’s and OSU’s 2012 postseason bans have opened a huge window for some of the typical bottom feeders of the conference.  Earlier I predicted Indiana to have a 4-8 season and Illinois to have a 7-5 season.  With an upset or two, either of these squads can elevate themselves to having a very realistic shot at winning the Leaders division and making it to the B1G championship game.  However, although I have not done my Wisconsin Badgers B1G preview yet, I took a look at their schedule and it seems as if they have a cakewalk to the B1G championship.  Barring big, bad Bielema screwing things up, the Badgers should run away with the Leaders division in 2012.  But you never know, maybe the Hoosiers, Illini and Boilermakers have had enough mediocrity and will take things into their own hands.  After all, this is the absolute perfect (and maybe only) time to do it.

 


Comments

Tom
07/24/2012 06:26

Excellent take, especially regarding "hero worship." I still find it difficult to wrap my brain around this whole situation, especially now that the NCAA has gotten seriously involved in this mess. I'm still not sure if the NCAA should have even levied any penalties. Don't get me wrong, what took place at PSU is an absolute travesty, and all involved deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law (board of education, civil suits, etc will be coming very soon), but the NCAA doesn't have any explicit rules on how to handle a situation like this.

That being said, I think that collectively, the PSU fanbase continues to be blinded by the notion that this was a exclusively a Jerry Sandusky problem, and that the university/Joe Paterno were innocent in all of this. I can't blame them for feeling that way initially, but given what came out in the Freeh Report (and what will come out in these future lawsuits), I'm hopeful that over time, everyone will just take their medicine. If something like this had happened at Ohio State, I know that I would be completely distraught and in total disbelief. But at some point, reality has to set in, right?

Stewart Mandel wrote a very intriguing article at SI.com yesterday, pointing out that the NCAA overstepped their bounds in handling this situation. I was surprised to find myself agreeing with him. One quote in particular stood out to me:

"Remember when most college football fans assumed Auburn and/or Cam Newton would endure some sort of penalty when the quarterback's father openly solicited six figures from Mississippi State? The NCAA couldn't do anything, Emmert insisted, because there was no rule on the books addressing that specific scenario. We'd best not hear that excuse again."

We keep hearing the words "opening Pandora's Box," now that these penalties have been levied, and I think it's very appropriate to say that. I don't know if there is a situation that could ever exist now where the NCAA wouldn't be able to penalize a member institution in their own way. But only if they felt like it.

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07/24/2012 16:25

Wanna bet that this issue (pictured) sells more copies than any this year other than the swimsuit edition? People love controversy and SI feeds on this stuff. Not saying they want to see children abused, but SI and ESPN are the kings of sensationalistic journalism.

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Ken
07/25/2012 11:41

Good point, Dave. I'd get no friction from my lovely bride having the Penn State issue on our coffee table; swimsuit issue, a different story..

07/25/2012 08:19

Tom,

I completely agree with your points regarding the NCAA's uncertain jurisdiction as well as reality needing to set in soon for PSU fans. I'm sure the NCAA can twist and manipulate the events at PSU to give themselves jurisdiction based on its bylaws. The difference between the Newton situation and what happened at PSU is the incredible media pressure from everyone in America, not just college football or sports fans. I think there would have been much, much more harsh criticism of the NCAA had they done nothing.

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Ken
07/25/2012 11:53

Interesting extra-legal punishment doled out by NCAA. Maybe they drew the line between a resistant extortion 'victim' (MSU) and the actual, vulnerable victims in the Sandusky case. I say this only partly in jest. I guess NCAA is sending message they won't tolerate the crime nor the institutional cover up; public opinion being one of the variables.

Regarding PSU on-field performance; I expect them to be OK this year, fairly mediocre in 2013 and on the verge of incompetent for the next 6-8 years. They may find themselves in great demand as homecoming game opponents. If you want to walk-on at PSU, now is the time to do it.

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05/04/2013 12:33

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06/07/2013 04:17

It was a great game I loved every bit of it. Most importantly it gave me a fantastic opportunity to meet new people as well as to chill out with my friends. I am looking forward to the next game.Till then let us know the stats. Thanks!

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06/25/2013 23:11

When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become President. Now I’m beginning to believe it.

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08/05/2013 07:43

I really like your perspective on the whole ordeal.

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