Favorite

The undoing of Penn State 

There is likely a substantial pocket of people who, after the NCAA wrought its judgment on Penn State this week, felt like the organization had stepped far afield and gone down some kind of uneasy road of moral authority. I can understand that.

For years, the governing body of collegiate athletics has been — right or wrong — the arbiter of what constitutes fair play and what represents impropriety within the walls of the stadiums and athletic departments.

But in moments of heightened awareness and concern, the focus shifts. Arkansas fans watched a beloved football coach implode in a matter of days, and an athletic director make an unpopular but fitting choice to end that man's tenure. In State College, Pennsylvania, an even more revered patriarch was ousted, then died, and now has a legacy flecked with humanity's general reproach for his inaction, largely because an athletic director (and a bevy of other administrators) made disastrous choices over a period of years.

We all like to pretend that the NCAA is nothing more than a regulatory body, one that makes certain that each game is played within certain acceptable confines and that no one player, coach, sport or institution is tainted by the zealousness of competition. What happened in Northwest Arkansas this fall was anything but a sweeping tragedy, even if personal lives of many were unduly affected by one man's acts and omissions. So the comparison of the hubris of Petrino and Paterno really begins and ends with them both being large fish in a medium-sized bowl, and having remarkably similar surnames.

That said, don't be so myopic to think that Jeff Long's decision to discharge Bobby Petrino was made in a vacuum. The NCAA lords over college athletics and has had a well-documented history of being intertwined in the most subtle machinations within an athletic department. For those that suggested that the organization did not have the power to impose $60 million in fines upon Penn State, or impact the educational tracks of young men by compelling them to transfer or attend school elsewhere, is this really that giant of a leap for the NCAA? This organization has crippled or shut down programs before for much less. It has imposed its judgments on those programs for unseemly tactics. Penn State students and fans recoiled at the horror of having its program effectively and forcefully dismantled, but realistically could offer no rebuttal.

The message Long sent to Petrino in April is that your 21 wins over two years, your exceptional performance in rebuilding a program in tatters in a matter of four seasons, and your extraordinary ability to cultivate a new, upbeat culture in the fan base are not worth anything if you are unprincipled. It wasn't sent out of fear of the NCAA's occasionally arbitrary hand, but was delivered with the underlying idea that no man should ever hold serve over the institution as a whole. Penn State abjectly and repeatedly failed when opportunities to check Paterno's power and influence were presented. The outcome was predictable, painful and almost beyond criticism, even as it tested our notion of what the NCAA could and could not do. Long was obviously not willing to risk a future fraught with questions about the football coach's propriety, feeling that a fleeting moment of weakness by Petrino might well augur something worse down the line.

The lack of temerity or forethought demonstrated at Penn State was in such sharp and sad contrast that it made all of us uneasy about the state of college athletics. Now we have a conclusive, hard example of just how costly a laissez-faire, money-first approach to football can be. While we all mourn the awful, surreal nature of Penn State's undoing, those of who admittedly embrace Hog sports a bit too tightly can at least draw some comfort from the fact that the man in charge is mindful of the place they hold in our culture.

Favorite

Speaking of...

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Beau Wilcox

  • Woeful

    On Thanksgiving night, Bret Bielema could settle into his bed knowing that after a rather miserable 2013 inauguration, he had slipped comfortably into his job and the results were bearing some small but edible fruits for this ravenous fan base. He was only 25-24, but 18-10 with two bowl wins over his last 28 contests, a smattering of takedowns of ranked teams, and a stabilized roster that showed off the staff's endeavors to enlist and develop a caliber of player that would lead to better days ahead in a rugged conference.
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • Williams shines

    Alternating wins and losses has been the pattern behavior of Arkansas's 2016 season as it draws to its terminus. So after the Hogs gave their most listless and disappointing home effort in a good while against LSU, why wouldn't they just explode all over the cowbell-clanging din in Starkville the next time out?
    • Nov 24, 2016
  • Deflated

    Foolish consistency, per Emerson, is the hobgoblin of little minds. What commentary he would've offered about the Arkansas Razorbacks' 10 weeks of wild inconsistency is for debate, but he might've been more profane than pithy if he had to sit through this madness.
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • More »

People who saved…

Readers also liked…

Most Shared

  • Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist resigns

    Bob Scoggin, 50, the Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist whose job it was to review the work of agencies, including DAH and the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, for possible impacts on historic properties, resigned from the agency on Monday. Multiple sources say Scoggin, whom they describe as an "exemplary" employee who the week before had completed an archeological project on DAH property, was told he would be fired if he did not resign.
  • Lessons from Standing Rock

    A Fayetteville resident joins the 'water protectors' allied against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
  • Child welfare too often about 'punishing parents,' DCFS consultant tells legislators

    Reforms promised by the Division of Children and Family Services are "absolutely necessary," the president of DCFS's independent consultant told a legislative committee this morning. But they still may not be enough to control the state's alarming growth in foster care cases.
  • Donald Trump taps Tom Price for HHS Secretary; Medicaid and Medicare cuts could be next

    The selection of Tom Price as HHS secretary could signal that the Trump administration will dismantle the current healthcare safety net, both Medicaid and Medicare.
  • Fake economics

    Fake news is a new phenomenon in the world of politics and policy, but hokey economic scholarship has been around as long as Form 1040 and is about as reliable as the news hoaxes that enlivened the presidential campaign.

Latest in Pearls About Swine

  • Woeful

    On Thanksgiving night, Bret Bielema could settle into his bed knowing that after a rather miserable 2013 inauguration, he had slipped comfortably into his job and the results were bearing some small but edible fruits for this ravenous fan base. He was only 25-24, but 18-10 with two bowl wins over his last 28 contests, a smattering of takedowns of ranked teams, and a stabilized roster that showed off the staff's endeavors to enlist and develop a caliber of player that would lead to better days ahead in a rugged conference.
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • Williams shines

    Alternating wins and losses has been the pattern behavior of Arkansas's 2016 season as it draws to its terminus. So after the Hogs gave their most listless and disappointing home effort in a good while against LSU, why wouldn't they just explode all over the cowbell-clanging din in Starkville the next time out?
    • Nov 24, 2016
  • Deflated

    Foolish consistency, per Emerson, is the hobgoblin of little minds. What commentary he would've offered about the Arkansas Razorbacks' 10 weeks of wild inconsistency is for debate, but he might've been more profane than pithy if he had to sit through this madness.
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Central Arkansas venues have a full week of commemorative events planned

Event Calendar

« »

December

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Woeful

    • If the UA could get the SEC to stop all games if at any time…

    • on December 2, 2016
  • Re: Woeful

    • The Mizz loss was worse than getting beat by Louisiana-Moron

    • on December 2, 2016
  • Re: Fear and wonder

    • this is real take it serious,my name is Caroline Smith from usa, who will believe…

    • on November 30, 2016
 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation