Legal experts are calling on Penn State University to shut down its vaunted football program. Last week, an independent investigation conducted by former FBI director Louis Freeh found that famous ex- football coach Joe Paterno, former university president Graham Spanier and other Penn State officials had shown “total disregard” to protect children from abuse by Jerry Sandusky, an assistant coach for 31 years.
In a Bloomberg article, Geoffrey Rapp, a sports law professor at the University of Toledo in Ohio, urged Penn State to levy punishment upon itself and show that it is “forthright and contrite” while the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) deliberates whether or not to discipline the university. It is not impossible that the NCAA could place the “death penalty” on Penn State, a temporary ban from competition. Jason Lanter, a professor of psychology at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania and a former president of the Drake Group, which defends academic integrity from the sports industry, says that Paterno, Spanier and others at Penn State failed morally and “chose the money route in terms of trying to placate the situation and try and cover it up,” rather than contacting legal authorities about Sandusky’s abuse.
The NCAA has imposed the “death penalty” five times before and only once to a university with a top-level athletic program: Southern Methodist University’s football program was shut down for a year in 1987 after it was found that 13 players had received a total of $61,000 from a slush fund administered by a booster. The school has since had only one winning record since it returned to competition in 1989.
Penn State’s football program has certainly helped to fill the university’s coffers as well as playing a huge role in the local economy of State College. Some 100,000 fans attend about six football games at Beaver Stadium:
The Nittany Lions football program brings about $70.2 million in direct business to the state, of which $50 million benefited Centre County, where Penn State is located, according to an economic study commissioned by the school for the 2008-09 academic year.
In the fiscal year ending in 2011, the athletic department generated $116.1 million in operating revenue and posted a $14.8 million operating profit….
If football’s revenue and expenses were eliminated from the budget, the university would have posted a loss of $29.1 million on $57.2 million of revenue, according to the school’s records.
Penn State Board Chairwoman Karen Peetz says that a “special task force” is “evaluating the fundamental culture” at the university.
The NCAA may not be the “appropriate organization to issue punishment” to Penn State, notes Ellen Staurowsky, a sports management professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia. In some ways, the NCAA was complicit in maintaining Penn State’s success in football. In 2010-11, the NCAA received 81 percent of itss $845.9 million revenue from television and marketing-rights fees.
There is no question that the fallout from the Sandusky scandal continues daily at Penn State. Since the issuing of the Freeh report, there have been numerous calls to remove the statue of Paterno outside Beaver Stadium and “Paternoville,” the tent city students set up prior to football games, has been redubbed “Nittanyville.” A halo painter over Paterno’s head in a mural in downtown State College has been painted over by artist Michael Pilato.
We need to ask why that halo was ever painted over his head in the first place.
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