Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Penn State a Lesson for Other Conferences

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Penn State a Lesson for Other Conferences

Article excerpt


Between quoting Churchill, Shakespeare, Muhammad Ali and I believe all but three of the Seven Dwarfs in his State of the Empire address Tuesday, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive made a reference to Penn State.

He did it as only a smooth, well-practiced executive could. He didn't mention the school by name. Or the deviate in prison. Or the legendary late head coach who so clearly either closed his eyes or looked away.

"Last week's headlines remind us that we must be ever vigilant on all issues of integrity, and that our primary mission is to educate and protect young people," Slive said at the opening of SEC Media Days. "There must be an effective system of checks and balances within the administrative structure to protect all who come in contact with it, especially those who cannot protect themselves. No one program, no one person, no matter how popular, no matter how successful, can be allowed to derail the soul of an institution."

If Slive were running for political office, there would've be a pause immediately following "the soul of an institution" while his supporters broke into thunderous applause.

He struck the perfect chord. He should.

Penn State is a cautionary tale for major college athletics. It shouldn't escape Slive that the same warped power structure that existed in State College, which allowed Jerry Sandusky to continue with his sick and perverted ways, could be mirrored in Tuscaloosa, Baton Rouge, Auburn, Gainesville, Athens, Knoxville or on any campus where the image and success of the college football team rank above everything else in importance.

The SEC has been no stranger to scandal for several decades. Illegal recruiting. Academic fraud. A hot, young, blond, female assistant getting a $20,000 bonus from her sugar daddy, the football coach in Arkansas who clearly operated without oversight. (Just to use a recent example.)

The SEC is stuffed with monster football programs and powerful coaches who are treated as deities. One man's Joe Paterno is another man's Nick Saban.

That's not to pick on Saban. It's just the reality of the situation.

Slive is a smart man. He surely anticipated he might be asked a follow-up question (or two) about his Penn State reference and the potential parallels with SEC schools. …

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