Friday, July 13, 2012

SPORTS MEDIA: Five Penn State Questions

The Freeh Report is out... the deliberation now continues in a public forum over every sports radio station and blogs like this across the country.  A coaching career that a few years ago was looked at as legendary has lost its luster - to say the least.  I know how passionate I am about my school, University of Missouri.  Given that, and knowing others like me exist for every school, I can only imagine what alumni of Penn State must be thinking at this point.     

Here are five questions that come to my mind as a guy who's spent 25 years in the media and charged with the business of organizational "communication."  All rank way below "how do we help the victims" which clearly wasn't of major importance up until this story first broke months ago.  So - lets be clear... these five questions are not meant to minimize damage already done.

1. Has there ever been a bigger fall from grace in all of sports?

I can't really think of one off the top of my mind.  Politics has given us a laundry list over time.  Sports has provided the likes of O.J. Simpson.  Where does this rank?  Who could be looked at in similar fashion - if anyone.

2. What happens to the Joe Paterno statue?

This is being hashed out today with great passion.  Some say "take it down immediately"... others say "go ahead, but what does it solve?"  Clearly a statue stands for something... and represents something.  Taking it down doesn't help the victims of Jerry Sandusky.  But it does send a message.  If it goes, I wonder how.

3. What of the Penn State leadership?

Not talking about the football leadership, but the administration of the university.  By all accounts not enough information was provided - until now.  Where does the house cleaning begin... and where does it stop?

4. Does the "Death Penalty" do the right thing?

I've heard some on radio call for the end of the football program in response to the scandal.  Some have said "do it for a year"... others have argued "suspend football indefinitely."  I've always believed that sports is about the athletes and the alumni above the money.  Taking football from kids who had nothing to do with past administration seems harsh.  It happened at SMU... what would it solve in this case?

5. If you lead communications efforts ... what's the message now?

So you are the Penn State athletic department's leader, or the communications chief in charge of shaping and defining the message for coaches and the university's athletic department.  What does Bill O'Brien say to supporters of the football program with the season just weeks away?  How does he sell the program to recruits?  Managing the media this season will be a chore to be certain.  What the university delivers and how they do it will be interesting.  To me, passionate alums should be a part of the rebuild, not kept on the sideline.

To this day I still can't believe this has all come to be.  The families of the victims probably get little satisfaction from all of this chatter.  The damage has been done and can't be reversed which is sad.  

This is your opportunity to weigh in with thoughts. I'm providing questions... not answers. Thanks for reading and passing along to others.  I hope you will.  Look forward to your comments.


  1. The "turning a blind eye", the coverups, and the disregard for the welfare of young children demands a harsh penalty for Penn State. The actions are worse than other "team related" infractions at other schools that led to strong penalties by the NCAA.
    This is a new and different situation, obviously but the NCAA must send a clear message that nothing like this will ever be tolerated.
    Yes, it is a shame for the players, fans, and students who had nothing whatsoever to do with the travesty, but nothing is more important than making sure that college football programs understand clearly that ethics and morality are more important than wins and losses.

  2. P S... with all the huge money wrapped up in big-time college football now, it is hard not to be cynical about the motivations of the NCAA and college programs. I'll be very curious to see how this all plays out.

  3. 5 year death penalty for the football program, replacement of the entire board, immediate removal of the statue and firing of senior Penn State officials involved. A message must be sent that this can never happen again to our children.

  4. The death penalty of the football program hurts all the wrong people. The football program and revenue it creates funds most of the other athletic programs. If you pull the football program from Penn State, go ahead and say goodbye to the Volleyball, Tennis and Golf programs. How and where money generated from the football program is spent is something I'd suggest be closely monitored and possibly even regulated for a period of time.

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    1. I, too, will be interested to see how this plays out.... for the school and the NCAA. And I agree that the potential of a "death penalty" would hurt many of the wrong people. Football supports many of the other sports on a college campus - there is no way they would not be impacted. Thanks for all the comments. Keep em' coming!