University of Maryland and ACC End Bitter Departure Lawsuits

University of Maryland and ACC Reach Legal Agreement.

Quick Reference: While this legal matter has been going on for what seems like ages, the ACC and Maryland have come to an agreement that will allow the monetary issue to be settled and the lawsuits to officially be dropped. This decision was a longtime coming and means that Maryland can refocus on its first official year in the Big Ten, while the ACC refocuses on their updated conference with the additional of Louisville and still fresh additions of Notre Dame, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh.

Check out the link above to get all of the details.

Greater Than the Death Penalty: The NCAA’s Reactions to the Sandusky Scandal

Released today were the sanctions imposed by the NCAA on Penn State in reaction to the child abuse scandal and cover-up by university officials, including Joe Paterno, the university presidents and the athletics director. This is actually not the end of story, as there will be additional court battles down the line for civil lawsuits by each of the families affected, but this could symbolically be the biggest penalty enacted on the football program and athletic department. Included within the sanctions are the following:

  • $60 million of fines, which will be used to set up an endowment for the protection of victims and families discovered in the future.
  • Revenues of approximately $13 million from Big Ten bowl proceeds over the next 4 years will be allocated to child protection agencies in the Big Ten community.
  • A 4-year postseason ban for the football program.
  • A reduction of 10 scholarships initially and then 20 scholarships per year for the next 4 years.
  • The opportunity for players to transfer out of the program without any waiting period at the potential new schools.
  • A wins will be vacated from the records between 1998 and 2011, including postseason play.
  • A 5-year probation of the program.
  • A partnership with a representative for academic integrity, as chosen by the NCAA board.

To say that these sanctions will make up for the wrongful acts is completely false. There is nothing that could be done to fully repair the damage to the lives of the victims and families. The scar that this leaves on the university and the Penn State community is one they will have to wear for the rest of their existence.

This combination of sanctions are actually unheard of, as no other schools has been penalized in such a crippling way. A “death penalty” ruling would have stopped the program for whatever time period of the committee’s choosing, but this will drop the program into a pit much deeper and difficult to get out of than “Hell on Earth” from The Dark Knight Rises. Players have the opportunity to leave the program, Penn State will be unable to recruit the same kind of talent they were used to and the decreased revenue will more than level their ability to compete at the D-Ia level for years.

It is about a culture change and punitive damages that can be used to support purposeful causes. Still, some of the elements seem to be out of place in the grand scheme of the situation. The financial penalties seem 100% justified, and everyone can be sure that there will be more forthcoming. The probation and the scholarship reduction both seem to support a reduction of support for the program during a time that they need to be taken off of their pedestal. The academic integrity partnership is one that should hopefully provide guidance toward a new direction for the program. Allowing the current and future players to leave and compete elsewhere provides a protection for those who no longer want to be associated with a tarnished program, while also taking another knock of the program off of the pedestal.

Where the potential challenges arise are with the penalties that do more to punish those not involved in the scandal than those who are. The process of vacating wins is something that is seemingly just for the record books, but the scandal had little to do with the team’s on-the-field success. One could argue that the cover-up protected Paterno and his crew from the possible limitations of recruiting and management if the scandal were unleashed sooner. All of this could have been avoided if they had simply reported Sandusky the instant they discovered his wrongdoing. Still, this penalty tarnishes the records of more than just Paterno and the program (which is justified). All of the players at Penn State will be associated with the scandal and their wins during this time period will be called into question, even from the symbolic standpoint. Also, if you are not going to impose the “death penalty” for such heinous acts, why take it out on the current players if they are able to perform at a championship level? The ability to transfer helps players take matters into their own hands, but the process could be more difficult that initially identified for these players to transfer.

