The Penn State Sanctions: Respecting Kids’ Rights Above All Else
This week the NCAA levied unprecedented sanctions against the Penn State football program in the wake of the Sandusky scandal. If you don’t follow college football closely, suffice it to say that the NCAA is putting in provisions that will create a substantial overhaul of Penn State football that will unfold over a number of years.
The magnitude of these actions – which can be seen as being both punitive and corrective – have been debated some, but the reality is that Penn State accepted them without a fight. It’s clear that the “egregious” (that seems to be the word of choice, and appropriately so) nature of the acts and the lack of an effective checks and balances system at Penn State that covered up these acts (and failed to prevent future ones as well) left no choice but to require a major overhaul of the program and its relation to the university.
For me, this is an important moment in college sports, in that it is making the strong statement that they are putting kids first. You can read here the news release from the NCAA that highlighted why they took such strong actions. But I’ll cite here one quote that sums it up:
“As the individuals charged with governing college sports, we have a responsibility to act. These events should serve as a call to every single school and athletics department to take an honest look at its campus environment and eradicate the ‘sports are king’ mindset that can so dramatically cloud the judgment of educators.”
There are certainly many uninvolved people – especially current student athletes – who are negatively affected by the sanctions. But the magnitude of the failure of the athletic and administrative officers in the past require that the program be rebuilt slowly and with resolve to, first and foremost, honor the responsibility of respecting kids’ rights above all else – and having an effective structure in place to make sure this happens.
When I look back at my graduate days at Penn State, I remember working with world-class professors and researchers. I remember being challenged and nurtured to grow as a professional and as a person. I remember there being checks and balances in place to make sure I completed my academic requirements properly. And I know that if my behavior violated basic ethical principles, that would not have been tolerated.
In a prior blog post, I suggested that we parents can take from this scandal the need to cultivate informed trust with individuals and institutions who are responsible for nurturing our children. I think these sanctions echo that sentiment and provide an opportunity to make sure that principle becomes central to the football program at Penn State.