Cult Of Personality The Real Problem

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - November 16, 2011
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Penn State students show support for the victims. AP photo

Let’s cut to the chase. Joe Paterno, assistant coach and former graduate assistant Mike McQueary and university president Graham Spanier are accessories to a crime. They, along with athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz, who have been charged with lying to a grand jury, by their inaction and outright cover up, enabled a sexual predator to further satisfy his sickening desires.

Tragically they aren’t alone.

The grand jury presentation outlines a history of culpability that stretches from a local high school to a charitable organization and the university.

The report, and subsequent actions by those at or around Penn State, confirm that the alleged spree of criminal perversion didn’t happen because Paterno failed to call police. It happened because the university put money and the glory of athletic achievement over the safety of children.

Quite simply Penn State played the role of a pimp, selling the innocence and future mental health of an untold number of victims to the highest bidder. It’s not much more complicated than that.

Unfortunately, the lack of accountability that brought down one of sport’s greatest icons and most successful programs continues to plague our most-cherished universities.

These schools have not just lost control of their athletic departments but have been willful participants in making a mockery of their educational mission.

In basketball, schools have accepted the two-semester athlete whose only interest in being on campus is to bide his time until the NBA draft.

In football, an arms race of facilities and coach’s salaries has led to an economic imbalance that is pushing schools deep into the red.

According to the NCAA Revenues and Expenses of Division I Intercollegiate Athletics Programs Report Fiscal Years 2004, 2005 and 2006, only 19 Football Bowl Subdivision (D-1) schools generated revenue that exceeded expenses for fiscal year 2006. Which means that 90 percent of the largest universities are losing an average of $8.9 million a year on athletic expenditures.

Where does the extra money come from to balance the books?

The schools’ general fund.

In February, Texas Tech re-signed football coach Tommy Tuberville to a new $2 million-per-year contract. The deal included a $500,000 pay raise at the same time the school froze faculty members’ pay raises. Faculty members complained, but no one listened because, as we are always reminded, when was the last time 100,000 people paid to watch the debate club?

The win-at-all-costs plague has given rise to the most dangerous aspect of power and privilege the cult of personality.

Paterno isn’t just the biggest man on campus, he is one of the most powerful people in the state. Like his colleague at Ohio State, where president E. Gordon Gee joked about hoping not to be fired by his employee, then coach Jim Tressell, Paterno has plenty of people willing to offer up excuses for their idol’s behavior.

The Joe Pa character was a creation of the school, fans and the media to preserve the myth that Paterno was a Jesus in thick glasses and the greatest football mind in history.

It was necessary to hide the ego that made his salary a state secret for years, and the fact that he’s been a glorified assistant for at least a decade.

Even if a university president wanted to embrace a radical plan and attempt to slow the runaway train, the cult of personality wouldn’t allow it. No president making $400,000 can control a coach making $4,000,000. Presidents come and go, but a winning football coach is hard to find.

The natural question to ask is what good can come from the worst scandal in U.S. sports history?

None. Unless sick people stop walking the Earth and universities stop looking toward teenage athletes for salvation, nothing will change.

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