Amongst the many penalties passed along to Penn State for their lack of institutional control of a series of unfortunate and disturbing incidents at their university, the NCAA hit the athletic department with a $60 million fine. This comes not just because of the sexual abuse of minors by former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, but in the subsequent lack of action and failure to report these issues by many in athletics and the university. Today 29 prior faculty senate chair signed a document noting that the penalty was unfair to the the athletic department and the university, and that it was putting Penn St. in a bad financial situation. While it is true that this penalty, plus all the potential civil suits which are on their way are potentially going to hit the university for a lot of money. In the document the faculty group notes:
“The shock of the crimes that occurred here clearly underlines the need for greater vigilance and stronger policies. However, the sweeping and unsupported generalizations by the Freeh Group … and the NCAA do not provide a satisfactory basis for productive change,”
I can understand their unhappiness that Penn State’s reputation and finances are taking a hit on the academic side of things for issues that they view as being in the realm of athletics. The problem is that the lack of institutional control meant that not only was athletics not doing anything about these incidents, but that those in the administration who should have been overseeing some of these issues also failed in their jobs. If you look at the organizational structure of almost any athletic department, you will find that coaches are below the athletic director, and that the athletic director is usually below the chancellor/president and/or the Board of Trustees. In this case, while the faculty can be unhappy and blast the NCAA for potentially harming academics, it is not the case that the administrative side of the university was entire without fault.
This seems to be another great argument in the favor of removing athletics from a university. If athletics can have such power that they can cause such damage to a school because of the action of a few individuals in power, are universities taking a financial risk by giving so much power to sport organizations? I am a big fan of college athletics, but it would seem that there is need to reconsider the powers given to athletic departments, and whether these departments should be able to influence others in the university community so easily. The faculty group that signed this letter should give thought to more of the reasons as to why Penn St. got into such dire straits in the first place.