It is important to keep everything in perspective, as even I had mixed reactions to the final announcement of the sanctions. The main purposes for the sanctions were to acknowledge the wrongdoing at the university, break the program from its pedestal and begin to rebuild anew. The struggles for the victims and their families have not ended with these sanctions or even the incarceration of Jerry Sandusky. At the same time, people in power at the university are ultimately the ones responsible for the wrongdoing, and it is challenging to think that their egregious actions (or inaction) are going to tarnish the history of the players, alum and community who knew not of the crimes, as well as the current players who saw Penn State as an opportunity for their future. Sandusky has left the ultimate mark of shame on Penn State and college sports, and Paterno and the Penn State elite did nothing to help their university community.

For ESPN’s reporting on the sanctions, please take a look at the link below:

A Tragedy in Happy Valley: Scandal Shocks Students, Nation

Over the past week, there has been an obsession with the news out of State College, PA. At first glance, it is easy to get swept up in the drama of the fall of one of the greatest college coaches of all time. Joe Paterno is responsible for 409 victories, 24 bowl victories, 3 Big 10 championships and 2 National Titles. Penn State football has been an institution within the college sports world. With his contract ending at the conclusion of the season, Paterno was considering retiring after starting as an assistant coach in 1950. As the news of a scandal began to surface, he officially announced that he would step down as head coach after the final game of the season. While his announcement came first, the university determined that the scandal and his involvement was too severe to allow him to finish on his timeline and terminated him on Wednesday evening.

Without going into the entire details of the scandal, Jerry Sandusky was arrested on Saturday November 5th  for 40 counts of child abuse over a 15-year period. In 2002, Joe Paterno was informed by a graduate student (Mike McQueary) that Sandusky had engaged in a sex act with a 10-year old in the locker room showers. Paterno reported the issue to Athletic Director Tim Curley the next day, but his actions ended there. For Paterno specifically, the question is not whether he did anything but whether he did enough. Concerns have risen about his level of knowledge of Sandusky’s actions or even simply the accusations of Sandusky’s conduct. Allowing a potential sex addict and child abuser to use the university facilities could be easily seen as negligent on Paterno’s part. Along with Paterno, President Graham Spanier, AD Tim Curley and Senior VP Gary Schultz are all being investigated and have had their ties cut from the university.

There have been a lot of different perspectives about the scandal but the most disturbing one is that the legacy of a football coach is more important than trauma experienced by the victims of sexual abuse. Students and fans have been devastated first by the news of Paterno’s involvement, second by the announcement of his retirement at the end of the season in light of the events and finally the university’s decision to remove him as head coach. Riots have broken out over Paterno’s termination with students crying out for the reinstatement of their beloved coach or for justice in comparison to the other individuals involved. Students have been damaging property and starting fires in their outrage. Many students have been recorded on camera claiming that Paterno is being used as a scapegoat and is innocent of any wrongdoing.

At what point did sports top human rights? Unfortunately this is not the only example in our history. Although not related to college athletics, the Catholic church has gone through similar accusations of representatives mistreating young boys. In both situations, there certainly is a feeling of a tarnished record for the larger organization, but the reality is that individuals messed up and the rest of the institution does not have to fall apart under the identified mistakes. The Catholic church still supports millions of followers in supporting their faith and spirituality, just as Penn State football will continue to press on with a different coach and even still play their game tomorrow against Nebraska. The icons within each organization may have to step aside but their involvement and legacy are forced to be sorted out over time.

I am a huge fan of the Daily Show. Jon Stewart has a way of turning comedic bits about current events into easy to swallow presentations of real breaking news. Much of his time recently has focused on Herman Cain’s sexual misconduct and refusal to recognize that “no means no” and Rick Perry’s blackout on stage during a Republican debate, but on November 10, 2011, Jon took a couple minutes at the end of the show to talk about his perspective on the Penn State riots. My comparison of the Penn State scandal to the Catholic church came from his discussion last night. For those two minutes, he simplified the Paterno story to highlight the god-like status students have bestowed on the coach and they have made it out to be more important than the actual victims. As he wrapped up the monologue, he called out the students for the fact that they will not have to actually miss out on any football as to diminish the chance of any trauma to their college experience as they could not handle that scar in their lives. When he nearly apologized for taking the time out to air his thoughts and the thoughts of his staff, I was in immediate support for him still choosing to broadcast the clip. Since then, it has been shared widely on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

