Did ESPN Distort and Sensationalize Penn State Football Problems?

cfb360 .comSenior Analyst IJuly 28, 2008

nittanylions360.com - Sunday, July 27 2008


Tomorrow, we’ll be just 32 days away from the first game of 2008, but the problems of 2007 continue to haunt Nittany Nation.


And no, I’m not talking about Anthony Morelli.


Today’s report on ESPN’s sensationalized show Outside the Lines, hosted by Bill O’Reilly, um, I mean Bob Ley, lambasted Joe Paterno and Penn State.


There is little doubt that all alumni and fans feel embarrassed about the flurry of off-field issues that Penn State felt last year. However, this piece combined skewed statistics, interviews with long-time haters (Ron Bracken), and a not-so-flattering interview with Paterno to paint a devastating picture of the current state of the program.


Some of the show presented a balanced portrayal, but much of the information misrepresented the problem.


Let’s start with their 2002–2008 statistic that 46 players were charged with 163 counts, for an average of 3.5 counts per players. Forty-five of the 163 counts brought a conviction or plea, for a batting average of 27.6 percent. Of the 46 players charged, 27 were guilty for a winning percentage of 58.6 percent.


I’m not sure where that stands in comparison with other cases in Centre County. If I were a betting man, I’d bet the average tends to be higher.


Therein lies the problem with the whole report. It had no comparison data. What’s the Bowl Sub-Division average for players getting in trouble? What’s the Big Ten average? I imagine we’re near the top in 2007, but are we really from 2002–2008? I find that very hard to believe.


Another question I can’t help but ponder: of those 46 players charged, how many were for underage drinking offenses versus violent crime offenses? Not to ‘excuse’ underage drinking, but it shouldn’t be ticker news for ESPN.


Their 2007 data shows that 17 players were charged with 72 crimes for an average of 4.2 per player. Nine were found or pleaded guilty for a winning percentage of 52.9 percent.


So, we have a combination of factors leading to PSU being common ticker fodder for ESPN: Players doing dumb things, a hyper-aggressive DA, and a "deny! deny! deny!" from the 81-year-old head coach.


All of that said, those that love PSU have held significant pride in both the on-field and off-field stature of our Nittany Lions.


It’s time for Paterno, the coaches, and the captains to manage this problem in-house, and the players to act responsibly.