A few weeks back – amidst the Ray Rice scandal and the chaos that engulfed the NFL – the NCAA quietly announced that Penn State’s sanctions had been lifted. No more bowl ban. No more scholarship reductions. Time had been served and reparations paid.
There are plenty of conspiracy (perhaps legitimate) theories out there as to why the NCAA decided to lift Penn State’s sanctions when they did. Regardless of why it happened, all you need to know is that it happened. Penn State is free to continue with business as usual… and that’s alarming.
When the sanctions were levied several years ago, there was a vocal minority who suggested that the NCAA was overstepping their boundaries and unfairly punishing current “student athletes” who had absolutely nothing to do with the situation. After all, if Penn State swiftly removed anyone who had any part of the heinous crimes and subsequent cover up, why should they be punished? Right?
That line of logic is exactly what is wrong with college athletics today and it shows a complete inability to see the forest for the trees. From the NCAA’s perspective, the real issue at hand should have been bigger than Sandusky, Paterno, Spanier or any other person associated with the crimes. The issue is one of culture. The football program at Penn State had become (and still is) bigger than the school itself. That culture still exists today regardless of whether the criminals who were a part of the past remain. Culture is bigger than any one individual and absolutely nothing has suggested that the culture at Penn State has changed one iota since the NCAA levied “strict” sanctions. This was blatantly apparent with the jubilant celebrations that ensued in State College several weeks ago when the announcement was made that Penn State’s football program was free.
The fact of the matter is the only way to change the culture at a place like Penn State, and I mean THE ONLY WAY, is to completely do away with the football program. Only then will people realize that Penn State isn’t about a football team. It’s a state university that serves first and foremost to educate young people.
I’ll be the first to tell you how much I enjoy reveling in the pageantry of Saturdays in the fall… particularly in the West Lot. It may not seem like it at times, but I’m fully aware that the livelihood of my alma mater, Northwestern University, does not hang in the balance with the result of our team’s games every Saturday. Unfortunately, I don’t think the same can be said at a place like Penn State, Ohio State, Alabama, etc. Saturday results define those universities.
At the end of the day, we shouldn’t be playing Penn State this weekend. Nobody should be playing Penn State this weekend. They shouldn’t have a team right now. Only then would the NCAA truly have addressed the issue at hand.