In the end, the Paterno madness will die down and the students will gain some perspective. Unfortunately, the game tomorrow will not help the cause. There are hundreds of subplots and potential explosive points, which actually indicate that it would be smarted to cancel the game, forfeit it to Nebraska or reschedule it at Nebraska or a neutral site. The media networks are planning to get BCS Bowl Game-size audiences watching the game to experience the matchup and the drama associated with the scandal. Will Paterno appear at the game? What will the student reaction be regarding the individuals involved in the scandal? Will there be bigger support for the victims or for the former coach? In the end, this game will need to come and go before every can return their focus on what’s important.

Here are some of the videos that reference the events of this past week:

Jon Stewart’s Reaction to Penn State Riots

Mother Speaks Out

Student Reactions Post-Riots

Anderson Cooper Highlights Possible Involvement of Many Individuals

Wrong Focus for the Penn State Riots

Pac it Up: The Changing Face of the BCS

In most conversations about the BCS and changes, the conversations are regarding a playoff system and reorganization of the bowl game structure. The latest developments in the I-A Football may begin the charge to just such changes.

It is common news now that the Big 12 is basically no more. Each of the teams are parting ways and finding a new home to turn to. Nebraska already left for the Big 10 and Colorado moved over to the Pac 10 (which seems to be getting the bigger splash). The Pac 10 is looking to increase to a 2 division/16 team conference, with hopeful prospects Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. At the very least, they could 1 more team to bump them to a conference championship. Meanwhile, talks have started that the Mountain West could be adding the likes of Kansas, causing the rest of the conference to dissolve into smaller conferences.

The Big 12 could restructure by taking teams from other conferences, but are fans really going to get excited over a North Texas-Missouri game or a Kansas State-Louisville game? The Pac 10 and Big Ten are going to see some significant improvements, even if just Nebraska and Colorado make up the moves this summer. Meanwhile, the Big 12 will fall backwards without a championship game and significant divisions (see Big 12 North). This could affect basketball as well, though many of the basketball Big East teams play in other conferences during football season. The SEC could steal away Texas A&M, but what would be the point without adding a couple other powerhouses for the revenue boost.

This really all comes down to money. The rivalries have been fun. The Texases and Oklahomas facing off, as well as Nebraska and Missouri, have been staples for a long time. The USC-Texas rivalries as of late would also no longer happen in the BCS Championship game with the conference title game counting as their latest season chance for a meeting. But Texas adds something very financially significant to the Pac 10 if the move occurs.Texas A&M could benefit greatly with a split from Texas. Nebraska could be moving into a stronger opportunity with school like Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State in the mix.

Meanwhile, any changes to the SEC are still negligible and the ACC is sitting on the sideline watching a changing atmosphere for bowl season. After rumors of Miami and Florida State making a split subsided (somewhat), it opened the door to ask , “Is the ACC still significant in the college football world?” The Mountain West is currently looking like they could take on the ACC in a head-to-head match up, which could hurt the ACC outside of basketball season. Even if the changes end this summer, it would be smart to look for some additional conversations and changes happening next year and financial impacts happening for years to come.

Scoring Drive: Improvements in NCAA GPA Records

One of the consistent questions that arises for college athletics is what do we expect from our student athletes? Do we expect them to perform in the classroom, on the field or both? What standards exist for their academic performance? The NCAA is now reporting improvements in schools making the grades on student athlete academic performance. There are a few schools straggling but not as many as before. The report focuses on major revenue sports and was mentioned in an article published yesterday in the Chronicle of Higher Education (http://chronicle.com/article/Athletes-Academic-Performance/65846/).

