In the latest issue of Sports Illustrated, the child sex scandal of former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky is being called the worst college sports scandal of all time.
Not only has it led to a myriad of charges against Sandusky, but it also resulted in the firing of university president Graham Spanier and legendary head football coach Joe Paterno. While college sports, and football in particular, are no stranger to scandals, this is unequivocally the worst.
Most scandals across the history of college sports have had to do with money, such as players receiving improper benefits from boosters or players betting on games. Those types of examples are essentially countless as they have happened on so many different occasions.
The SMU football team may have held the distinction of biggest scandal prior to the Penn State case as players were paid thousands of dollars in the mid-1980s. This led the NCAA to give SMU "the death penalty" as the program was shut down for two years.
Since then there have been tons of other pay-for-play scandals at high-profile schools like Miami, Florida State, Ohio State, Oklahoma, USC and many more. All of them were pretty similar in nature, but none of them are as morally despicable as what Sandusky allegedly did.
In terms of morality, the closest thing to the Sandusky case may have occurred in 1951 with the Army football team. In that instance, 37 Army football players were expelled for cheating on exams, causing the team to essentially crumble.
That scandal reflected poorly on Army as the servicemen were supposed to have been of the highest possible character, but even so, it doesn't hold a candle to Penn State. While the Army scandal may have had a temporary negative effect on the prestige of West Point, the players ultimately hurt themselves and nobody else.
The Penn State case digs much deeper than the players, in fact, the players had nothing to do with it. Sandusky's actions, and subsequently the way they were handled, were an institutional problem. Not only is it disturbing that a suspected pedophile was able to coach for so many years, but it is even worse that the university did nothing after becoming aware of the situation.
Assistant coach Mike McQueary allegedly saw Sandusky sexually assaulting a boy in a Penn State locker-room shower in 2002. While the details are unclear, McQueary is believed to have notified Paterno. McQueary has since said in emails that he stopped the assault and did speak with police, but that was noticeably absent from his grand jury testimony.
Whatever the case, it seems as though the university decided to keep the matter in house, even though it was known that Sandusky had inappropriately touched a child at the very least. I'm led to believe they suspected more than that, though, and that is why so many have paid the price with their jobs.
There have been tons of scandals in the history of college sports, but none has been as egregious as Sandusky and Penn State. When you start talking about sexual abuse against children, you enter another stratum of terribleness.
Players have been paid and cheated on tests in the past, but that was something that only affected them as individuals. The way the Sandusky situation was handled, though, may have put countless children in danger, and that is why it's the worst scandal in college sports history.