Preserving the Brand/ NBA Strife Gives College Game New Life

November 12th, 2011 sendarama Posted in college basketball, college football No Comments »

Preserving the Brand

“ If self preservation is an instinct you possess, you better fuck’n do it, and do it quick,” snapped Winston Wolf to the dilatory Jules and Vincent in “Pulp Fiction.”

In trying to figure out the motive behind Penn State’s and Joe Paterno’s unfathomable failure to take action against Jerry Sandusky when they first learned of the long-time assistant’s nefarious activities in 1998, and then again in 2002, look no further than their fanatical desire to preserve the Penn State brand, which includes a squeaky clean reputation for playing within the rules, Joe Pa’s burnished image, and its $70 million/year football program. “We are…. Penn State,” goes the slogan.

According to the Centre County Grand Jury Report, Sandusky’s activities reached back to 1994, but were first investigated by law enforcement in 1998, when the campus and local police responded to the complaint of Victim 6. The investigation was closed when District Attorney Ray Gricar, who disappeared mysteriously in 2005, decided there would be no criminal charges. In June, 1999, Sandusky, then 55, retired as defensive coordinator after thirty years on the staff with professor emeritus status and full use of campus facilities, including his own office and parking space, and a faculty benefits package.

Making full use of his privileges, Sandusky in 2000 was discovered by a janitor performing oral sex on an 11-year old in the showers of the football building. The incident went unreported. Then, in 2002, he was observed by graduate assistant Mike McQueary performing anal sex on a 10-year old in the locker room shower. McQueary reported the matter to Paterno, who passed on the information to the athletic director, Tim Curley. Curley and administrator Gary Schultz subsequently met with McQueary, who described to them what he saw.

No one from Penn State ever reported the incident to the University or local police. Sandusky’s only sanction was that he was instructed not to bring children into the locker room. McQueary remained on the football staff until Friday, when he was placed on indefinite leave.

The Grand Jury, conducting its investigation during 2010 and 2011, called McQueary, Paterno, Curley and Schultz as witnesses. Paterno, Curley and Schultz testified as to what McQueary told them. Curley and Schultz were indicted for falsely characterizing McQueary’s report. Curley testified that he was not told by McQueary that Sandusky was engaged in sexual conduct. Schultz testified that McQueary’s allegations were “not that serious.”

Since Paterno testified to the same subject matter and was not indicted, it can only be assumed that he accurately described to the Grand Jury what McQueary told him. In other words, he admitted being told by McQueary that Sandusky performed anal sex on a 10-year old and doing virtually nothing about it. Maybe this is what Joe had in mind when he admitted at his press conference Wednesday that he “could have done more.”

After the 2002 incident, Sandusky continued to enjoy preferred status and to entertain children at the Penn State facilities. As recently as the summer of 2011, he performed recruiting tasks for Penn State.

There can be little doubt that Sandusky’s ouster as assistant coach in 1999 was inspired by the criminal investigation of 1998. But why was it necessary to treat him like departing royalty? And then, in 2002, why did the administration fail to report the crime committed on its property and continue to treat Sandusky with kid gloves?

“To what do we owe such generosity?,” Don Corleone asked of Virgil Solozzo when he offered him a one-third interest for mere finance.

So now do we wonder why Penn State put itself on the line for a pedophile. The answer, as with the Don and Solozzo, is “for selfish reasons.” Jerry Sandusky was a Penn State lifer. He was the heir apparent to Joe. He knew where all of Penn State’s recruiting bones were buried. There was no one in better position to topple the Nittany Lions’ house of cards if he were crossed. Silence and inaction were in everyone’s interests.

We have only begun to scratch the surface of this story. It may wind up having more legs than a tarantula. Already, there are rumors that Sandusky’s Second Mile foundation was a front for a pimping operation. At a minimum, there was an embarrassing interlocking of interests between the foundation and Penn State. Paterno has retained a prominent defense lawyer. Though it is not clear that he will be charged with a crime, he is certain to be named as a defendant in civil suits.

Penn State’s possibly criminal cover-up is a fitting coda to a year where the college football landscape has been dominated by episodes of illegal benefits (North Carolina, Ohio State), pay- for- play recruitments (Auburn, Miami), and rampant conference-hopping. So long as college presidents and administrators place power and money above principle, the carnage will continue.

NBA Strife Gives College Game New Life

In 2008, eighteen freshmen and sophomores were chosen in the first round of the NBA draft, including six of the first seven. Last May, in anticipation of the NBA lockout, that number shrunk to five.

Premium stars Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger, Terrence Jones, Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones, all certain high first round picks, opted to return to college, where their teams will contend for the national championship in the 2011-2012 college basketball season, which tipped off last night.

Several mid-level stars projected to go late in the first round are also back on campus. Senior Kris Joseph is at number five ranked Syracuse. Seniors Jordan Taylor and Ashton Gibbs return to Wisconsin and Pitt, respectively. Projected number ones seniors Jeffery Taylor and Festus Ezeli, and junior John Jenkins are again taking courses at Vanderbilt. Senior Trevor Mbakwe is back at Minnesota. And there’s more.

For the past eight years, the lure of the NBA ravaged the college ranks of its best players. Not just the one-and-dones left early. Many late developing players who emerged as stars as sophomores or juniors jumped ship at the first opportunity, leaving their teams short. Think DuJuan Blair, Joe Alexander, and Wes Johnson. Could Pitt have used Blair in the paint last year instead of Gary McGee? What if Johnson had been filling the lane for Syracuse?

And how many marginal stars with raw talent, but undeveloped skills, left school after one year only to languish or be rendered obsolete in the backwaters of the NBA? Think Donte Green, Anthony Randolph, and Lance Stephenson.

But in a turnabout, because of the lockout, this year it became fashionable for stars that were on the fence to remove their names from the draft and return to college. Those who did leave early – including Kyrie Irving, Derrick Williams, Tristan Thompson, Brandon Knight, Tobias Harris, Darius Morris, and Jordan Williams – are probably regretting their decision to depart.

Because while they are embroiled in a dispute which threatens the NBA season, the college game they left behind is primed for its best season in a decade. Had these stars stayed in school, they might have polished their skills, enhanced their fame, and padded their resumes.

The primary beneficiaries of the new ground rules will be North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio State and Connecticut. Each returns a heralded star who was projected to leave early, a strong supporting cast, and an influx of talented freshmen. They will be great from the get-go and are certain number one seeds. Competing for the number two and three seeds will be Syracuse, Pitt, Memphis, Baylor, Vanderbilt, Duke, and Florida.

It remains to be seen how the new collective bargaining agreement affects the flow of talent from the colleges to the NBA. But for one year, and perhaps one year only, the talent has been flowing upstream.

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