On the basketball side, the high-profile violating schools include Auburn, Colorado, Georgia Tech, Indiana, Kansas State, Maryland, Purdue, Southern California and Syracuse. On the football side, the schools include Colorado, Mississippi and Washington State. Of those, only Colorado and Syracuse received scholarship reductions, while the other schools only received negative recognition or lighter punishments. The message this sends is a lack of seriousness for the significance of the academic side of the student athlete.

As mentioned in my previous blog about a similar topic, I go back and forth on the student athlete involvement debate. But with my alma mater in the mix of the worst violating schools, I am a little disturbed at the lack of seriousness regarding scholarship. We are bringing young men and women into an atmosphere where they are being dragged in multiple directions and not being given the opportunity to prepare themselves for the real world. For the ones that have a sports career beyond college, there is much in the way of emotional, business and critical thought growth that occurs in the college arena. For those that do not have an athletic future, we are robbing them of the essential tools they need post college.

Okay, that was a little dramatic. The point still remains that many of our high performing athletic schools are also our high performing academic schools. Cornell this past year proved an ability to match a top tier education with a stellar basketball tournament run. Duke has a tradition of basketball excellence and it is matched with high academic performance. I remember my time at Maryland when the football program supported their starting quarterback in a demanding field like engineering. So it is not impossible to set up a system that supports our student athletes in the classroom. Harsher punishments are not necessarily the answer, but consistent reinforcement could be. This is a conversation that will probably be ongoing, especially as the athletic conferences near deals to change and enhance their structures.

Tournament of Graduation Rates

Although the 09-10 college basketball season is over, there are still some remnant issues that have been in discussion. I am not referring to the possible expansion for next year from 65 to 96 teams. Instead, there was a great concern brought up for the graduation rates of student athletes, in particular our male basketball students. This is not a new discussion but still is important to consider. It all falls back to the debate for the purpose and limits for playing in college prior to going pro.

The University of Central Florida conducts a yearly study to review the graduation rates of the 65 teams in the tournament. The average for this past year was 64%. While this is slightly up from previous statistic, the spread from the highest to the lowest goes from 100% all the way down to 8%. On the positive end, there are several schools that can boast their perfect records (BYU, Marquette, Notre Dame, Utah State, Wake Forest and Wofford). On the bottom of the list sits the University of Maryland. Although their overall athletic graduation rates are around 76%, their basketball rates are getting highly criticized. The closest to the bottom with Maryland are California (20%), Arkansas Pine Bluff (29%) and Washington (29%). Amongst the #1 seeds, the variation is fairly high as well (Duke @ 92%, Kansas @ 73%, Syracuse @ 55% and Kentucky @ 30%).

Maryland and Coach Gary Williams came under fire for being at the bottom of the list and for having such a low record. In response, Williams identified that his players have been tempted and moved onto the NBA and careers with other basketball leagues, but the worst of the graduation rates took place around the national championship of 2002. While many left school without finishing their degrees, most of the players have the choice to finish their degrees later on and that many end up taking the opportunity, but in the end the large salaries definitely tempt many young adults to go for the money over the education.

This of course leads to the debate of focus on education or support for the stepping stone to the pros. The reality is that sports (particularly men’s basketball and football) are revenue generators for successful, significant Division I schools. Many of the players who leave early move on to successful careers and massive paychecks. As an educator, I would want to reinforce the emphasis on the real college experience and the main focus on education. Why call these individuals student athletes if the student part is just a cover for the real purpose of their presence on the campus?

While I believe the revenue will win out, Coach Williams made a point that his school is taking active measures to improve the graduation rates in the future. What this highlights is at least a small interest in placing the value back on the education. In the end, it is all we can ask.

If you want to take a look at the study from UCF, click on the following link: http://www.tidesport.org/Grad%20Rates/2010_Mens_Bball_PR.pdf.