by Joe Shea
November 20, 2011
SIGNS OF WEAR
HOUSTON, Tex., Nov. 16, 2011 -- For days, folks have asked me about the moral issues in the alleged child abuse scandal at Penn State University.
Some of the same people urged me a few days earlier to write something wise and poignant about sexual allegations against GOP presidential nomination hopeful Herman Cain. I declined on both counts. Then listening to the "speech not given" by the new interim Penn State president, I changed my mind.
My reaction to what is not happening at Penn State is pretty much the soapbox for most of my own prejudices and self-righteous anger. Take it or leave it.
Here is the Speech Not Given:
In my first day as interim president of Penn State University I am making decisions which will likely lead to my own firing, sooner rather than later.
Fortunately, I am neither a diplomat nor a politician. I am not concerned about my own popularity. I also have the advantage of being supported in my actions by the Governor, who sits as the de facto head of the state university system including our own 45,000 student main campus. He assures me that my shaky tenure will be in place long enough to prevent the unraveling of these difficult and controversial decisions.
First, you should all stop worrying about possible violence, national perception, reaction of visitors, or the names of each member of the coaching staff for this Saturday's game. The game is canceled. I have notified the NCAA that our season is over. Period. My decision is irrevocable.
While protecting the rights of the innocent, I also will be the person - perhaps one of only a few thus far, to actually protect the innocent themselves. Events this week convince me that we do not deserve to field a team. Sports is an adjunct to education and leadership. The tail does not wag the dog, or in this case the Nittany Lion.
Further, while pundits worry about our alumni, donations, TV revenue and recruiting, I have solved the problem.
I have written to the NCAA that there will be no intercollegiate Penn State football, in any Division at any level until school year 2016-2017. This assures that almost all families visited, promised visits, romanced, or hinted at deals by recruiters, will not have to decide whether or not to send their sons to Penn State. This current generation of Penn State football is now history.
If you are among those who believe, as I did, that Joe Paterno set a national standard for academics in sports, for student athletes who were actually students, your concerns have also been answered:
Any member of the current squad, any injured players not on the current roster but still enrolled, and any student athletes accepted for next year, are protected academically.
If they wish - only if they wish - they continue on University Grant scholarships - not athletic scholarship for a total of five years from date of enrollment.
If a student athlete is failing courses or this semester drops into academically probation they will have two semesters to achieve "eligibility" levels. This is eligibility to remain a student and/or earn a spot on another sports team.
If they choose to transfer to another school, we and the NCAA will permit them to do so without a waiting period.
I am not here to punish current students or staff who had nothing to do with incidents from the past. But neither am I taking over management of this school to perpetuate an ancillary aspect of a University which needs time to refocus its mission, purpose, and overall morality in our society.
Next comes the Penn State University Police Department. They are also history.
I have notified the Governor, Attorney General, leadership in the Pennsylvania Legislature, State Police, local and county law enforcement, and the State Police Academy, that the charter of the department and its arrest and investigative powers will be decommissioned Feb. 1, 2012. As part of the University's physical plant administration, we will retain and revise personnel and work assignments for parking and traffic control by unarmed employees. who will have no arrest powers.
Let me make it clear. There are good people on the force, and we encourage those with pristine records to transfer to other law enforcement agencies if they like. Those with tuition remission, collective bargaining benefits, health insurance, etc., will receive a severance package to be determined in the next few weeks and keep their benefits for one year.
The problem is not the Penn State University Police Department. The problem is ALL university police departments which evolved, sometimes out of control and out of chain of command, into insular bodies that sadly often view their job as defense of the reputation of the school, and minimizing FBI crime statistics on campus.
Here and on other campuses it is a well-known and not-so-inside joke, that mugging or rape victims, robbery incidents, even traffic accidents, are moved across the street into a municipal jurisdiction so that a crime report is filed by the City and not the University.
Think about all of the Universities you know where the large university is the main industry, the main social focal point, and the main population center of the town. Parents review crime statistics as a variable on where to entrust their children, and too often an ever-growing and ever more powerful armed police force has doctored the numbers to make the University look safer and more law abiding than it really is.
Mayors and county sheriffs and councilmen can be fired by voters. Campus cops cannot be fired by their constituents. If there is a robbery outside the campus bookstore the state and local police authorities will respond.
Frivolous and petty confrontations will be handled by trained law enforcement officers from the broader community. There will be no intervening level of police reports which are susceptible to cleansing or - as in the likely case here. omission - by some coach, dean, administrator, student, or alumnus.
I am not saying that this is what happened here precisely. I am saying the temptation for fraud is now removed. Penn State University, whether here or on Erie or any other campus exists FOR the community and is partof the community. The myth of a mediaeval isolated Academe living in a sacred bubble is a farce. Commit a crime and the same police who investigate crimes at convenience stores, gas stations, or corporate offices will nail you.
Finally, I am calling on the NCAA and the NFL to completely review the relationship of college football to professional football in a four-year investigation by a committee appointed by President Obama.
This decision is actually tougher for me, ethically and morally, than the temporal discomforts you may feel due to the other decisions I have just announced.
For more than three decades I defended amateur sports. I was outraged at recruiters giving cars and money to high school kids. I fumed when felons, former felons, future felons, and wannabe felons were lured to campuses with little interest in "education" and certainly no interest in graduation. I fought the good fight and lost.
College football is a big business. It is entertainment.
We bring rock stars and bands and stand-up comics to campus. We also bring big-time and lucrative sports to campus.
Let's be honest: Penn State University and the entire NCAA is the NFL Minor League. No more, no less.
The charade of "education" allows players and their families to be fooled and abused. Not three in 10 recruits evaluate their post-college job opportunities, or the chances of a particular college preparing them for graduate or professional school. We -are the conduit for injury, disappointment, and - in one in 3,000 cases - fleeting fame and fortune.
Allow players who want to learn to receive a 20-year "voucher" to complete a fully paid undergraduate education within 20 years of high school graduation. Then give them salaries and cars and agents and let them play "college" football for up to five years before they head for the pros, the classroom, or the job market. Sometimes these are inspiring, talented, and terrific young people. Let's just not make believe they are all students.
So, to summarize, you now have a bad guy: me.
Blame me for the destruction of school spirit, rah rah fun, homecoming, and alumni tailgate parties. Blame me for the loss of trips to bowl games the next few years.
But also mention my name if, 50 years from now, articles about Penn State put the scandal - of employees of the University covering up allegations about sexual predators - in the last paragraph of a news story, instead of the first.
Oh, one more thing. Finals are in three weeks. Go study.