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Archive for the ‘Penn State’ Category

Penn State’s Anger Grows

Posted by Steve Markowitz on July 29, 2012

Many of us alumni of Penn State University are angry.  One week ago the NCAA placed on the University the most significant sanctions ever invoked.  University president Dr. Rodney Erickson signed a consent decree that agreed to the following:

  • $60 million fine to be used to help abused children.  While the logic behind this action might seem appropriate, it will ultimately hurt current / future university students and athletes who had nothing to do with the scandal.
  • The football team cannot go to a bowl game for four years.  This action too only hurts the University’s future, not those who perpetrated the crime or cover up.
  • The football team’s available scholarships will be reduced from 25 to 15 per year for four years.  This will make future Penn State football teams noncompetitive for years, again hurting the University not those responsible for the scandal.
  • All of the football team’s wins back to 1998 are removed.  This action strips Joe Paterno of his record as the winningest college football coach and is the only sanction that goes after an individual that was involved with the events.

The NCAA’s actions are unprecedented and will significantly damage Penn State for many years.  For what end?  The sanctions only damage those that had nothing to do with the scandal.

A question raised by many is why President Erickson precipitously and voluntarily signed a consent decree that was so damaging to the University’s future.  Anger is growing amongst us supporters of the University surrounding this question, as well is the NCAA’s unprecedented and damning actions.

This week Penn State faculty member John M. O’Donnell wrote a piece that eloquently expresses the feelings of many Penn Stater’s.  Posted below, O’Donnell raises serious issues that will be addressed in the coming weeks and months (emphasis added by this Blog).

One Faculty Member’s Position on the Current State of Affairs, by John M O’Donnell

I am getting sick and tired of listening to people say that Penn State has put football ahead of everything else and that this is part of the Penn State culture.  That is HORSE MANURE!

As a Penn State faculty member, I have had athletes from practically every varsity sport in my classes and have never been asked (or has it been “suggested’) that I make the slightest concession to anyone because they were a football player, or a member of any other varsity team.  I cannot imagine Joe Paterno ever making such a request (nor can I imagine most faculty members acceding to such a request if they had ever received one – academic integrity is a pretty important issue at Penn State!).

On Monday, the same day that Mark Emmert of the NCAA was issuing sanctions and issuing his sanctimonious decree that Penn State should reform its culture and put academics ahead of football, the NCAA released the latest statistics on graduation rates of football players at large NCAA schools.  Penn State is #1, and so far ahead academically of the next closest school in terms of graduating football players (and basketball players, by the way), including showing virtually no difference between white and black athletes, which the report noted was extremely rare, that Emmert’s comments appear ludicrous. Maybe the NCAA would like to hold Bobby Bowden (the new leader in NCAA football wins) and Florida State up as their paragon of academic virtue.  Bobby Bowden was a great coach and is maybe a great person, but FSU did not recruit athletes on the basis of academic excellence and FSU was lucky to EVER have a football player or basketball player graduate.

The claims of the Freeh report, the NCAA, ESPN, and others claiming to describe the “culture” at Penn State ignore, in no particular order of priority, (1) the recent (2011) Wall Street Journal poll ranking Penn State #1 among employers nationally in terms of where they feel they find the highest quality college graduates as employees, (2) Penn State’s ranking as the # 1 government research institution in the United States, (3) the previously mentioned ranking of # 1 in graduation rate among all student athletes, specifically football players, (4) a 2011 or 2012 ranking by a Cambridge University study ranking Penn State among the top 100 academic institutions IN THE WORLD, and on and on and on.

It is long past time that Rodney Erickson STOP accepting criticism of the Penn State culture as being entirely driven by the football program.  That is simply crap!

Rodney Erickson appears to have adopted the “rope-a-dope” strategy of just absorbing punch after punch, hoping that the media, the NCAA, and the other anti-PSU crowd will wear themselves out. I find his endless concessions, and acceptance of these pronouncements about our “football culture,” to be a personal assault on my integrity and an assault on the integrity of everyone who is part of the Penn State family — faculty, administrators (perhaps other than Rodney Erickson), staff, and students.  Everyone concedes that child abuse is a horrific crime.  We don’t need to be lectured on that.

