Despite Penn State punishment, football still big man on college campuses
The Kansas City Star
The NCAA sent a clear message Monday: The win-at-all costs mentality that gives athletic directors and particularly football coaches exaggerated power on too many university campuses has to stop.
But was anyone really listening?
The NCAA issued significant and appropriate penalties against Penn State because of the horrific child sexual abuse scandal involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. Top university officials — including once legendary football coach Joe Paterno — failed to halt Sandusky’s activities for many years, essentially to protect the supposed sanctity of the school’s football program.
The NCAA’s decisions to fine the university $60 million, reduce football scholarships and impose a ban on postseason bowls were supposed to serve as warnings to other schools.
“We’ve had enough,” said Ed Ray, president of Oregon State and chairman of the NCAA’s executive committee, speaking on behalf of chancellors and university presidents.
In reality, however, football and the pursuit of the big bucks associated with it have long ruled much of the college landscape. Most indications are that this situation is going to get worse.
Look no further than the University of Missouri, which bolted from the Big 12 to the SEC because of its prowess as a football conference. Now, athletic boosters are scrambling to raise $200 million to make MU’s football stadium bigger and to lavish even more money on the program. Missouri’s regents enthusiastically backed the move to up the ante in the SEC arms race with Alabama and other conference football powers, even as they slashed millions from educational programs.
At the University of Kansas, athletic officials recently spent the mind-boggling sum of $9 million to pay off two failed football coaches.
Meanwhile, MU, KU and many other universities across the land are hiking tuition, raising fees and desperately trying to replace public support that’s been ratcheted back by state legislatures.
Athletic directors don’t apologize for cooking up multimillion-dollar deals with ESPN and other networks. Much of that money goes to overpaid coaches who rake in far more than the values of all the scholarships given to their athletes.
Penn State now has been added to the shameful roster of schools whose football programs got them in trouble with the NCAA. The unprecedented penalties it received likely will reduce it from a football power to a football also-ran.
None of this will be much comfort to the boys abused by Sandusky.