Thoughts on the Penn State Pedophile Scandal

Written by Ralph E. Stone. Posted in Opinion

Published on November 13, 2011 with No Comments

A Nov. 11 candlelight vigil on the Penn State Campus. The vigil was held in support of the alleged victims of a child sex abuse scandal (AP Photo/Alex Brandon).

By Ralph E. Stone

November 13, 2011

I am an indifferent viewer of sports. If another activity such as a movie, a concert, the theater, or a social activity beckons, I choose that activity over watching a game. However, I am interested in how the 49ers, the Raiders, Stanford and Cal football did. I therefore read the sports section of the newspaper or turn on ESPN for the latest scores.

Recently, the media — ESPN in particular — has been overly absorbed in the Pennsylvania State University (PSU) scandal where Jerry Sandusky, a long-time assistant to now former PSU football coach Joe Paterno, allegedly molested eight troubled young boys over a 15-year period at times at PSU satellite campuses. PSU administrators knew about it but allegedly covered it up.

Unfortunately, very little media attention is being paid to the betrayals of trust that these young victims had for their mentor. The effects of this sexual abuse can include depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, propensity for further victimization in adulthood, and even physical injury to the child. What if anything, will be done for these already troubled children? Why hasn’t the media focused on the effects Sandusky’s alleged molestation will likely have on these young victims? Did PSU reach out to the parents of these children and offer the children counseling? Or would that be admitting liability?

I assume there will be many future lawsuits against Sandusky and PSU.

Unfortunately, the media frenzy surrounding the scandal is more a concern about the effect it is having on PSU, Joe Paterno’s legacy, and even last Saturday’s football game with Nebraska. There is no mention of what role big-time sports might have had on the coverup, or what kind of role models coach student-athletes at universities like PSU. I get the feeling that PSU just wants the scandal to fade away.

It is no secret that big-time college sports are fully commercialized. Billions of dollars flow through them each year. The NCAA makes money, and enables universities and corporations to make money, from the unpaid labor of young athletes.

PSU gets its share of the pie. PSU’s athletic department is a self-sufficient auxiliary unit of the university. The income generated by the unit is greater than its expenses. The PSU athletic department’s self-sufficiency places it in elite company. According to a report released by the NCAA, only fourteen Division 1 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools reported profits from their athletic departments in 2009. PSU athletics made $18 million in profit in 2009-2010. No tuition money goes towards the PSU athletic department. In fact, the athletic department contributed $12 million to the University’s general operating budget in the form of tuition for all of its scholarship athletes. PSU must be worried about the effects the scandal will have on future fund raising for its profit-making athletic department

What should the role of a coach be at colleges or even high schools? The primary role should be to teach athletics. In turn, college athletes look upon their coaches as leaders, teachers, and mentors. Coaches teach discipline, teamwork, and sportsmanship. Coaches often become the face of the university, especially coaches like Paterno, the winningest college football coach in history. I wonder how much the average American knows about PSU other than its football coach was JoePa (an affectionate nickname for Joe Paterno).

The classical ideal of athletics is a sound mind in a sound body. Athletics should be about fair play, hard work, dedication, personal excellence, obedience to rules, commitment, and loyalty. However, a win-at-all cost mentality can lead to elitism, sexism, racism, nationalism, over competitiveness, abuse of drugs, gambling, and a number of other deviant behaviors. When the administration and coaches at PSU ignored and covered up the sexual molestation of children by one of its coaches, the true spirit of sports was lost. Can it be regained? Only time will tell.

PSU at one time was known as Happy Valley. Happy Valley is anything but these days.

Ralph E. Stone

I was born in Massachusetts; graduated from Middlebury College and Suffolk Law School; served as an officer in the Vietnam war; retired from the Federal Trade Commission (consumer and antitrust law); travel extensively with my wife Judi; and since retirement involved in domestic violence prevention and consumer issues.

More Posts

No Comments

Comments for Thoughts on the Penn State Pedophile Scandal are now closed.