Paterno, The Flip Side of College Football As A Business

Jan 23, 2012 by

A bit off topic today but it’s something that’s been bugging me a bit.  There has been a ton of discussion about the passing of Penn State football coach Joe Paterno this week.  Full disclosure, I have a minor tie to Penn State as I did my grad work at Penn State Great Valley (a satellite campus). 

The Business Of College Football

However, this whole story has really opened my eyes to the business of college football.  So many are claiming that Paterno’s passing was exaserbated by having his heart broken by the University that fired him.  In addition, many are outraged that the University did not do more to protect him given his legacy at the school. 

In my mind, this is business side of college football coming back to bite Paterno.  Remember, Joe Paterno was afforded many privileges and opportunities as the head coach of Penn State football.  In many reports, he had quite a bit of power that many head coaches do not see at their college.  Why is this?  He made Penn State a great deal of money through their football program.  Not only the wins he brought, but the players he was able recruit, the alumni he was able to influence to donate and the media attention he brought to the school.  Think about it, what other 80+ year old coach is active in college football these days?  He’s there for a reason.

Live By The Sword…

So, he’s able to reap the benefits of being the head coach of a high profile college football team (salary reported as 1.03M / year back in 2009).  However, as a high profile figure of a major football powerhouse, he is also held to a higher standard.  He has a duty to know what is going on with his assistant coaches and to report on any misconduct, especially when it is a crime.  It was said that he reported it to the athletic director which is where it stopped.  How do you, as the head coach, not follow up on it when it happened on your watch by one of your guys? 

That decision, to protect the University and not the child, is what ultimately lead to Paterno’s firing.  The outcries are around how they could do that their beloved JoePa.  This is how…

College football is a business, a big one.  Penn State is worried about their reputation, one that is built on this special kinship all of their alum have.  And that all centers around a very successful football program.  They cannot be associated with a molestation scandal and they planned to clear all remnants of that scandal by firing Paterno. 

You have to take the good with the bad.  Like the perks of the big business football program?  Be ready to take the brunt of being held to higher standard and being part of a corpoartion when times are tough.

Sports is a very passionate thing here in the US.  We place very successful figures (coaches, players, etc) on quite a high pedestal.  So, when they do something that is unethical we tend to play that down only remembering the wonderful things they did (usually winning or performing well). 

Time To Reflect

PSU fans, when you are find yourself doing that with Paterno, please be sure to think about how’d you feel about him if one of the victims were your son, your nephew or anyone you knew. 

This is not turning the other way when someone takes a few dollars from the petty cash drawer.  This is a heinous assault against a minor.  At that point, the name Penn State doesn’t matter and you do what is right.  If the name Penn State truly means more than football then reactions of the supporters should reflect that.

(Note: my intent with this post was to ask the PSU alum to think hard about their reactions, not to kick dirt on Joe Paterno.  Everyone makes mistakes and this one was a big one.  Just be careful how high on the pedestal you put people)

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