Like a sick joke, I was literally in the middle of a piece called, "Penn State Scandal: What Can The Syracuse Community Learn?" when news broke that Bernie Fine was being accused of molesting a child (and then children).
What you see below is an incomplete thought on how Syracuse could take the learnings of Penn State and immediately apply to them to potential crises in the future. I had no idea that crisis was already heading our way.
I wanted to share it because, I dunno, I guess it's timely and ironic and an attempt to put my cards on the table early in case this blows up in the way we're all dreading.
Suffice to say, this isn't going to turn into another Penn State. At least not in the same sense.
SU students are not going to riot over injustice. Administrators are not hiding under their desks (yet). The legendary coach has not muzzled (clearly). Syracuse is already using the horrible mistakes that Penn State made to its advantage.
We'll head into Friday hoping that this isn't what it seems to be. However, if it is, and we're the "new" Penn State, then we'll deal with it. We won't like it. We won't defend it. We won't get in the way. We'll just react. What else can you do at this point?
If I have a request of Syracuse fans, it's to not go too far in either direction just yet. Whether you're absolutely sure this is a giant lie or absolutely sure it's not, give this at least a day to breathe. The Sandusky allegations and ensuring scandal continues to morph and grow to this day. While initial fears seem to have been confirmed, we still don't know the whole story at Penn State and we most certainly do not know the whole story here.
Read. Respond. Respect the whole truth if and when we receive it.
Written at 7pm ET, Thursday evening until the moment the allegations became public.
Unfortunately, the Penn State Scandal isn't going away anytime soon. Much to the chagrin of Penn State fans and much to the chagrin of the rest of us.
That said, now that the initial fervor has died down, there is some good that's going to come out of all this.
No. 1, the victims are going find whatever peace, solace and compensation exists (not that it fixes what happened, but at least there is recognition).
No. 2 , Penn State is going to be completely overhauled, made safer and those in positions of power will be accountable on a level that did not exist before.
No. 3, awareness about child sex abuse is going to be at an all-time high. I heard someone on the radio say the Penn State Scandal will do for child sex abuse awareness what the Magic Johnson announcement did for AIDS awareness and that seems like a fair analogy. Suffice to say, no one is going to sit idly by if they see anything suspiscious right now.
No. 4, every other university (and company for that matter) has a case study in How Not To Handle This and will be extremely diligent in making sure rules and accountability are in place to prevent it.
Specifically for Syracuse University, I think there are some very key learnings our community can take away from what's happened at Penn State to make sure nothing even remotely close to it ever happens here.
Limit "Program First, Individuals Second" Thinking - If you haven't read the Sports Illustrated article on the whole mess, I'd highly suggest that. It's not ground-breaking in terms of the actual scandal. However, it does a fantastic job of outlining how Penn State, under Joe Paterno's watch, fostered an atmosphere that put the program ahead of individuals at all costs.
For years, player infractions were swept away and offenders were kicked to the curb, lest they stain the pearly-white uniforms of the Nittany Lions.
What's almost funny about the whole thing is that, before the sexual abuse news broke, that was considered a positive. In many circles, the way Penn State conducted business was an exemplary example of "America."
Now, when you take the school's "program, not individuals" mentality and the way it manifested itself in the unquestioned love for JoePa, silencing of violaters, shady actions surrounding Jerry Sandusky's transgressions and even their bland uniforms and "We Are Penn State" chant, it all sounds so...Soviet.
Here at Syracuse, we love Doug Marrone. Well, some of us are little less affectionate these days after the three-game losing streak, but for the most part Marrone receives very positive grades from Orange fans. A big part of this is because of Marrone's devotion to SU and what it stands for.
When Doug Marrone says a Syracuse education is the best in the nation, he's not being hyperbolic. He really believes it. We always say that he's the only coach in America that would turn down the Ohio State, Penn State, Florida, Texas and USC jobs in order to coach SU. And I'm pretty sure that's 100% true.
Marrone is a tradition man. He demands that his players are as well. He burns last year's cleats before the next season, a tradition carried over from his head coach, Dick MacPherson. He asks players to wear suits when speaking to the media or traveling. He expects them to uphold the reputation of Syracuse University at all costs.
And many players faced his wrath when they didn't do that in his first two seasons. Marrone seems to have mellowed on his "first-strike-you're-out" policy, if the treatment of Delone Carter and Marcus Sales is any indication. And that's probably a good thing.
Joe Paterno was benevolent dictator at Penn State but he was a dictator nonetheless. And when the person in charge holds the program up higher than the players and people who represent it, there's a chance you can end up down that same path he did.
Even though he coaches basketball, Jim Boeheim is a lot closer to Paterno in terms of legacy and respect within his local community. No Syracuse fan could imagine a scenario in which Jim Boeheim was fired from Syracuse in disgrace. But then again, pp until two weeks ago, no one in Penn State could ever imagine the same about Joe Paterno.
Every single one of us knows a guy who knows a guy who knows a Syracuse police officer who knows about a crime committed by a Syracuse basketball player that, if public, would threaten to tear down the entire program. Who knows how many of those stories are true, if any. But we're not naive. We know SU basketball players (and football players) have received preferential treatment in the world of local law enforcement from time to time. The same as every other school.
And we all remember the sexual assault allegations a few years ago that briefly threatened to derail the careers of Jonny Flynn, Rick Jackson and Scoop Jardine. Cooler heads prevailed but the whole thing left a lot of people wondering. Was it all just blown out of proportion or did some people think about how the consequences could affect SU and nip it in the bud beforehand? We'll never truly know and we probably don't want to go digging.
I suppose my point is, sometimes bad things happen. Some of those bad things are worth making a big stink over and some are not. There is something to be said for protecting the program and protecting the school. However there's a fine line between protecting ourselves and covering up what needs to come out. I just hope Syracuse never ends up on the wrong side of that line.
I like that Doug Marrone respects Syracuse Football more than anyone else in the world. I'd just like to think there is a line that even he would not cross in order to protect the program and I remain hopeful that we'll never have to find out one way or another.
As the Penn State Scandal has reminded us, the cover-up ALWAYS comes out in the end and ALWAYS ends up making the situation 100 times worse.