I'll admit, I'm very torn on today's "unprecedented" NCAA scorched-Earth ruling on the Penn St. Nittany Lions.
On one hand, as I've said, I do think that the culture of Penn State football needed to be penalized and clearly that's what happened. Being a Penn St. fan, not to mention player or coach, will be tough sledding for the next decade. I cannot imagine that a junior or senior in high school with a future in football would want to spend their college career in the no-man's land of Happy Valley. Like so many have said, it's not the death penalty, but maybe a two-year death penalty would have been easier to recover from.
On the other hand, as a Syracuse Orange fan, this scares the crap out of me. You've got a school embroiled in a child sex abuse scandal that is being punished by a governing body with questionable power to do so all on the back on a report created by a school-funded outside agency that makes sweeping judgements on the school's actions during the crisis.
Does that sound familiar to anyone?
While nowhere near the depth and gross misconduct on the level of Penn State, Syracuse's own recent investigation uncovered that while the University did some things well in their 2005 internal audit, they should have done more. And it's up for debate as to whether or not SU violated some kind of law or bylaw by not reporting the incident to police.
So what's to stop Mark Emmert and the NCAA from swooping in right now and handing down penalties on Syracuse basketball based solely on what's in that report?
Sure, they wouldn't be massive, but who's to say what the correct punishment is. We're still debating if what happened today is correct, whatever correct means. We don't even know if crimes were actually committed and yet, based on the precedent set today, the NCAA would be able to take away Jim Boeheim's wins, dock scholarships, fine the school and ban us from the post-season if they see fit.
The NCAA has tried to make it as clear as possible that this is not a precedent-setting decision, even though the act of making the decision is in and of itself a precedent. What concerns me more is this strange reaction that people in power seem to be having to the realization that men in power misused it.
Because of the misused power, they seem to want more of it.
Jim Delany, who is arguably already one of the two-or-three most powerful men in college athletics, wanted to get the authority to have a say in firing Big Ten school coaches in the wake of the Penn State scandal. Wisely, that was shot down. But now NCAA president, when not eating his daily lobster salad paid for by college athletes, has been granted the authority to make sweeping, program-changing decisions based on things that probably aren't his to make.
Absolute power corrupted Penn State and the NCAA's response to that was to give itself even more absolute power.
If the Penn State scandal should have taught us anything (other than protecting innocent children no matter what), it's that giving a select group of people (or one person) too much power is never, ever a good idea. Too much power for too long creates legacies that need to be protected and reputations that demand to be idolized.
There's that line in The Matrix that keeps coming back to me. When The Oracle and Neo are discussing The Merovingian. Neo asks what The Merovingian wants...
"What do all men with power want? More power."
Sadly, while there are lessons we've learned because of this tragedy, that's one I don't think we have.