By Ken Reed

Let the debates begin regarding the NCAA’s punitive action against Penn State for the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Too tough? Not tough enough? Should the NCAA even have gotten involved, or was this clearly a matter that should have been left solely to our judicial system?

To me, it was an egregious example of a “lack of institutional control” when it comes to Penn State University’s administrative oversight of its athletics department. And the situation needs to be addressed as such. I think it would’ve been completely appropriate if we saw video of Penn State’s football stadium sitting empty on every single Saturday this coming football season.

The one thing that really stuck out to me when going over the penalties the NCAA handed Penn State today was the figure $60 million. $60 million! That’s the average annual gross revenue for Penn State football. That number speaks to how warped our culture of higher education has become in this country. Colleges (including their athletic departments) operate legally in this country as non-profit educational institutions. They aren’t supposed to be professional sports entertainment enterprises.

The focus the last week has been on whether or not Penn State deserved the “death penalty” or not. The bigger issue is whether or not big-time college athletics, as a whole, deserve the death penalty or not. The pay-for-play scheme that is athletic scholarships needs to be revisited, as does everything associated with the NCAA’s Division I and II levels. If sports are justified at all in our institutions of higher education, it should be in the form of Division III athletics, where athletic scholarships aren’t allowed, and for the most part, sports on campus are kept in their proper perspective.

In 1939, the University of Chicago made the decision to get out of the big-time football business (Chicago was once a member of the Big Ten conference). They long ago determined that academics, not athletics, should be the focus of their institution. Today, Chicago competes at the Division III level.

Today, University presidents and boards of trustees around the country should be seriously considering the University of Chicago’s 1939 decision, not feeling holier-than-thou as they publicly condemn what took place at Penn State the last 15 years or so.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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