Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Penn State Football, Joe Paterno – the tarnished brand

Penn State’s football program’s slogan is “Success with Honor". Any honor associated with Penn State football has left the building. Any success associated with Penn State football is about to leave the building. One of the greatest college football programs in NCAA history is today in tatters, a victim of a cover-up that when fully uncovered must result in the resignation or firing of Joe Paterno its 84-year old Hall of Fame coach. The big business of college football is at the root of the problems.

College football is a big business. There are few college campuses where college football is big as it is at Penn State. During the 2007-08 season the Nittany Lions football program generated $91,570,233. During the 2009-10 football season, according to Department of Education records, Penn State’s football program generated a $50.4 million profit based on total revenues of $70.2 million. Penn State's football team made $53,228,446 last season. Beaver Stadium, the home for Penn State football, has increased from 29,000 to 108,000 seats since Joe Paterno became head coach in 1966.

Penn State’s Board of Trustee’s are set to meet Wednesday. Expect Paterno to be asked to step down as coach immediately or agree to announce he’ll retire at the end of the current season. What a sad end to a once proud legacy. Joe Paterno has won 409 games more than any other Division I football coach and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. One of the NCAA’s biggest football brands is embroiled in a scandal that rips at the heart of college sports, allegations that if proven should force the 84-year Paterno to retire.

Former Penn State defensive coach Jerry Sandusky, a member of Paterno’s coaching staff for 32 years after retiring in 1999, is facing a series of child sexual abuse allegations that, if proven, include Sandusky having anal intercourse with a 10-year old boy using the showers in the Nittany Lions locker room in 2002, three years after Sandusky was no longer employed by Penn State University. Those damming allegations were brought to Paterno’s attention, who then met with Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley - Paterno's boss - and then Penn State senior vice president Gary Schultz. Legally Paterno did what he was supposed to do when he learned of the allegations. According to Pennsylvania law Curley and the now retired Schultz had the legal obligation to report the allegations against Sandusky to the police. The two were indicted Monday on charges of perjury and that they failed to alert police about abuse complaints. Sandusky was indicated Saturday. All three are claiming they are innocent of any and all charges relating to Sandusky allegations.

Paterno, in a statement Sunday issued by his son, Scott, said he was shocked and saddened by the allegations.

“If true, the nature and amount of charges made are very shocking to me and all Penn Staters. While I did what I was supposed to with the one charge brought to my attention, like anyone else involved I can't help but be deeply saddened these matters are alleged to have occurred.

“Sue and I have devoted our lives to helping young people reach their potential. The fact that someone we thought we knew might have harmed young people to this extent is deeply troubling.

“If this is true we were all fooled, along with scores of professionals trained in such things, and we grieve for the victims and their families. They are in our prayers.

“As my grand jury testimony stated, I was informed in 2002 by an assistant coach that he had witnessed an incident in the shower of our locker room facility. It was obvious that the witness was distraught over what he saw, but he at no time related to me the very specific actions contained in the Grand Jury report.

“Regardless, it was clear that the witness saw something inappropriate involving Mr. Sandusky. As Coach Sandusky was retired from our coaching staff at that time, I referred the matter to university administrators. I understand that people are upset and angry, but let's be fair and let the legal process unfold.

“In the meantime I would ask all Penn Staters to continue to trust in what that name represents, continue to pursue their lives every day with high ideals and not let these events shake their beliefs nor who they are.”

Included in a 32-page grand jury report, a current Penn State Assistant football coach witnessed Sandusky and "a naked boy … whose age he estimated to be 10 years old, with his hands up against the wall," and a "naked Sandusky" forcing him to have sex.

Paterno said the coach who witnessed the incident never went into such specifics with him, though Paterno said it was clear the assistant coach had seen something "inappropriate."

The assistant coach said he was never questioned by university police or other law enforcement until he testified before the grand jury in December 2010.

Curley told the grand jury that the assistant coach portrayed what he saw as "horsing around," and Curley denied that the assistant coach described seeing Sandusky having sex with the boy. "Absolutely not," Curley testified, according to the grand jury report.

Following his retirement in 1999 Sandusky continued to have access to Penn State’s football faculties. According to Penn State officials, who again were legally obligated to report the 2002 incident to the police but failed to do so, claim to have revoked Sandusky’s locker room privileges. Two reports suggest otherwise.

Yahoo! Sports reported Sandusky was seen on Penn State’s campus last week working out multiple times in the team’s weight room, according to multiple sources within the football program.

The sources, who asked to remain unnamed due to the nature of the scandal, said they saw Sandusky working out in Penn State’s Lasch Football Building last week.

