Penn State Scandal: Disturbing but Not Surprising

Connor KieselContributor INovember 8, 2011

UNIVERSITY PARK, PA - NOVEMBER 08:  Penn State University head football coach Joe Paterno is surrounded by the media while leaving the team's football building on November 8, 2011 in University Park, Pennsylvania. Amid allegations that former assistant Jerry Sandusky was involved with child sex abuse, Paterno's weekly news conference was canceled about an hour before it was scheduled to occur. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Hmm, right and wrong—an interesting concept to delve into this week in college football.

Actually, forget this week; any week in a sport that’s on-field glory is continually marred by off-field seediness that makes your typical afternoon soap look tame.

Scandal after scandal rocks a game that’s supposed to foster tradition, unity and family among its fanbases. Saturdays come and go with hundreds of thousands of people packed into parking lots tailgating, then filling stadiums and screaming their lungs out. It’s rare you go a week without some kind of crazy finish.

Or crazy scandal.

We all now know the latest disturbing scandal: the child sex abuse allegations against former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.

But should we really be shocked? Logically, yes. Morally, yes. Knowing what we know about these programs, absolutely not.

This August, New York Times college athletics writer Pete Thamel detailed why college football is more embattled than ever, coming at the heels of the revelation of the U of Miami scandal involving Nevin Shapiro.

Thamel wrote, “the problems of college football seemed to move from the admittedly serious to the plain hard to believe last week with the news that a major donor to the University of Miami had admitted to providing cash payments, prostitutes and lavish gifts to 72 Hurricanes players from 2002 through 2010.”

Miami set a new standard for reprehensible actions within a college athletics program—a standard that lasted three months.

Disturbing, disgusting, sickening are all adjectives that came to my mind when hearing about the actions of Sandusky and inaction of Penn State folks in the know.

Shocking was not one of them. Maybe like kids who are supposedly desensitized to violence by being plastered with it in TV shows, movies and video games, I have just been desensitized to the shock factor of these scandals.

By no means am I saying this is not shockingly wrong. It is. It's difficult to read, hear and process what was done to these kids and how it took more than nine years to come to light.

But knowing what I do of those in power in college athletics from past examples is why I’m not surprised at the inaction.

In his article, Thamel also wrote, “College football has never been more prosperous, with five of the major college sports conferences recently signing billion-dollar broadcast deals.”

There’s your answer to why this is not surprising. Higher-ups in college programs are raking in tons of money. They will do everything to ensure that continues. It’s why the BCS won’t be changed, realignment is ongoing and indiscretion will go unreported.

Money trumps morality.

Tradition and winning reign supreme over common sense and propriety.

It’s a sad reality. One that doesn’t seem like it’s going to change any time soon, no matter how deep the depravity. 


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