I know, students enjoy them, and a weekend of sports can be a fun event, and yes, they do have a strong effect on college enrollments (which always seemed bizarre to me—students actually select their academic institution based on the performance of the athletic team? But the correlations in the enrollment/season wins data all bear it out). But they also turn into hyper-inflated domains of privilege, where the coaches are paid more than faculty, students and alumni vividly demonstrate the etymological source of the term “fan”, and the athletes too often turn into swaggering assholes. Can we just have small athletic programs where it’s all for fun, and no one makes the games more important than the academics?
I am speaking, of course, of the sordid events going on at Penn State. Children are raped by an assistant coach; the staff knows about it all for a long time, and either turns a blind eye to it or whimpers among itself; nothing is done. Paterno, the head coach and king of football in Happy Valley, was allowed to sail on unperturbably, still holding his job, still coaching, and the only change in his routine was that the university wasn’t letting the press talk to him. This is the guy who knew about his defensive coach’s behavior for a long time.
There have been questions about Paterno’s role, too. Pennsylvania’s state police commissioner said the coach fulfilled his legal requirement when he told university administrators that a graduate assistant had seen Sandusky abusing a young boy in the team’s locker room shower in 2002.
2002 — Paterno let a sexual predator run free for 9 years, doing the absolute minimum to hinder him. He reported him to a superior (at Penn State, there’s someone who can boss Joe Paterno around?), but the police say that that’s where it ended — they were not informed. PSU kept it all in-house, buried.
That’s changed now. Penn State students rallied to support Paterno — just like we hear about congregations supporting child-raping priests — but to no avail. Finally, the board of trustees has done the right thing: Paterno and the university president have been fired, effective immediately.
Now if only they’d go on to do the appropriate act of scaling back the athletics program as a whole and never again allowing any coaching staff to become the kind of royalty Paterno and his crew were.
(via Comradde PhysioProffe.)