Thursday, June 21, 2007

Has Penn State Lost It's Integrity?

This blog has not generally been devoted to critical coverage of other universities' football programs, with the occasional notable exception. But Penn State deserves some heat today. I used to respect Penn State. I used to consider the Nittany Lions to have a lot in common with the Fighting Irish. They respected tradition, with their old-school uniforms and their old-school coach. I felt that Penn State was one of the schools that "got it" with respect to the "student" part of the phrase "student-athlete," like Notre Dame does. I used to think that Joe Paterno ran his program with integrity. In recent years, my perception of Joe Pa and PSU started to erode, as evidence began to accumulate that getting star players on the field and winning games was a higher priority than setting a good example and doing things the "right way."

But today I am over Penn State. The scales have fallen from my eyes, and I clearly see that PSU is just another big state school with a big-time football program driven by over sized expectations and demanding alumni. Penn State is no different from Florida State, Oklahoma, Arkansas, or Tennessee. In fact, the Lions would probably be every bit as comfortable in the SEC as in the Big 10 + 1.

In scanning the news this morning I came across a story that makes no sense to me. Apparently, Penn State will permit players who have been expelled from the "university" to practice with their football team even while still expelled from school. From the article:

Two Penn State football players ordered to stand trial for their roles in an off-campus fight were expelled from school for part of the summer but will be allowed to take part in preseason practice.

Defense attorneys ... said ... their clients will be expelled for the second summer semester, which begins July 3.

[The attorneys] said the players will be eligible to participate in preseason practice, which begins around Aug. 5, a little less than two weeks before the end of the second summer session.

Translation: At least two of the players allegedly criminally involved in a frightening Spring melee will be "expelled" from Summer school (which starts July 3rd) but will still be eligible to practice with the football team when it starts Fall practice two weeks before the end of the Summer session from which they have been expelled. Is that even legal? Does the NCAA permit persons who are not enrolled at a university to practice with the football team for said university? And even if it is legal, can this be seen as anything less than a total sellout? The punishment for these players is that they don't have to go to class this Summer but they still get to play football. Wow, that's harsh.

Maybe the story is being reported wrong. And I don't want to get into a debate about the guilt or innocence of the accused players. But if you are expelled from school, doesn't it seem like a fundamental principle that you should be expelled from the extracurricular activities at the school as well?

But lest you think Joe Pa has lost control of his team and his players, be warned that you too could find yourself picking up litter in Happy Valley if you misbehave. Or if your teammates misbehave. Now that's accountability.

It's time to go, Joe.


Irish_Wertzy said...

I was dumbfounded as well when I read that article. I am amazed at how that works as well. Are they allowed to use the PSU FB team facilitied this summer to workout as well while expelled? They definitely would have the time now that they do not have to take class, or put another way, since they have no class.

I can not wait to see how the Penn State fans respond to this, since they are so quick to lash out at other schools issues.

While I can not say I was a Penn State fan, I did not dislike them like I do Ohio State and Miami. No more. Now they are just another program selling out for victory. I would rather go 5-7 next year than go 10-2, 11-1 and have the program be tarnished like that.

Anonymous said...

A little ironic that a Domer blogger would criticize the punishment given to PSU athletes, given that ND just came off of NCAA probation a few years ago and has been cited with major infractions by the NCAA on three seperate occasions.

Were you aware that Penn State athletics have never received a single NCAA infraction in any sport, much less football? How many other major programs can say that?

Was expulsion for the summer session enough punishment for being in a fight? I don't really know, but it doesn't seem unreasonable.

By the way, they are not permitted on campus during their expulsion.

Anonymous said...

I can't wait until 9/8.

OC Domer said...

Anonymous -

Yes, Notre Dame got hit with an NCAA probation. Full story is here: Kim Dunbar Case.

Bottom line - an embezzler used the stolen money to make gifts to her ND football player boyfriend. If Dunbar hadn't joined the "Quarterback Club" for $25, she wouldn't have been considered a "booster" and no violation would have occurred. Note that a $25 donation to the school won't even get you an application to be in the lottery for a chance to buy football tickets.

And I want to publicly apologize right now for that 1954 "improper tryouts" violation.

How are the players going to practice football if they aren't allowed on campus?

Anonymous said...

practice doesn't begin until the summer session is over on August 15th.

Anonymous said...

First of all, that wasn't the first-ever NCAA sanction for ND, as the linked article alleges.

Secondly, the Dunbar incident wasn't the only reason for the infraction. There was also a university employee who was providing extra benefits and writing papers for players . . . much worse than having some players get in a fight.

Regardless, i still think that ND has integrity, in a college football world with few such programs. But maybe think before you criticize a program like Penn State over a simple fight.

Irish_Wertzy said...

