Those four words now accurately define and describe the situation at Penn State University.
After special investigator and former Federal Judge and FBI Director Louis Freeh took the time to invesitgate and detail what actually happened at Penn State it was left to all of the rest of the college football world to ask themselves the following questions:
- How could something like this actually have happened?
- How were the initial allegations of child abuse not reported as required by Federal law?
- How could a known pedophile be allowed to continue to exist among other children?
- How could a legitimate, respected and prestigious institution of higher learning become so blinded by winning that it would lose sight of its ethical, professional and legal responsibilities?
- How could anyone, anywhere and in any position of power compromise themselves to the point where they completely forgot what is really important and matters most?
Before we deal with the Penn State case, let's take a minute to look at some U.S child abuse statistics. According to the latest statistics an estimated 3.3 million referrals of child abuse or neglect were received by public social service agencies. Of these referrals, 899,000 children were confirmed to be victims of abuse or neglect (DHHS).
- 12 out of every 1,000 children in the United States were found to be victims of maltreatment.
- 5 children die from maltreatment each day in the U.S.
- There is a report of child abuse ever 10 seconds in the U.S.
- Approximately 80% of those who were abused develop a mental health disorder.
- Almost 2/3 of those in substance abuse treatment report having been abused as children.
- About 30% of those who were abused as children go on to abuse their own children.
- There is a cost of over $120 billion a year due to the maltreatment of children.
Reports of suspected child maltreatment come from multiple sources. Over one-half of reports (61.7 percent) were from professionals who are considered “mandated reporters”. Mandated reporters are required by law to report suspected abuse and neglect. The most common mandated reporter referral sources are social services personnel, legal professionals, law enforcement, criminal justice personnel and medical and mental health professionals.
Maltreatment can take many forms, and some children can suffer from more than one type. Since 1999, the majority of children confirmed to be victims of child maltreatment experienced neglect. The following are the percentages of children who experienced maltreatment in the U.S.:
- Neglect: 63%
- Physical Abuse: 17%
- Sexual Abuse: 10%
- Emotional/Psychological Abuse: 7%
- Medical Neglect: 2%
- Other (abandonment, etc.): 14%
Now back to the Penn State scandal. If there was ever a more clear case of deliberate and intentional lack of institutional control in the history of the NCAA it is hard to think of. And certainly it would be extremely difficult to think of one that involves the actual negligence or intent to allow or cause physical harm to innocent children victims as this case clearly shows.
If you asked me if I believed that players have been given money by boosters at almost every major university in the Nation, I would say yes. Illegal benefits probably happen all of the time.
If you asked me if I believed that players are being enticed to sign with certain schools with offers of money or sex or other sordid entanglements, I would say sure. It may simply be a matter of who gets caught at playing "the game" and who does not.
But if you asked me if I believed that a university would be involved in any way in creating an environment where their actions (or lack thereof) would allow a coach to actively and continuously abuse and endanger young, innocent children right under the noses of University administrators, I would have said no way.
But that was before the Penn State case was exposed college sports fans to the new reality: that at least at one institution winning at all costs and the reputation of a head coach is much more important than the safety and lives of children.
The new reality is that a major university could engage in what we now know is conceivably the most dangerous and damaging behavior that could possibly be imagined. It is now clear that not only did Joe Paterno, the Athletic Director and at least two other University administrators know about what was happening, but even worse they failed to do anything about it and allowed it to continue.
Shame on you Joe Paterno.
Shame on you Penn State University.
Shame on all of us for creating the monster we know as college athletics.
Sure, the monster chose to rear its ugly head at Penn State, but who really knows what else has and is still going on out there in locker rooms and other dark corners of campuses all across the United States where a protective hush-hush mentality rules the college athletics landscape?
The frightening fact is that in today's highly lucrative and competitive world of college athletics we may now have to assume that some of those people in power have accepted and embraced the theory of "win at all costs and damn the consequences" and that "the ends justify the means."
That is precisely why the NCAA has a professional duty, an ethical mandate and a moral obligation to apply the Death Penalty to Penn State University.
If ever the NCAA needed to set a precedent that this type of unethical and even criminal behavior, behavior that clearly endangered the lives of innocent children, simply will not be tolerated at any level at any university it is NOW.
If they fail to act, and act quickly and decisively, then who really knows what else the 120 or so other major NCAA member institutions would be capable of doing?
We do know one thing for sure: Today there is only sadness in Happy Valley.