Penn State is dealing with one of the worst scandals in the history of college athletics. They find themselves reeling from the news of the Freeh Report and how the late Joe Paterno knew more involving the Jerry Sandusky scandal. For as terrible as this has been on so many different levels, other universities can learn from the events of the past several months.
We as a nation love college sports. Although sometimes, we idolize those in athletics too much. Penn State and Joe Paterno are now the prime example of what happens when a coach gains power beyond their expected roles. Paterno was the head coach at Penn State for 46 seasons. As time went on, he became powerful. Being the face of a state university brought him a brighter spotlight. His work as a humanitarian made him more than a coach. For those who followed him like a religious leader, he was Penn State. After kicking Graham Spanier and Tim Curley out of his house when they asked him to step down a decade ago, Paterno's power reached a level where there was no going back.
Paternoville, now called "Nittanyville," the statue, his face on the Heister Street mural, and the other symbols of Paterno displayed his presence at the university. After his death when Penn State alumni made the pilgrimage to Happy Valley, like a Catholic did after Pope John Paul II passed away, you saw even amongst a scandal, how people saw him as something other than a human.
Penn State is an example of how a head coach in college athletics can gain uncontrollable power and how an institution can find itself powerless with a figure like Paterno is a lesson for any school in the country.
For example, most people could tell you who the head coach of Duke's basketball team is, but not the President. Penn State's downfall makes you wonder what it's like at a place like Duke, or when Bobby Bowden was coaching at Florida State. How about other up and comers like Nick Saban at Alabama, a football program that defines a state, or even Les Miles at LSU? What do their institution's currently look like?
I might be getting ahead of myself here. But think about it. Athletics define a lot of colleges and their image. How universities conduct themselves with their athletic programs keep them from turning into a Paterno-like regime. The money and the attention are great, and those assets can speak louder than anything else. When you have a situation like the Jerry Sandusky scandal and Paterno advising the higher-ups not go to Sandusky and child services, you should know you are spiraling out of control.
It is a tragedy what happened at Penn State. The victims of Jerry Sandusky whose lives will never be the same, and for the students who attend the university who look to receive a higher education at an institution that is regarded as a "public ivy." For those who only went there for the football and Joe Paterno, I pity you.
Athletics are an add-on for the college experience. It brings excitement and pride for students and an opportunity for student athletes to take their skills to the next level and excel. When a program begins to dictate the day-to-day functions of a university, you have gone too far. Paterno used his power to protect a child molester, just because he didn't want any "bad publicity" for his program.
Sometimes too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Paterno did a lot of good in his time at Penn State, but his ignorance and thinking of only himself lead to his downfall. A half-century of work means nothing now after a 14 year cover-up. Penn State football will most likely see sanctions from the NCAA and every aspect of the university is in shambles.
Take it as a lesson everybody. I, like any other football fan love Saturday's in the fall. But no school should ever let its program reach the level Penn State let Joe Paterno reach. Every major athletic program has done something to exceed their power at some point, but Penn State shows the consequences when a total abuse of power occurs.