One guy did it, and it is possible that a number of people (including, among others, Penn State administrators, various police agencies, child welfare agencies, various school administrators in Lock Haven and elsewhere, Second Mile administrators and board members, state prosecutors, etc.) screwed up in not following up as aggressively as maybe they should have (Whether this is actually the case depends a lot on what and who you believe.  I think the Freeh report leaves a lot to be desired in terms of completeness, accuracy, and objectivity on this point.).  The media has found something as appealing as Greek tragedy in this story and they will not let go.  Someone needs to stand up and tell them that their description of the Penn State culture is a travesty, which it is!  Erickson, and whoever he’s listening to, don’t seem to be the folks to do this.

From all indications so far, including reactions from newly elected trustees Anthony Lubrano and Adam Taliaferro, it appears that Erickson signed the NCAA consent decree without involvement or approval of the Board of Trustees.  I don’t believe that he has the unilateral authority to commit the University to this level of liability.  If this is the case, he should probably be fired as quickly as the Board fired Graham Spanier.  He has committed the University to what is estimated to be something in the range of $72 million dollars in penalties, loss of continuing revenue from its football program (the least of our worries), and – most seriously – undisputed damage to the reputation of the University which could be forever in recovering.  The damage he has done, in my humble opinion, is far worse than anything Graham Spanier ever came close to doing.

Sorry.  Enough of my rant.  This has been keeping me up at night thinking about the injustices done to so many people associated with Penn State.  I don’t want to lessen or condone the wrongs done by Jerry Sandusky, but the level of attacks on Penn State associated with this atrocity, and the damage done to the University, its students, its faculty, its alumni, and ultimately to the world community served by this great academic institution, are simply unwarranted.

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Penn State/Sandusky Story Finally Public

Posted by Steve Markowitz on July 12, 2012

For those of us that are alumni and supporters of Penn State University, this is been a painful nine months.  Our University has been tainted with a scandal of horrific proportions.  And yes, We are Penn State.

When the scandal went public in November, the University’s Board of Trustees took two major actions.  First, it fired longtime and legendary coach Joe Paterno, as well as President Graham Spanier.  In addition, it engaged former FBI director Louis Freeh to create a no holds bar report on the scandal and any University involvement in it.

The firing of Joe Paterno by the Board of Trustees was certainly controversial at the time.  We alumni considered Joe our mentor, father and to some even near deity status.  Many alumni including famous football players Franco Harris and LaVar Arrington went public with criticism of the firing claiming it was precipitous and unfair.  The validity of that criticism could not be absolutely judged until all of the facts were known and now they are.

The other action of the Board of Trustees was less controversial, but no less important for the University and Sandusky victims.  The hiring of independent and respected Louis Freeh to create an in detailed report of the scandal, its causes and those responsible was a prerequisite for the University to begin a cleansing process.  That report based on over 400 interviews and more than 3 million documents was issued today and answered most open questions.  It was damning of high-up Penn State officials including Joe Paterno and Graham Spanier.

According to the New York Times, the Freeh report concluded that:

  • The highest officials at Penn State failed for over 10 years to take any steps to protect Jerry Sandusky victims.  “Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims,” and “the most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized” said Freeh.
  • The report also concluded:  “In order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity,” the most powerful leaders of Penn State University “repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities, the board of trustees, the Penn State community and the public at large.”
  • One finding of the report was that Joe Paterno knew in 1998 of concerns about Sandusky behaving inappropriately with children.  At that time, University police investigated a related claim concerning Sandusky in a Penn State shower with a child, an investigation that Paterno closely followed.
  • The report concluded that Paterno failed to take any action on the Sandusky matter “even though Sandusky had been a key member of his coaching staff for almost 30 years and had an office just steps away from Mr. Paterno’s.”

Any doubt that the Board of Trustees did the right thing by immediately terminating of Spanier and Paterno has been put to rest.  Even strong Paterno supporter LaVar Arrington agreed Tweeting today that “I must admit, the report seems largely unbiased and fair.”  Arrington further tweeted that “All in the report are culpable starting with the president-vice pres-ad-head coach-bot all involved should’ve and should be removed.”

