Liguori: Gut Check Time For Leaders At Universities

By Ann Liguori
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If you think coach Joe Paterno should not have been fired and should not have become one of the ‘fall guys’ for not calling the authorities in what could be the biggest scandal in college sports history, then read the 23- page indictment against former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

It makes me sick to my stomach. I want to throw up right now.

How several key figures at the University, who were told about these horrible acts, did nothing, turned their heads, for so many years, speaks volumes about the power and invincibility that big-time college sports programs and the individuals who lead them, possess.

As much as coach Paterno is adored by many and praised for the good work he has done in the four decades he has led Penn State football, he obviously allowed the power and invincibility that comes with that status to cloud his judgment. As the leader, his inability to take the initiative and call the authorities upon hearing about these horrible acts, will ultimately define his legacy. What a tragedy – suddenly a legacy that should be defined by how much he gave back to the student body at Penn State, by how he preached academics along with athletics and how he genuinely cared for the students and community — took a sudden, dramatic, dreadful turn.

More information will no doubt come out as each person remotely involved with the program will and should be questioned. But most troubling beyond the permanent emotional scars the victims will endure is how many layers of protection went on within the university and the community to protect the almighty cash cow known as big-time college football. Several continued to prevail in this idyllic world of college life, living the good life with unlimited access and power, losing all sense of decency.

The impact and fallout from this will be felt at universities across the country. Procedures will be reviewed and communicated regarding reporting inappropriate behavior, crimes, etc. College presidents, coaches and administrators will look inward, do gut checks and be more aware of doing the ‘right’ thing.

As Penn State University fights for its life to restore integrity and its reputation as one of the top universities for higher learning with a mission to improve “the well being and health of individuals and communities…” according to their mission statement, let’s hope other universities learn from this and that morality prevails in the world that is ‘big-time college athletics.’


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  • Ann Liguori

    Dan from New Jersey emailed the following:

    You’re getting close on you piece about Paterno and Penn State. And as far as I can tell you are the only one who has begun to get it right. While this scandal is much worse than others, it is all part an parcel of big time athletics where the Athletic Departments either run the university or are exempt from it. Whether it is recruiting violations, dealing with agents, gambling, etc. etc. it is about Athletic Department that operate outside of the law and outside of what is best for the kids. Having taught at Rutgers and Illinois and gone to grad school during the Jim Dutcher era at Minnesota I have seen all too closely what the money machine of college athletics will do to save itself. Is all of this conference reorganization by television market good for schools or kids? Will kids attend these games? Will athletes who are now traveling like the pros have even a pretense of being students? I remember picking up a kid years ago when I was at Rutgers as I was driving betwe en campuses. It turned out he was the punter on the football team. He told me how much the team hated playing at Giants stadium as the turf was hard on their bodies and they were hours away from campus and their friends who they wanted to be with at the game’s conclusion. It is only getting worse. Break up all these super conferences and make schools play similar institutions in their regions, make coaches honor their contracts or have to sit out the length of the contract, and limit their university salaries, including Athletic Department fundraising to something akin to the university salary scale. Then you will begin to see coaches and others have the “bravery” to come forward and stop these types of scandals.

  • Heidi Zimmerman

    I am a Penn State parent and I am deeply distressed after reading your article. The sins committed were not by Penn State, but by a few individuals working for the University. I am also very troubled by how the media has assumed its role as judge and jury here. Of course we cannot begin to understand how horrible this has been for the abused victims, but there is another side to this. Students, parents, and alumni who had nothing to do with the horrible acts committed here also in pain.

    Where is the decency at Penn State?– it is still there! It is there in the 44,000 students and 570,000 alumni that continue to make this world a better place because of the excellent educational experience they received there. They do not deserve this. The flaws of a few individuals should not take away from the numerous contributions that have been made and that will contnue to be made by Penn Staters.

    I implore you and your fellow journalists to please focus on the indecency of the individuals here– not on “Penn State” as a collective whole.

    Your friend– Heidi

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