As a Penn State grad, I am personally devastated by the Sandusky scandal, the ruin of Coach Paterno's legacy, and now the NCAA sanctions against my alma mater. I believe the sanctions and fines are justified, but I fear that there are thousands of innocent victims in the aftermath of this crisis just as there were in the midst of it. Hundreds of athletes who contributed to the winning glory days of Penn State between 1998 and 2011 are now stripped of their legacies, and the young people matriculating this fall will be stripped of the prestige and excitement of that once celebrated football program.
The NCAA has measured out its punishment on this one institution, but surely its ruling is intended to extend well beyond. The larger lesson here is that one athletic program or culture or coach cannot become bigger than the welfare of its students. That's harder than it seems, however, given the money that flows into these programs from alumni and television rights when you have a winning team. Millions of dollars are generated each season by big college football programs, and most operate at a deficit. These programs become the identity, the calling card if you will, for that learning institution and define the college culture. Think about any college in this country that is known for its football program and you see what I'm talking about. This horrible scandal could happen anywhere, and the irony is not lost on anyone that it happened to one of the most storied football programs in American…and to one of its winningest coaches.
Right here in our own home town, the USC culture thrives around its football program. Let this be a huge life lesson for all of us to place the welfare and safety of our student body before any winning sports legacy.
That's my perspective.
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