As a strong supporter of the University, this alumni is certainly disappointed with the findings of the Freeh report, but at the same time not surprised.  Those of us who followed and supported the football program clearly knew that Joe Paterno ran it with an iron fist.  During much of that period the program was very well run, helping young men turn into not only great athletes, but great citizens.  It also produced great football teams.

Since the latter part of the 1990s it also became apparent that the football program had degenerated not only in the quality of its teams, but in the personal qualities of some of the athletes recruited.  The win-loss record became unacceptable and too many players got in trouble with the law.  Discipline of these players remained in the total purview of the football program, i.e. coach Paterno.  But most of the alumni, including this writer, turned a blind eye to the issues because JoePa was there running the program.  For that we bear some responsibility in enabling an atmosphere that was conducive to the scandal.

When the scandal went public in November, this writer supported the Board of Trustees’ decision to immediately terminate Spanier and Paterno.  While it was not possible then to determine their (if any) participation in a cover-up, at the very least as chief executives of the University and the football program they had to be held accountable for inaction and a breakdown in controls that led to children being damaged.  For that position some alumni shared with me their strong dissenting opinions that matched the initial reaction of LaVar Arrington.  Their positions, while understandable given our strong feelings for Joe Paterno, was emblematic of an attitude that helped cultivate an insular mentality that was a breeding ground for what the Freeh report confirmed was a cover-up by Paterno, Spanier and likely others at the University.

We now not only know the sordid details of the criminal acts of Sandusky, but also why this predator was allowed to remain connected with University for so long after his behavior became known. As painful as this knowledge is, it will allow us as a university to begin down the road to recovery and a healing process.

It is time for all Penn State alumni to come together and even more significantly support the University going forward.  Penn State is a great educational institution that has helped many become the type of people who have improved society, the country and the greater world.  Let us all work together to bring the University back to the preeminent position that it deserves.

We are Penn State!!!!!

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We are Penn State

Posted by Steve Markowitz on November 11, 2011

This writer, like so many Penn Staters, is in shock after the revelations that came out this week involving the University.  Without getting too deeply into salacious details, a Penn State assistant football has been charged with viscous sexual attacks on young boys, some of which occurred on University property.  But it gets worse.  In 2002 a Penn State graduate assistant witnessed one of the attacks, reported it to football Head Coach Joe Paterno, who in turn sent it up the chain of command at the University.

Incredibly, no one reported the attack to the police.  In addition, it has been reported that the perpetrator of the assault, Jerry Sandusky, had a history of unusual contacts with young boys that was known to the University.  Even with all of this, Sandusky was allowed to continue using campus facilities.

Like all Penn Staters, our first thought is with those who have been directly damaged by the purported attacks.  They are the victims, not anyone at the University.

It is difficult to comprehend why the Sandusky assault and other related issues were not reported to the proper authorities.  While the answer to this may become known in the future, it is likely that self-serving interests took priority over what most human beings would consider to appropriate behavior.  This led to a cover-up that is now at the heart of the current scandal.

Yesterday, the Penn State Board of Trustees took charge of the unfolding crisis and announced the immediate departure the school’s legendary Coach, Joe Paterno, and its long-term President, Graham Spanier.  These actions were decisive, especially given the stature of the two individuals.  The Board is to be commended for this first step of a necessary cleansing at the University of what are obviously deep-seated internal problems.  Much more is still required, but time will be needed for a new regime to implement these next steps.

Unfortunately, the crisis of morality now on display at one of the Country’s premier educational institutions is part of a broader problem throughout the Country.  It is not unrelated to the lack of morality shown by Wall Street when it helped create the financial meltdown in 2008; the lack of morality shown by Washington when it spends the next generation’s wealth to satisfy the greed of this generation; or those who took out mortgages they could afford.

There is much work in front of us required to repair the University that we alumni feel so strongly about.  There are also amends to be made.  Knowing so many good people that are connected with this University, we will do what is required.  Because; We are Penn State!

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