Penn State: Unhappy Valley

By Ken Feltman

Isn’t Joe Paterno the second Big Ten conference football coach to be fired or forced out in the last year, with rumors about the reasons behind the departure of a third?

We are all shocked at a football culture that could ignore sexual abuse of small boys by a varsity coach. The Big Ten needs to stop scrambling for television contracts long enough to have every university president and the employees of all the athletic departments learn a lesson that we assumed they knew: Abuses must be reported instantly and insistently.

Penn State is an excellent educational institution and federal aid for educational programs should not be withheld. Scholars should not suffer because of the horrible abuses in the athletics department, no matter how sickening those abuses are.

The trustees of all big-time football schools need to get their universities back to serving the needs of their scholars. Students have a more important purpose than filling up the student section on Saturday. For the jocks and the fans, this may be difficult. The culture needs to change. When one of his players was suspended for failing grades, a former head coach at Ohio State remarked that academics sometimes got in the way of football.

As an alum of a Big Ten school, I feel especially saddened that one of our universities – and one of our best ones, at that – has tolerated a culture than turned its back on abused boys. But I admit that I am addicted to Big Ten sports. I follow my team and attend games. Maybe it is time to stop the nonsense, as the Ivies did decades ago. If the Big Ten is as big as we claim in moments of victory, maybe it is big enough to lead to more common sense in college athletics. Think so? Or is that a job for someone else – just as reporting and resolving repeated abuses of boys seems to have been the responsibility of someone else at Penn State.

Also published at Politico.com

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About Ken Feltman

Ken Feltman is past-president of the International Association of Political Consultants and the American League of Lobbyists. He is chairman of Radnor Inc., a political consulting and government relations firm in Washington, D.C. Feltman founded the U.S. and European Conflict Indexes in 1988. The indexes have predicted the winner of every U.S. presidential election beginning in 1988, plus the outcome of several European elections. In May of 2010, the Conflict Index was used by university students in Egypt. The Index predicted the fall of the Mubarak government within the next year.
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