My blog is supposed to be about economics, politics, and their intersection, so I was reluctant to write this piece. And in truth, the subject sickens me. But in the end, politics also is about the interaction of people with people, about duty, about responsibility. But what higher duty, what higher responsibility does any person have—does any society have—than to the welfare of our children?
I’ll not recap the case; ample reports can be found here and here and here. Instead, all I can do is ask questions. I won’t address all the key players in this ugly charade; my point will be clear, though.
When Mike McQueary, ex-starting quarterback for Penn State, graduate assistant with Penn State at the time he saw Sandusky in one of the acts, and now an assistant coach with Penn State’s football team, saw Sandusky having anal sex on the boy, did he not step in on the spot and intervene? Of what was he so terrified? Where was his sense of duty? Why did he wait overnight even to report the matter—and then to Paterno, and not to the University authorities and the police?
Why did Joe Paterno, head coach of the Penn State football team, think it sufficient to buck the complaint—finally received from McQueary—up the University chain and then walk away from it? Where was his follow up? Where was his sense of duty to his players and his coaching staff? Where was his sense of duty toward the children entrusted to the care of a member of his staff, now known to be abusing those children?
Where is the NCAA? It’s been more than a week since the story broke, and the indictments made public, and the NCAA is still trying to see its way forward vis-à-vis Penn State and the tragedy its employees have created. How is the NCAA’s duty unclear to them? Boston College sports law professor Warren Zola makes this excuse for the NCAA:
No student-athletes are involved, for now, and nothing benefitted the teams or the institution for a competitive advantage.
Hmm…. Really? A coach of student-athletes isn’t close enough? Because, maybe, these student-athlete children had aged out of the threat zone? No competitive advantage accrues from suppressing the child abuse, which then avoids the “distraction” of a criminal enforcement action?
NCAA President Mark Emmert did say, today, that the NCAA “will launch” its own investigation into the matter, albeit while staying out of the way of the criminal investigation that’s already underway. When, exactly, is “will?” Emmert also said he’ll watch developments and “decide whether NCAA rules were violated.” The NCAA has no rules involving moral turpitude? It has no rules concerning appropriate treatment by staff of the children in their charge? There’s a question in Emmert’s mind beyond the legal one of whether Sandusky did the deeds for which he’s been charged?
College sports have become a professional business where winning is more important than honor. Lost is the teaching aspect of college sports (and sports in K-12, but that’s a different thread): challenge, competition, teamwork, the mutual responsibility and mutual trust that underlie teamwork, the value to that teamwork of the individual standout who makes the rest of the team better, the excellence of the one that creates leadership.
Especially that mutual trust and mutual responsibility have been lost in our college professional sports industry. As has the integrity of the concept of standout.