Collier: There's no mistaking who's boss
Share with others:
Tom Bradley finished packing up his office in the now notorious Lasch Football Building Friday and walked away from the Penn State football program that had been his life for most of four decades.
Larry Johnson, who had finished packing weeks ago just down the hall, can now unpack. He's one of two former Joe Paterno assistants, linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden being the other, who were retained amid the frantic hiring pace set by new boss Bill O'Brien.
Open to debate are the relative coaching merits of all Paterno assistants, not to mention the choice of O'Brien as the man to succeed him. Not open to debate is that today, 81 days after the toxic Jerry Sandusky disclosures, Penn State still doesn't get it.
"It grieves me very much," Penn State President Rodney Erickson said this week, "when I hear people say, 'The Penn State Scandal.' This is not Penn State. This is the Sandusky scandal."
That's what grieves him, huh?
Here's what grieves me: that apparently neither Erickson nor anyone on the Board of Trustees told anyone on the coaching search committee to tell Bill O'Brien, "Look, we're in the middle of a child rape scandal here. The place has to be scrubbed clean of anyone who could have had any knowledge of Sandusky's alleged pathologies -- not just anyone who did have knowledge because we think we've already done that scrubbing, but anyone who could have had any knowledge -- and therefore, no one in the football program is a candidate for future employment, not Tom Bradley, not Larry Johnson, not Ron Vanderlinden, nobody. Build your staff with that in mind."
Penn State clearly said nothing like that. Instead, Penn State (and, remember, this is not a Penn State scandal), let the head football coach handle it, which is exactly what it's been doing since the late '60s, or exactly what plunged it into this bog in the first place.
That by itself is a Penn State Scandal.
Penn State, after all this, still wants to let football run the show. Mind you, Penn State is not alone in this. It's a common malignancy, ultimately traceable directly to various college presidents coast to coast. You almost had to laugh this week when Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee lamented the "disproportionate weight" with which his school's NCAA rulebook shredding has impacted the university's image.
What a shame, Dr. Gee. Or as you put it, "a monumental shame." Maybe if you wouldn't let the fortunes of the football program swing such "disproportionate weight" in the Ohio State experience, you wouldn't be so ruffled.
It was Gee, you'll remember, when asked if head coach Jim Tressel might be fired last year in the wake of NCAA violations, said "I'm just hopeful the coach doesn't dismiss me."
Tressel was fired, but, unfortunately, before he got around to firing Gee.
Gee has been the top administrative and visionary mind at several top academic institutions, yet still occasionally dabbles in idiotic statements.
This week, he described coordinating Ohio State's academic branches as "these 18 colleges all kind of floating around, they were kind of like PT boats, they were shooting each other. I was kind of like the Polish army or something."
Sometimes, it's no mystery why college sports are allowed to persist in their wag-the-dog world. It's that the lead dogs keep pulling the sled in a circle.
No less disinterested an observer than the U.S. Secretary of Education weighed in with an interesting percentage at midweek: zero.
"Zero, and I'm 100 percent sure of that," said Arne Duncan of the percentage of bowl money BCS conferences set aside for educational or student-enhancement funds. "It's just misplaced priorities.
"The narrative for 2012 in college sports is all about the deal, all about the brand. It's about big-time college football programs saying, 'show me the money.' Too often, large, successful programs seem to exist in an insular world, a world of their own. Their football and basketball players, sometimes even their coaches, are given license to behave in ways that would be unacceptable elsewhere in higher education or in society at large. Nothing, I mean nothing, does more to erode public faith in intercollegiate athletics than the appearance of a double standard."
Duncan's "narrative" is still in the stage-building, and there is a place on this stage for an historical moment. The conflict is in part illustrated by Alabama's 21-0 victory over LSU for the still highly mythical national championship Monday night: Do you feel good for the student athletes or merely join that university's administration in its relief that 2012 brings the end to Alabama's probation in 16 sports, including football?
But with Alabama's behavior, the USC Scandal, the Ohio State Scandal, the Florida International Scandal, the Florida State Scandal, the University of Central Florida Scandal, the Georgia Tech Scandal and the Boise State Scandal (all just in football), now joined by the granddaddy of them all, the Penn State Scandal, you would imagine college sports could and should see itself at a major policy intersection.
I don't know what will happen, but, judging by the money-first comportment of college presidents, they are deserving of the exact kind of stinging observation once hurled by the late Israeli statesman Abba Eban.
"They never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity."
First Published January 15, 2012 12:00 am