Deadspin first reported that Sandusky held summer football camps at a Penn State satellite campus for six years after he was banned from taking youths onto the university's main campus by the athletics director and the senior vice president, who have been charged with failing to tell police about him.

The reaction has been as terrible as the horrible accusations.

"Their inaction likely allowed a child predator to continue to victimize children for many more years," said Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly, who noted that Penn State officials also never attempted to learn the boy's identity from that alleged incident. She spoke at a news conference in the state capital of Harrisburg Monday.

From NCAA President Mark Emmert: "This is a criminal matter under investigation by law enforcement authorities and I will not comment on details. However, I have read the grand jury report and find the alleged assaults appalling.

"As a parent and an educator, the notion that anyone would use a position of trust to prey on children is despicable. My thoughts and concern go out to the alleged victims and their families."

"I always saw [Sandusky] giving back, I always saw him as being a part of the community, I always saw him working with kids and caring about them,'' former Penn State linebacker LaVar Arrington said on his radio program, Arrington an All-American and a first-round pick of the Washington Redskins, adored Jerry Sandusky. Arrington is married with four kids.

"So when I heard about this information, when all of these allegations hit … it totally, and when I say totally, it totally took me off-guard. I was moved to tears. I looked at my children.''

Arrington added: "The natural instinct that would kick in, if I saw a child being violated, and I don't care who they are, I don't care who the person is that would be doing that. If you're an adult and you are violating a child, all reputations, all everything, all that goes out the door.

"If that was Coach Paterno, like, 'Coach, what are you doing? … You gotta come, you gotta come sit your [butt] down right here, I'm calling the cops'.''

According to a New York Times report, after Sandusky “made admissions about inappropriate contact in the shower room” in 1998 to the Penn State campus police, “nothing happened,” Frank Noonan, the police commissioner who spent more than 30 years with the F.B.I. and the attorney general’s office said. “Nothing stopped.”

“I think you have the moral responsibility,” Noonan said. “Anyone — not whether you’re a football coach or a university president or the guy sweeping the building — I think you have a moral responsibility to call us.”

“I’m saddened more than anything right now,” Todd Blackledge, the quarterback of Penn State’s title-winning team in 1982, told the New York Times in a telephone interview this week. “And on a lot of different levels. Beyond that, I haven’t really got my head around it yet.”

“If the board of trustees had one ounce of executive timber, they’d have resignations from Spanier, Curley and Paterno this week,” said the former booster, Bill Earley in a New York Times report, who estimated he had donated a six-figure sum to the university over the years.

Saturday afternoon Paterno will lead his Nittany Lions on field for the teams’ last home game of their 2011 season. More than 100,000 Nittany Lions fans will fill Beaver Stadium in what will be Joe Paterno’s last game he’ll coach in Happy Valley. Paterno may have not broken any laws, he will not be indicted as other Penn State officials have, but morally Paterno has no choice but to retire or the school will have to fire the man who has coached their football team for 62 years. Paterno did what he was legally obligated to do when he reported the 2002 incident but how could JoePa, as he is called, have stood by and done nothing while the key university officials he told did nothing.

Over his 409 wins and 62 years Paterno has expected the men who have played football for him to be men of character and conviction, men who would always do the right thing. Joe Paterno was a part of one of the biggest immoral cover-ups in college football history, one that will taint his legacy forever and one that embarrasses anyone ever associated with Penn State and one that hurts whatever image college football has left. Shame on Joe Paterno – you can’t hide by claiming you did what you had to do. If you’re half the man you have always claimed to be, if you’re the man of honor you’ve insisted you’ve always been then do the right thing and retire today, it can’t be soon enough for what’s left of your reputation. The brand known as Joe Paterno is dead, gone, there is no coming back from the lack of accountability demonstrated by Joe Paterno and the Penn State Athletic Department. Its time to clean house, and clean house from top to bottom. Everyone and anyone linked to this massive cover-up have to be held accountable and leave Penn State – the sooner the better.

Finally the real issue – why did Penn State cover-up the allegations and charges that have been leveled against Jerry Sandusky, what could have led them to fail to report Sandusky when they should have? That’s the easiest question to understand but one of the hardest answers to accept. Penn State’s football program generates a profit in excess of $50 million a year, that’s $50 million. College football is a big business. Penn State’s football program is one of the biggest. Financially Penn State’s football is one of the biggest in college sports. Morally, it appears Penn State’s football program is morally and ethically bankrupt and for that should it be forced to pay a price that will never be measured in dollars.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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