Many posters to this blog have remarked on the elevated role of football in setting agendas and goals at Georgia high schools.
AJC.com has a good story today on the influence that football coaches and programs exert on college campuses. The story relates to the scathing report on the Penn State cover-up of Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse of young boys. The report concludes that legendary coach Joe Paterno and other Penn State leaders downplayed allegations against Sandusky to avoid bad publicity about a football program that was both highly revered and highly profitable.
I recently read “Gods of Alabama” by local writer Joshilyn Jackson. Among the gods Jackson lists are “high school quarterbacks, trucks, and Jesus.” She might well have added college football coaches to her list.
To those who may be shocked the situation in State College got so out of hand, people who study sports have a message: Don’t be so surprised.
College coaches and their teams bring in truckloads of cash, feeding a beast that sometimes overwhelms many of the loftier goals of a university. Examples have been around since the first leather helmet, but seem to have multiplied in recent years.
“In these small towns, in these bubbles, the main thing is these sports teams and the coaches,” said Murray Sperber, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of several books on the negative effects of big-time sports on higher education. “I can’t believe people didn’t know, but they didn’t want to know. So there were huge amounts of deniability.”
The Penn State debacle is just the latest example of problems that skeptics blame on the culture of major-college athletics.
Ohio State ultimately vacated all its wins from that 2010 season, including a Sugar Bowl victory over Arkansas. Tressel was forced out for his actions, though fans still held a pep rally supporting him at his house. He has now landed at the University of Akron, as a vice president outside of athletics.
Southern California was hammered by the NCAA for allowing an agent to pay Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush and his family. The Trojans lost their 2004 BCS national title, 30 scholarships and two years of bowl eligibility. And yet the penalties may ultimately amount to a speed bump for USC, which is expected to contend for a national championship this season as it returns to bowl eligibility.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog