Golden era at PSU ends as scandal unfolds

By Jen Lassen

Assistant News Editor

What began as a scandal has turned Happy Valley into a hotbed of unrest, riots, anger and confusion. Most importantly, this mess has placed more media attention on Penn State than the university has arguably ever received.

Last week the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal was announced. Yet even more so than the allegations against and arrest of Sandusky, the announcement of the end of Joe Paterno’s 46-year term as head football coach proved more devastating for the University. The beloved Paterno, with perhaps more success gained than any other college football coach, received a phone call last Wednesday saying that he was to step down from his position immediately.

Although our university is approximately an hour away from Penn State, this situation has had plenty of effects on this campus. As a Pennsylvania native, I grew up watching, appreciating and living Penn State football. It is a huge part of the Pennsylvania culture in general. And considering the proximity of the University to Penn State, I am sure many other students have shared my experience as well. Seeing this football empire crumble within a week or so has certainly been upsetting to watch, yet there is also the strong ethical side to consider that has proved difficult to comprehend and internalize.

We all know by now that Penn State University eats, sleeps and breathes football, but this is no excuse for JoePa’s lack of assertiveness in continuing to inquire about the status of charges pressed against Sandusky after JoePa had reported the scandal to a higher authority. Apparently, Paterno’s and now-former assistant coach Mike McQueary’s priorities were askew for obvious reasons: they would have rather protected the Penn State football empire, one that brings enormous amounts of revenue to the University each year, than become involved in a scandal that would have (and has) damaged the empire. Similarly, this scandal has single-handedly exposed the corruption that continued in the empire. Yes, it was a shame that Paterno was fired in the way that he was, and there could have been various psychological or contextual reasons that Paterno never pursued this once hidden wrongdoing. Despite this, he, along with the other officials, could have certainly done more to expose the scandal earlier on and show that they truly understand ethics.

Invariably, the effects of this situation on Penn State as an academic institution will be detrimental. The circumstances, devastating for students, staff, alumni and football fans everywhere may cause them to reconsider their love for the blue and white. Many people may see the uglier and unethical side of Happy Valley; one where the administration tried to brush a sex abuse scandal under the carpet in order to protect its multi-million dollar football empire, and re-consider donating to the university or paying to attend football games altogether.

Although Penn State is notorious for its extensive job network and strong academics, many students apply and attend the school for the dominating football culture. So, this long overdue scandal, finally brought to light, may cause fewer students to apply, as the Penn State rock of football is gradually crumbling.

The chances of something this ethically devastating happening at this university are slim. Frankly, I believe that the administration cares more about the well-being of the students versus protecting the reputation and revenue status of a Bison sports team. Yet if this did happen to us, our secluded bubble would be popped immediately: media would draw attention to our small and otherwise good-reputation university. This would make for a perplexing and equally intriguing news story.  The students, staff and strong alumni network would certainly be upset, yet I do not think it would cause as much devastation as the major upset to the infamous Penn State football program.

So the next time you see a “We love JoePa” sign or T-shirt, consider the ethics behind Penn State’s tragic situation. Yes, the situation was upsetting to people associated with and fans of Penn State. Yes, it was devastating to the University. But officials definitely could have done a better job of exposing the scandal. Whether Penn State will one day regain its status as a football empire is in the cards for next season; all we can do is sit back and let the games—more than just a football toss—again begin.

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