Ex-Hoopster Paterno's Penn State Program Nuked by Nauseous NCAA
If you had a pulse in the last year, you know Joe Paterno became the only major-college coach to reach the 400-win plateau before he was fired by Penn State trustees after the arrest of long-time assistant coach Jerry Sandusky on child sexual abuse charges. But what you might not know is that Paterno, who died 2 1/2 months after his dismissal, was a basketball letterman for Brown in the late 1940s. Paterno's scoring average of 7.3 points per game in 1947-48 was second highest on the team.
The NCAA, usually more concerned with highest bidders and vital politically-correct issues such as Indian nicknames, had no choice in the wake of the scandal other than slapping Penn State with serious sanctions resembling a major earthquake hitting 7.3 on the Richter Scale. But similar to Paterno going overboard in trying to preserve a "success with honor" image, the rush-to-judgment NCAA seemingly embarked upon a slippery slope with its timely and wide-ranging penalties.
For instance, it's disconcerting when a TV ban is shunned in favor of unilaterial action dictating that something didn't occur on the field or court such as negating Paterno's victories since the late 1990s. The NCAA tried this history-revisionist sanitizing in basketball in the 1970s by acting as if Centenary's Robert Parish and Minnesota's Mychal Thompson didn't exist - ignoring their statistics - because those schools were on probation. The NCAA's "Grand Experiment" ploy discounted Parish's achievements, but CollegeHoopedia.com lists him as the nation's top rebounder in 1974-75 and 1975-76 and will continue to cite Paterno as the all-time winningest football coach in his Brown University basketball bio.
Moreover, a total of 11 Final Four teams have had their NCAA Tournament participation vacated. But how many more achievements would have been vacated if the NCAA truly addressed scholastic fraud and feckless drug testing with investigators as competent as former FBI director Louis Freeh?
Mark Emmert, who previously called Paterno the "definitive role model," seemed to be on a self-promotion "Star Trek" of sorts, going where no NCAA president has gone before. But what truly would have been unprecedented would have been penalizing one of his peers in the egghead old boys club. Why didn't Emmert also pummel ex-PSU president Graham Spanier by piously reducing number of graduates during his tenure, reducing his fund-raising prowess, fining him a portion of his pension, etc.?
The depravity exhibited by Sandusky, one of the latest best arguments against human cloning, was repulsive and warranted a harsh response. But don't stop there in trying to drain the swamp of a culture of corruption. After all, the NCAA runs the risk of having egg on its face if Penn State players, aware of vultures circling before the Nittany Lion's body is cold, succumb to a pervasive sense of entitlement and transfer to recent renegade football programs such as Miami (Fla.), Ohio State and USC. If you don't think recruiting is cut-throat, check out the looters and grave robbers descending upon Unhappy Valley like flies on a corpse. Does the NCAA really believe its image is improved when standout RB Silas Redd transfers to USC?
Delusional comes to mind if you don't think PSU boasts more academic integrity among its revenue-producing sports than 90% of the members of power conferences. Since the NCAA treats Freeh's work as gospel, it seems the governing body should use a portion of the first installment of the $60 million fine and promptly dispatch him and an optometrist to Syracuse's Hoop Kingdom to separate fact from fiction. Either Jim Boeheim saw a former ball boy in his longtime assistant's hotel room on the road or he didn't. Maybe the bespectacled coach can prove he was in a zone staying in his own room reading how to improve the school's drug-testing policy.
Keeping in mind that a striking number of shameless coaches would be electrocuted if they took a polygraph test, more questions were raised than answered with the NCAA's display of unilateral power. The NCAA is positioning itself to pick winners and losers akin to stimulus money from the Obama Administration. How far will the NCAA's reach be under the following set of theoretical circumstances?
Will Coach K's victory total be modified downward like Paterno if it is unearthed years from now that recruiting visits to Duke perhaps were sexcapades comparable to the albeit embellished lacrosse boys gone wild? It could "never" happen, but what if an underachieving McDonald's All-American is more concerned with making a $100,000 Happy Deal for some bling at an upscale New York jewelry store?
What if there was an erosion of academics for athletes at North Carolina making their diplomas worthy of toilet paper stemming from funneling many of them toward some scholarly major called African & Afro-American Studies?
What if Kentucky earns a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for most times going on probation?
How many times does a prominent coach need to be caught with his pants down before the NCAA intervenes?
Why doesn't the NCAA establish parameters regarding "exceptions" - scholastically suspect "studs" who don't meet a school's normal admission standards but secure entry because of their special talent?
Should the NCAA refuse to grant Final Four press credentials to local media that didn't uncover major basketball program transgressions going on right under their noses?
Should the NCAA, since there doesn't appear to be any statute of limitations, refuse to conduct business with ESPN and its parade of pitchmen until the cable network takes down its "statue" of former commentator Jim Valvano? The Nationwide Leader has a "Jimmy V Week" culminating with an early-season two-night classic to enhance cancer research fundraising for a foundation named after an individual who joins John Calipari (UMass/Memphis) and Jerry Tarkanian (Long Beach State/UNLV) as the only coaches to have multiple schools under their watch forced to vacate NCAA playoff participation. Despite not boasting Freeh's resume, a private attorney retained by N.C. State was convinced that the institution could successfully sue Valvano for failing to ensure the academic progress of his student-athletes. Previously, Valvano ran afoul of the NCAA at Iona.
Should the NCAA enter the political process by finding out what Pennsylaniva politicians linked to the school knew about Sandusky and when did they know it as governor and state attorney general?
Amid the PSU controversy, comedian Albert Brooks tweeted that the Paterno statue should have been left up but eternally "have him look the other way." Elsewhere, an artist removed a halo painted above a local mural of JoePa.
How many other schools and media outlets have been "looking the other way" or hero worshiping a false idol? And where should the NCAA's monitoring and oversight obligations begin and end? Say it ain't so, Joe.