Should Penn State Shut Down Its Football Program?

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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Photo by caitlinator


Norma V.
Norma Villarreal5 years ago

Start the program with a fresh slate of staff members. We as a society have put the athletic programs on a pedastal, worshipped the almighty dollar, and forgot to take care of our fellow human beings.

Ruadha S.
Ruadha S5 years ago

Shutting down the football program does not harm Sandusky. The past and current football players will suffer (and believe it or not, players DO get an education.) They didn't do it.
45 to 50 thousand students will suffer, and all of those who play any other sport will suffer, because the huge profit everyone drools over paid for those men and wonen's sports. Scholarships will dry up and not just those for football. And they didn't do it.

Sme of you think these students are worthless brats--and some are. But many are there to get educated. And among other good deeds, last yeat they raised over 12 MILLION dollars for the Four Diamond Fund (look it up). It started in 1972 and they have never failed to increase the amount they raise. They didn't do it.
International students will suffer. And they didn't do it.

The community, the whole state, will suffer because lack of tourism will be more of a downtown in the economy. And none of us did it either.

A lot of you would have been perfect for the Roman games in the coliseum. Kill them, kill them, kill them!
And BTW, Paterno and Sandusky don't belong in the same sentence. Sandusky commited the molesting and should be drawn and quartered. Paterno MAY have known what was happening, there is no proof. (According to Law and Order) hearsay, he said,she said--are not admissable. Maybe an intrerview would answer some questions, but wait he's DEAD, so it doesn't matter what you say about him.

Leah H.
Leah H5 years ago

Danielle - Yes, college sports are big money makers, which is the reason coaches are paid many times over the rate of professors. Money was also the reason Pen State turned a blind eye to what was happening. I think the answer is not to stop football, but for all colleges to rethink the elevation of sports to being more important than scholastics.It is time for us all to cease our worship of sports figures and their outrageous salaries. It makes them feel entitled to do whatever they wish. We have one entitled class in the 1%, do we real need more?

Danielle K.
Danielle K5 years ago

As Cathy, Keevin, and some others point out, to shut down the program would punish the students whose only wrongdoing is supporting a man they have only recently found out aided and abetted a predator. Clear out the athletic program, get in new faces to ensure nobody remains who could possibly have taken part in the cover-up, and start fresh.

I'm also shocked to find out how much money the program brings in and how much flows back to the area. Collegiate football is a money-making enterprise, it seems.

Norma V.
Norma Villarreal5 years ago

You think Penn State is the only institution that has protected its name rather than the students? Remove Paterno's statue but keep the program running....expose the crime and continue to function as best you can.

Gina P.
Gina Patterson5 years ago

What happened at Penn State was certainly worse than what happened at SMU. So let the punishment fit the crime.

Donald T.
Donald T5 years ago

1st, there is far too much money and emphasis on collegiate sports where the words 'college' and 'university' are not used, and 'school year' and 'semester' have been replaced with 'season'. Something perverse in our society with god worship of sports in all respects from the minor leagues of NCAA etc to the hot air of ESPN et al. If would package all that hot air, then we could power the country for a year. Furthermore, I have it on good confidence god does not give a bloody good g-dd-mn about your sports team.
2nd, athletics should be fun healthy physical and mental activities.
3rd, the football team is not the culprit in this case, or in most other cases of wrong doing. The students should not be penalized for what the ostensible grown-ups have done for more money to the program.

Tina K.
Tina K5 years ago

Penn State deserves the NCAA "death penalty" for putting their football program ahead of everything else, including the safety of kids. Penn State is a university first and athletics should be far down the list.

Christine Stewart
Christine S5 years ago

Bunch of jerks that protected a pedophile- yup- shut it down...

Prentise Wylie
pre,tpse w5 years ago

I think it would be ridiculous to shut down an entire football program that would punish many innocent people, especially the football players, because of the distorted thinking of those who hid and covertly supported the abuse. I couldn't care less about football, and I think it is a huge, distorted, irresponsible use of money, but it is important to those who are involved in it, and they deserve to continue, as do all the teachers and other staff who were innocent.