Journalists, both broadcast and print, are faking it. That may be the biggest secret in the 'business.' Journalist or reporter doesn't equate to an expert, although we often times think it.
I fake it on a regular basis. It doesn't make me wrong, it makes me human. I get a story assignment, or two or three, in the morning and then I have to try to understand it while also trying to get everyone and anyone to talk to me about the 'story.' So, by the time 6 p.m. roles around, I become the 'expert.' But truthfully, I'm going with what I think is the story.
The same thing happens in sports, too. Reporters go to games, they watch and keep tabs on every possible story angle, then they write what they saw. One reporter may see a game and pinpoint a plot around a coach, another reporter, covering the same game, may see the protagonist as a player. Reporters are supposed to be objective, but in their interpreting of the story, reporters are inherently biased.
In the wake of the NCAA, specifically its president Mark Emmert, handing out devastating penalties (4 year bowl ban, 20 total/10 annual scholarship reduction 4 yrs, $60 million fine, Vacating all wins '98-2011 ) to Penn State for its covering up of the Jerry Sandusky saga, journalists are crafting their stories. Some saying the NCAA went too far, others saying the NCAA shouldn't have even gotten involved, with a few simply questioning what the penalties will actually mean. Everyone is busy interpreting.
If I was a reporter assigned to cover this entire ugly drama, I would have struggled to define the center of the story. When it was announced that the NCAA was ready to rule and the speculation was it would crush Penn State, my first thought was why? In a way, I figured taking away a bowl game or vacating wins was in a small way trivializing everything. Kids were raped, high-ranking, usually upstanding people covered it up and we're talking about bowl restrictions??
Then, as so often happens for me when I'm out covering an assignment, other parts of the story starting adding up. I started to see more of the picture, at least I think I did, and I began to realize that Penn State did need to get hit, that this was in the realm of what the NCAA does.
If you could put, as a school, Penn State's actions in a vacuum, the cover up that went on for nearly fifteen years. It's obvious that the term 'lack of institutional control' fully applies. And the thing is, you can't put Penn State's cover up into a vacuum.
You can't ignore the severity, the levity, of the situation. A coach, a well-known figure who was considered a local legend, raped kids. Sandusky did these disgusting, unforgivable and unconscionable acts on school property. And officials knew about it. Maybe they didn't know about every rape, but Penn State officials - actually, forget the term official because that dehumanizes them, go with people - knew about some of the rapes, some of the horrid acts and they did nothing.
That's far worse than cheating on an SAT exam, making improper phone calls to recruits, or buddying up to agents. Far worse. And while the normal jurisdiction for the NCAA is the usual 'cheating' to get better players on the field, it doesn't mean the governing body of college athletics - taking out the BCS for the time being - can't come down with vengeance. A severe penalty can't take back what happened, it doesn't help all those poor and innocent children, but it does hold people, or at least the symbol of the school's power, accountable.
While the main culprits of the cover up at Penn State are gone, specifically Joe Paterno, it doesn't make the school immune to penalty. See, the cheating schools, the ones who's violations are nothing compared to Penn State, all had the lack of institutional control label. And at its core, that phrase essentially means football, not academics, ruled schools. That was the case at Penn State. They placed the value on words like legacy and revenue over the importance on actions like protection and doing the right thing.
Emmert acted in a way no other NCAA president ever has in doling out the severe penalties without first an investigation and the support of the entire board. Somehow people, journalists and fans alike, think that means Emmert has set a dangerous precedent where he can do whatever he wants. I disagree, I see Emmert's actions as unprecedented in an unprecedented case and of great need. If a school, any school ever, allows for what happened at Penn State to happen on their campus, Emmert should be able to go above and beyond to remind said school of what's right and what's wrong.
Anyone who thinks this is Pandora's Box opening up, where the NCAA will be able to hammer programs at its will, needs to take a step back. Think about the entirety of this sad story. Remember the illegal and immoral acts of Sandusky, remember that people within Penn State knew of some of those acts and didn't do anything, remember that, as a school, Penn State cared more for their perception than the fate of those tortured kids.
Bowl restrictions and scholarship losses doesn't change what happened, but it certainly reminds everyone that an institution of higher learning is more than just football wins and coaching legacies. It reminds us all that at the highest levels, control is not only needed, it's required. And if control, a focus on learning and fostering and, ultimately protecting, is lost, evil can and often times results. I'm not an expert, but even I know that a school is nothing without control.