Hypocrisy of the NCAA is stunning

By Bradley J. Mitchell

Top college football programs circle Penn State’s outstanding players, trying to convince them to leave State College in the wake of the NCAA’s harsh punishment.

Last week, senior linebacker Michael Mauti spoke on behalf of the team, saying: “This program was not built by one man, and it sure as hell won’t get torn down by one man. No sanction, no politician is ever going to take away what we’ve got here. This is what Penn State is about — fighting through adversity.”

How did we get to this place? Because of the rush to get to the “breaking news” of the Freeh report, hard facts — and the lack of them — were overlooked by news outlets large and small, and the report’s conclusions were reported as fact. Very few reporters or media commentators appear to have given the report even a cursory glance before spinning their narrative to millions of people. And that inaccurate narrative continues to this day.

Mistakes were made at Penn State, no question about it. Bad decisions resulted in innocent children being harmed, and nothing could be worse. But in order to prevent this from ever happening again, we need to get to the truth about what really happened.

That’s where Penn State’s leadership has failed us.

Failure occurred when the board of trustees unequivocally accepted Freeh’s in-house investigation as the final word. But the Freeh report was flawed from the start because criminal investigations were occurring at the same time. As a result, Freeh was unable to speak with any actual witnesses or people most relevant to the case, much less anyone under oath. He relied instead on third-party notes and emails written by others; he had no ability to grant immunity; he could not issue subpoenas; and he did not interview Joe Paterno.

Freeh’s report alleged a certain “culture” at Penn State. This conclusion, like so many in the report, is not substantiated. It suggested this culture led to a cover-up of Sandusky’s crimes. And it asserted that a football program with one of the highest graduation rates in the country and without a single NCAA infraction in its history, allowed academics to take a back seat.

The unquestioning acceptance of Freeh’s conclusions led to the next failure of leadership: accepting through a consent decree the most hypocritical NCAA sanctions ever imposed.

“Football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing and protecting young people,” NCAA President Mark Emmert piously declared at his news conference. The NCAA did not conduct an investigation and merely accepted the “conclusions” of the Freeh report.

Apparently, Emmert sees college basketball differently. Last spring, the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics found that more than 40 percent of the revenues of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, or “March Madness,” comes from schools with graduation rates of less than 50 percent. Incredibly, only graduating 50 percent — half — of basketball players on time is the NCAA’s own goal.

The NCAA puts basketball revenue ahead of educating young people. At the same time, it punishes Penn State football, a program earning a graduation rate of 87 percent under Joe Paterno, a rate tied with Stanford University and ranked in the top 10 nationally.

The NCAA has a public image problem, and getting involved with matters best left to criminal and civil courts is a bizarre way of asserting relevance in college sports.

The hypocrisy is stunning. These sanctions punish the innocent, not the guilty. How will taking scholarships away from student-athletes who were in kindergarten when Sandusky last coached at Penn State help protect children?

It’s up to us — the 500,000 Penn State alumni across this country — to move forward with integrity and honor.

We need to redesign our institutions and policies so pedophiles do not infiltrate them and do not have the opportunity to harm children.

Never before in the long history of Penn State has our community been so challenged, and never before has the school administration failed us so tremendously.

We desperately need new leadership. We should follow Winston Churchill’s counsel, “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.”

The young men who stay and wear blue and white on Saturday afternoons this fall will have my respect, admiration and thanks.

They are at Penn State because they really want to be at Penn State.

Contrary to the media narrative, it was never all about winning. As Penn Staters, we know it’s always been about pursuing excellence with legitimate student-athletes. Nittany Nation will roar this season and support our team and our school — win or lose, as always.

We are going to remember Sandusky’s victims. We are going to learn from the tragedy they have suffered.

Confucius reminds us that “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Our student-athletes will accept no less.

And our alumni will accept no less. Yes, we are … Penn State.

Bradley J. Mitchell, a Penn State and Harvard alumnus, served on the White House staff of President George H.W. Bush. He lives in State College. This piece was posted in the Letter to the Editor section of the Centre Daily Times.

6 thoughts on “Hypocrisy of the NCAA is stunning

  1. The first time I heard that Winston Churchill quote–“never give in, never, never, never,”–was on June 19, 1971, on the field at Beaver Stadium, from our commencement speaker. I’ve forgotten the speaker’s name, but will never forget the sage advice. Thank you for reminding all Penn Staters. (Bill Cox; MusEd ’71; Alumni Blue Band)

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  2. I read blogs and comments critical of the Freeh report and the resulting rush to judgment religiously. Over and over is expressed the desire for the 500,00 plus alumni to do something. I believe thousands of alums are outraged at what has happened to our beloved University, and would join together to do somethng if only we knew what to do,. I believe the only thing to do is to push for Erickson’s dismissal and to pressure the BOT to resign en masse (except for those elected by the alums several months ago. Please join with me to do just that
    Susan Gifford; MBA ’80.

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  3. To Mr. Bradley’s point, here is just one example of the NCAA’s hypocrisy:

    The most recent scandal at Syracuse University involves at least 10 basketball players since 2001 having tested positive for a banned recreational substance or substances. Sources with knowledge of the situation said all 10 of those players were allowed to practice and play at times when they should have been suspended by the athletic department, including instances when some players may not have known of their own ineligibility. The sources said Syracuse violated its drug policy in at least two areas: failing to properly count positive tests; and playing ineligible players after they should have been subject to suspension.

    That followed an alleged child sex molestation scandal. Multiple allegations were made by multiple victims against an assistant basketball coach there. These most recent scandals are just the latest in a long line of scandals, violations, suspensions and corruption involving the Syracuse Athletic program while school administrators and the NCAA looked the other way.

    Syracuse was the first Big East school to be sanctioned by the NCAA for its tainted and corrupt basketball program. Prior to that, the University had also been sanctioned for multiple rules violations of the women’s basketball, football, lacrosse and wrestling programs. In fact, the entire Syracuse Athletic Program was placed on two years suspension following an investigation by the NCAA in the mid 1990’s. In 1991, the NCAA found the basketball team was guilty of 15 major rules violations.

    In addition to repeat rules violations, Syracuse was one of only 4 NCAA Basketball Tournament teams from last year who failed to meet the minimum NCAA APR standards and was penalized. The Orange basketball team also posted one of the lowest graduation rates and is in danger of being penalized for that too.

    There has never been a more clear cut or egregious “lack of institutional control” in the history of the NCAA. Yet where is the moral outrage? Where are the independent investigations? Where are the calls for the “death Penalty”? Where is the sanctimonious posturing and preening which became a media staple in the Jerry Sandusky case? Where are the calls for the Chancellor, who presides over the dirtiest and most corrupt sports program in the NCAA, to step down and for Jim Boeheim to be fired?

    What is Mark Emmert doing about a school with a 25 year history of multiple violations in every one of its sports programs? Why isn’t he on national TV pontificating about a school whose athletic program is corrupt from top to bottom? Hypocrisy doesn’t even begin to cover it.

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