Penn State sex-abuse scandal can’t be swept under a rug

Sadly, disgustingly, the enabling of an alleged pedophile should finally be the catalyst for cleaning up big-time college sports.

In a week, Joe Paterno has become old news. He has hired lawyers and public relations advisors. The ducking and weaving begins. Nothing we have heard — and we certainly would have by now — indicates that there was any rationality for what he did other than mindless jock-mentality loyalty. The good old boys club had to be maintained and protected.

Which is exactly what the NCAA has done for years.

FULL COVERAGE: Penn State scandal


There are two kinds of college athletes. There are the rowers and hurdlers and there is football and basketball. Don’t think for one moment that Group A has the same collegiate experience as Group B. But Group A has value. It provides nice window dressing for the big lie, which is that this is all about education and character building. With Group A, it is.

If you preach education and character, you must live it. When profit and excess become the motives, rather than the mission, there is something rotten in Denmark.

The NCAA is the mothership here, the aircraft carrier of so-called amateur collegiate sport in our country. Penn State takes off and lands on its deck. So do all the other superpowers, en route to bowl games and Final Fours.

So how has the NCAA reacted to this most grievous of events, with all of its gut-wrenching imagery? As it always does, with careful posturing and statements, probably coming from lawyers. Certainly not from hearts.

Mark Emmert is the current occupant of the NCAA throne. He was interviewed by this paper last week for his reaction to Penn State, and we got parsing and careful word-choosing.

“First, of course, this is a criminal matter,” Emmert said, eagerly pointing the finger elsewhere.

He added all the stuffed-shirt stuff, that the NCAA would monitor the situation and, “as the facts become established, we will conduct our own inquiry.”

As the facts become established? Did he read the grand jury testimony? Has he retained that same image of a 10-year-old in a shower that the rest of us have? You can wait for Alan Dershowitz to ride into town and you can preach all the due process you want, but it’s going to take five years and 100 boxcars full of deodorant to get rid of this stench.

Asked if Penn State might be sanctioned for lack of institutional control, Emmert said it was “one of the things we will look at.”

Are you kidding? An alleged pedophile is enabled for years. Penn State was sure in control of that.

If you are Emmert and you are facing a controversial situation, it is usually advisable to go slow, to be cautious. But this one trumps any other conceivable situation. This is the mother lode of ugly stuff. This one cries out for crying out, for some fire and brimstone, some anger shown in public. This one pleads for assurance that it won’t be handled by appointing a committee and studying recommendations until 2019.

Stand up and pound on a lectern. Say all the things you must feel. Say you don’t know the specifics of what the NCAA can and will do, but you will find out fast, and, for once, let some reasonable emotion override whatever lawyers are whispering in your ear. Delivering action is important. More important is vowing that you will.

Let us see a heartbeat.

There is time to show restraint and there is time to show guts. Make Teddy Roosevelt proud. Don’t let the NCAA speak crookedly and carry a soft stick. Why is it these days that the people who get mad as hell and refuse to take it anymore are only in the movies?

Put a big scare in the other big guys. Avoid the impression that the NCAA isn’t doing anything to anybody else these days because it used up all its venom on USC.

The Penn State situation stands alone in the history of NCAA big-time sports ugliness. The recent others that have been big deals — Reggie Bush, Cam Newton’s daddy, Notre Dame putting a student videographer at risk on a wind-blown day that cost him his life, the smarm of Jim Tressel, the football program run amok at Miami — all pale in comparison.

Those were greed and stupidity, a staple of big-time college sports. Penn State’s defies descriptors.

The NCAA is the core provider and enabler — yes, there’s that word again — of them all. And Penn State has shown how rotten that core is.

If you are a college president at a school with big-time sports, you have to wonder how much guilt by association this Penn State thing has brought to your campus. If the brotherhood of big-time college sports is allowed to protect and foster what happened at Penn State, what else is getting the secret wink and handshake? And where?

The worst thing that can happen in the wake of all this is that it is smothered in sealed documents, court delays and plea bargains, and our short attention spans bring us back to being horrified by some wide receiver’s getting a free car.

Given the track record of the NCAA and big-time college sports, that’s exactly how this will go. Unless somebody, of some authority, stands up, kicks a wastebasket and makes the kind of noise that will make a difference.

How about this for noise. The NCAA shut down the Southern Methodist football program for two years for recruiting violations. That is known as the “death penalty.” Weigh that against a program of alleged pedophile-enablers and the next step is easy.

All that is needed is heart, common sense and guts, none of that currently evident at the NCAA.

FULL COVERAGE: Penn State scandal