Penn State: The Dark Side of College Athletics

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Penn State: The Dark Side of College Athletics

Joe Paterno - former head football coach at Penn State

Joe Paterno - former head football coach at Penn State

Joe Paterno - former head football coach at Penn State

Joe Paterno - former head football coach at Penn State

Jake Lahut

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The child molestation scandal at Penn State has exploded all over twenty four hour news and social networks. What at first just seemed like a he said-he said incident quickly snowballed into the firing of the school’s president, and more importantly in the eyes of many, the firing of legendary football coach Joe Paterno, which led to rioting. The past week’s events have shed light on arguably the most respected college football program in the country, revealing not only heinous crimes, but also the dark underbelly of America’s addiction and idolization of the cult that is big-money college sports.

America’s major news anchors have used clinical language when reading this story off of their respective Teleprompters, but it is more than just a child abuse or child safety scandal. In 2002, then graduate assistant Mike McQueary was going about business as usual in the hallways of Penn State’s stadium. According to his grand jury testimony, McQueary heard clapping noises and grunts coming from a locker room. Surprised that the shower was running at such an unusual hour, he reportedly walked in to find retired Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky sodomizing a ten year old boy in the shower. McQueary left the locker room immediately and went to his dad’s house. The next day, after still not contacting the police, he sat with his father in Joe Paterno’s office and told him what he had seen. According to the grand jury testimony, Paterno asked no questions of his graduate assistant, and simply passed the news onto his athletic director, never making any inquiries to any authorities.

More than eight families have come forward accusing Sandusky of committing crimes against their sons. Sandusky is believed to have used a charity for at-risk youth on Penn State’s campus during his retirement to get in touch with most of the boys in the case. However, most of the news has been directed towards the actions of Paterno.

It is incredibly hard to believe that after hearing “Little boy,” “old man,” and, “shower,” Joe Paterno had no questions to ask McQueary. If one had no background on Joe Paterno, it would not be as hard to believe what he chose to do given his moral dilemma of knowing that his former right-hand man had done this: Nothing. But Paterno had long been known for his relentless pursuit of good character at Penn State

Countless stories were told by former players of their old coach constantly asking how his players’ grades were. Penn State had a remarkably high graduation rate under Paterno. He had been idolized for creating a winning culture while simultaneously preaching honor, integrity, and respect, some of the same core values preached at The Academies. However there is absolutely no honor, integrity, or respect in covering up the actions of a sexual predator.

Shortly after Paterno’s firing, riots ensued on Penn State’s campus. To the naked and innocent eye, one would think that the students were protesting the fact that their school was trying to brush the sodomizing of little boys under the rug. Unfortunately this was not the case. The students idolized Paterno and were outraged with his firing, even with some knowledge of the situation from at least Sports Center or Twitter. Although this reaction was very violent, opposition to the firing of Paterno was not only contained to College Park

Penn State is a big-money program and has millions of fans across the country, and many of them were furious with the board of trustees’ decision. The outrage even broke through Academy’s wall of core values with one anonymous alumnus writing on Facebook, “Penn state your a joke, Joe paterno is your entire football program. You can’t prove anything, 409 wins and you kick him to the curb way to show some loyalty.” Others on my news feed shared even more colorful ideas with worse grammar. In the cult of big-money college sports, winning is more important that anything.

Of course every institution will say that Penn State dealt with this horribly, and that such a thing would never happen to institution x simply because they probably aren’t a big money athletic school. Take a crime like Sandusky’s out of the equation and just ask yourself this: At what point does winning overshadow honor, integrity, and respect? Is it really just at a million- dollar bowl game? Or can it happen even when a crime isn’t committed? Every institution needs to ask itself whether it is a place for higher learning, or simply an athlete-producing factory with a set of unwritten rules.

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