By: Tyler Tjelmeland
The Freeh Report is out and the condemnation of ALL the Penn State high ranking officials is in full swing. That includes President Graham Spanier, Athletic Director Tim Curley, Vice President Gary Schultz, and more importantly in the sporting world, Head Coach Joe Paterno.
According to the Freeh Report (FBI Investigation into the Sandusky Case at Penn State) the aforementioned individuals and Penn State as an organization “failed to protect a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade.” The Freeh report, a 267 page report on the workings of the scandal in Happy Valley revealed numerous facts that many in the sporting community were afraid of.
Could it really be that one of the greatest coaches of all time, Joe Paterno, with his 409-136-3 record, 24-12-1 bowl record, and 2-time National Champion, was partially or even more-so at fault for the means the animal, Jerry Sandusky was able to prey on these children?
Could it really be that 4 grown men in high-ranking positions of power in a prestigious Division I, Big Ten University cover up a grown man abusing children, one of the most heinous, and sickening crimes possible repeatedly for over a decade? (Mark May Video)
This ordeal makes a sports fanatic and often sports philosopher, like myself, ponder certain things. One of those protruding ideals that I ponder is, “Maybe College Football Deserved this.” Every other major sport has had incredible scandal behind it over the year, so why not College Football, and why not now, in the wake of “THE U” documentary showing how bad things were in Miami, or with SMU finally becoming eligible to play in bowl games again after the “death penalty” by the NCAA in 1986. The gears started turn upstairs and I came to the realization, epiphany, if you will that EVERY major sport has had a major scandal in which the greatest player, coaches, or icons were knocked down a notch because of something along these lines, or simply something that had been there forever. Tarnishing careers, tarnishing reputations and changing the public opinion on them forever. Why should we be surprised that this information was the information that we did not want to see?
National Basketball Association (NBA): From Kobe Bryant’s rape allegations, that never made it to court in 2003 because the alleged victim was paid off and settle out of court, to the greatest player in the history of the league (There is no dispute, hands down please) Michael Jordan having a severe gambling problem and having one of the most, if not the most cocky Hall-of-Fame speeches ever. The NBA has been surrounded by controversy that has shattered teams as well with the most recent coming in 2008 with the Seattle SuperSonics being ripped from Washington State by Clay Bennet’s ownership group to Oklahoma City. The NBA has a rich tradition, but has been fueled by scandal as well.
NCAA Basketball: College Basketball’s best coach as far as winning percentage goes before Coach K surpassed him in 2011 was as controversial as possible. Bob Knight was a man of many words for his players, often those words being explicits and/or derogatory terms. Knight was not controversial and was never arrested, dismissed (oh, wait…) but he was a controversial figure. Beyond Coach Knight, the name of the game in NCAA Basketball is point shaving. From Tulane in 1981 to Kentucky in the 1950’s in which they actually were forced to cancel an entire season after being caught. Beyond point-shaving academic fraud hit schools like Minnesota in the late 90’s and falsifying SAT scores reared their ugly heads in 2008 when Derrick Rose was able to go to school at Memphis and bail after a year.
Major League Baseball (MLB): Do I honestly even need to get into the scandals that have plagued Major League Baseball? Steroids, Steroids, Steroids! Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Canseco, Clemens, Braun? and the list goes on and on. Beyond steroids where all of those potential Hall-of-Famers are questionable to get in there is the Black Sox scandal in the early 1900’s and the fact that arguably the greatest hitter of all time, Charlier Hustle, Pete Rose is and will never be in the Hall-of-Fame after betting on his own team to win in baseball.
National Hockey League (NHL): The most impact felt by a scandal in hockey aligns closely with the scandal at hand here with Penn State. Junior Hockey Player Sheldon Kennnedy was sexually abused by his head coach, 1989 Hockey Player of the Year, Graham James. James spent 2 years in jail, but was released and then later, in 2009 9 more allegations of sexual abuse to young players surfaced. Beyond the scandal surrounding James, Hockey itself is a sport that has a high rate of players getting arrested due to their innate nature and the supporting aggressive nature of the sport.
National Football League (NFL): The Patriots video-taped opponents hand signals in Spygate in 2007, which was parodied hilariously by South Park, the Saints engaged in a bounty system regarding player injuries and big-hits more recently in Bountygate, and multiple betting and gamblings rings are at the center of NFL scandals. Michael Vick, one of the most high-profile figures in the sport throughout the last decade was brought to trial and convicted on dog-fighting charges, in which he spent 2 years in prison over.
Golf (PGA Tour): There have been all sorts of scandals in the golfing world regarding money and finances to tournaments, courses, and players, but the biggest scandal brought the world crashing down on the biggest rockstar in the history of the game. Straight-laced, Stanford graduate, Tiger Woods was addicted to sex, and ruined a marriage, sponsorships, and his reputation forever after the fateful night when he crashed his car outside of his housing complex.
NCAA Football: Obviously, the Penn State scandal falls into this category, but beyond it, we have seen SMU receive the “death penalty,” Miami deal with all kinds of controversy with boosters, and former USC RB Reggie Bush had his Heisman Trophy stripped away from him because he was improperly recruited to the school.
This doesn’t even begin to touch the tip of the ice berg for scandals in sports. It is a mainstay, a staple and a common attribute to have scandal throughout organized, professional sports. When there is money, reputations, and other mutual interests on the line, controversy is always on the table.
Where will the Penn State Sandusky Scandal rank on the all-time greatest scandals? Only time will tell, but should we be surprised that the information is as brutal as it appears to be regarding JoPa? Should we ever be surprised that the worst comes out about the men and women that we place so high on a pedestal that they are practically set up for failure?
Maybe College Football did deserve this.