It’s becoming harder and harder to find a saving grace in college sports. Personally, I’d like to believe that the arena of college athletics is still the bastion of fine, upstanding amateur student-athletes and coaches who not only lead their teams on to the field of play but help to become mentors to sports’ next generation of leaders. (Then, again, I’d also like to believe that Erik Estrada is actually trying to sell me a valuable parcel of land in Utah that is in high demand.) However, that reality is slowly becoming tougher to believe in than the tooth fairy (even though someone in England just paid more than $31,000 for John Lennon’s molar, so apparently the tooth racket is alive and well). (Leave it to the English.)
Records show that “Eagles” is the most common nickname in Division I sports, though “Jurisprudence” might not be too far behind. There is an old joke in college football about having a school the football team can be proud of, a yarn that satirizes the fact that major college football is such a boon to many college campuses in terms of branding and revenue that academics often takes a backseat in the gridiron’s proverbial stretch limosine. This case could very well have been made at Penn State prior to the Jerry Sandusky abuse scandal which has turned the institution in State College into Sordid Valley.
Penn State was a school that had largely remained untarnished by the other scandals and incidents plaguing other schools. However, the revelations of the past week or so have caused the grandeur to be eradicated by a grand jury: a 46-year Hall of Fame coaching career blemished by a firing that abruptly took place amidst the issuing of a 40-count indictment against Paterno’s former assistant.
This latest episode certainly is the most egregious disgrace to hit college sports since 2003, when Baylor’s head basketball coach, Dave Bliss, urged players and coaches to paint Patrick Dennehy, a murder victim, as a drug dealer to soften the blow for killer/teammate Carlton Dotson. Bliss and his career still have yet to recover from the episode, even as he has attempted to coach again at the high school level.