If it was a simple fight, as you put it, that would be one thing. But, after getting into it with one guy, you call some of the biggest guys on campus (criminal solicitation), "break into and enter (according to the initial charges)" the apartment that guy went into, and proceed to throw down against obviously undermatched guys is another thing all together. And I think that overall, if you look at the punishments doled out by ND for their student athletes is more severe than most, ie. most recent: starting point guard kicked out of school for a real semester during his bball season (not a little summer school one that may not even affect their ability to play in their sport) for having a single joint in his car. Over the top, possibly. But that is what you sign on for when you come to ND. He wasn't cleaning the arena after a b-ball game.

I also cannot wait for 9/8. ND will have a tough time in that atmosphere, at night with a new QB. That being said, I have never been to a game in Happy Valley, and if the ND ticket lottery is good to me, I may at least get to experience one of the better venues in college football, if not a win there. That being said. . .

Go Irish!

Irish_Wertzy said...

Also, anonymous, per the players lawyers: "Baker's attorney, Karen Muir, and Scirrotto's attorney, Ron McGlaughlin, said the players will be eligible to participate in preseason practice, which begins around Aug. 5, a little less than two weeks before the end of the second summer session."

Contradicts your statement: "practice doesn't begin until the summer session is over on August 15th."

Lawyer could be wrong. I'm just saying is all. . .

Anonymous said...

wertzy - keep in mind, there are only criminal charges against two players, and nobody has been convicted of anything yet. if those two players are convicted of a serious crime, i would expect further, more serious, punishments for the university. so don't jump to conclusions yet.

Irish_Wertzy said...

I know, but the punishments I was talking about were only for those two. I don't have a problem with the punishments for the other guys. And while I agree on the conviction part, the university does have its own disciplinary board, and could have taken additional actions (no FB participation until resolved.) They could still go to class to ensure they maintained their eligibility so that if they are cleared, then they can jump right back into it. Would seem a lot less PHJ like. (PHJ = Paris-Hilton-Justice)

Bradley said...

Anonymous said...

wertzy - keep in mind, there are only criminal charges against two players, and nobody has been convicted of anything yet. if those two players are convicted of a serious crime, i would expect further, more serious, punishments for the university. so don't jump to conclusions yet.

The fact that there are only charges against 2 of them is a much larger problem in my eyes. If you or I got 15 of our biggest friends, crashed into someone's house, and beat the s*** out of them ALL 16 attackers would be charged. But since these guys are football players, only 2 of them are being charged.

Everyone one of the attackers should be have been charged and expelled from the school (and all extracurricular activities) until the legal proceedings have been completed.

Anonymous said...

if they expelled every kid that got into a fight, there wouldn't be many students left at Penn State. you seem to be applying a higher standard to these kids, which i don't think is fair.

on the contrary, many would argue that no punishment should be given until there is a ruling in the legal cases.

OC Domer said...

Folks - I purposely avoided getting into the guilt or innocence questions. I have no idea what really happened at the fight.

And I'm not sure that there is any parallel between NCAA violations and the failure to hold individual athletes accountable for their misconduct. Notre Dame takes a hard line with it's student-athletes, which I think is the best approach. Other programs tend to take the "we'll let the legal system handle it" approach, which is pretty laughable, especially since the legal system is notoriously lenient with popular athletes.

The point of the post is: These kids have been (cough, cough) "expelled" but are still going to be allowed to practice with the football team. According to the story (reported all over the internet), practice starts two weeks before the end of the second Summer semester. Maybe "anonymous" has better info than the attorney and the Associated Press. Maybe not.

All I know is that if you get suspended, let alone expelled, from Notre Dame, you aren't participating in any university-related activities, including sports, until you have gone crawling on your hands and knees back to the University and been formally granted re-admission. Apparently they have a different definition of "expelled" in Pennsylvania.

Anonymous said...

i agree that if they are expelled for the summer session they should not be allowed to practice and would be shocked if they were, despite what some attorney may say.

i believe that when you're suspended, you're not allowed to set foot on the campus, so don't see how they could practice even if Joe was willing to let them in.

we'll find out soon enough what the real story is.

Anonymous said...

Penn State fan here.

I think they should be kept out of practice until the expulsion is up. but that isn't what was decided and I'm not going to complain. When a crappy call goes to your team in football and you know it, most times you don't complain.

But I completely disagree with your comment on JoPa's punishment. You praised him above for being an old-school coach, and then when he pulls a true old-school maneuver, you criticize him.

The entire team is being punished because any member of the team could have called up Scriotto and told him to let it go and not bust into this dude's apartment. I don't believe just as JoPa does not believe that someone who was not involved in the fight could have done something to prevent it. They are a team on and off the field, and they forgot it. And now on Sundays they will remember it very well. And this move will not hurt the team, they will be stronger for it.