Tuesday, July 24, 2012

"It's All About the Money, Money, Money": Musings on the NCAA and Penn State

I listened to The Nation sports columnist Dave Zirin talking about the NCAA penalties imposed on Penn State University on Democracy Now this morning. Zirin argued that there are several problems with what the NCAA did including that the private NCAA was imposing a $60 million dollar penalty on a public university, that that monetary penalty would impact other sports at Penn State that had no involvement in the scandal since revenue generating football at American colleges subsidises other sports on campus, that the NCAA relied on the Freeh report for its justification for imposing penalties football programme at Penn State, that the Freeh report did not investigate the role of the Board of Trustees in the scandal including the current governor of Pennsylvania who was attorney general at the time, that the NCAA was imposing penalties on a school that committed criminal acts, criminal acts that are being pursued through the criminal courts, criminal acts that are not violations of NCAA rules, and the fact that penalties were, in part, imposed on student-athletes, if I can use that rather oxymoronic term, who, presumably, had nothing to do with what Jerry Sandusky did on the Penn State University campus.

I agree with a lot of what Zirin said. I find it interesting that many of the penalties the NCAA are imposing on Penn State will be carried on the back of former student athletes and current and future student-athletes. This, of course, is how the NCAA generally operates. I am an Indiana alum and I still recall how Indiana student-athletes were punished for the sins of one Kelvin Sampson who simply moved on to another job, he is now an assistant coach with the Houston Rockets, with only his reputation sullied. It has taken four years for Indiana to get out of the hole that Sampson not Indiana student-athletes or students dug.

In many ways it seems like the NCAA operates as kind of an Tanakh or Old Testament god which issues injunctions from on high which punish previous and future generations of student-athletes for the sins of the coaches and the administration. Don't get me wrong. I am not always opposed to Tanakh justice. I am all for the death penalty at least in one instance. I think it should imposed on the NCAA. We certainly don't need an organisation, that imposes penalties on those who had nothing to do with a crime, the NCAA version of collateral damage, I guess, that pays themselves millions of dollars in salaries, that exploits the images of student athletes without pay for NCAA "profit", that exploits students by allowing colleges to avoid paying those who play football or basketball at NCAA schools while negotiating multimillion dollar media deals which enriches their organisation and themselves, that has some truly looney rules and regulations, which probably violates anti-monopoly laws, and which plays an important role in undermining the real mission of colleges and universities, a liberal arts education. A pox on their house.

Dave Zirin, The NCAA is Seeking Brand Rehabilitation Not Justice in the Penn State Scandal, http://www.thenation.com/blog/169032/dave-zirin-ncaa-seeking-brand-rehabilitation-not-justice-penn-state-scandal

Suggested Readings
Taylor Branch, "The Shame of College Sports", the Atlantic, October 2011, http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/10/the-shame-of-college-sports/8643/

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