SBD/July 17, 2012/Colleges

Emmert Says "Systemic Failures" At Penn State Offer "Horrible Object Lesson"

NCAA President Mark Emmert appeared on PBS’ “Tavis Smiley” on Monday night to discuss various topics affecting college athletics, with host Smiley telling him, “You’re the one guy I expected to cancel this week.” Laughing, Emmert said, “It’s been a busy week.” The discussion began with response to the Freeh Report on Penn State, to which Emmert replied, “It’s just such a despicable set of acts that were enabled -- it appears -- by an organizational culture. You just come away from it thinking, ‘How in the world can this happen?’” Emmert said the NCAA is “trying to ascertain what role in all of this the NCAA has to play” but the organization “does not want to get involved in any of the criminal investigations.” Emmert said of the Freeh Report, “It’s pretty hard to read that report and not conclude that there were systemic failures across the institution, including and in some cases especially within the athletic department.” When asked if the “death penalty” against the Penn State football program could be levied, Emmert said, “I don’t want to take anything off the table.” Smiley asked Emmert his thoughts about the “outsized control that athletic programs and their leaders and coaches have in college sports.” Emmert: “That’s one of the biggest questions in front of us. … The good news is that we now have this horrible object lesson. It’s caused … everyone to go back and look at their programs … and use this disastrous circumstance as something that’s a catalyst to positive improvements.”

PAY TO PLAY: Emmert reiterated that he is opposed to paying college athletes “because these are students.” Emmert: “Once you convert a student-athlete into an employee, then that relationship is all different. Then why do we even require that they be students? If you just want them to be employees who work for the university then let’s just subcontract with the local minor league team and get on with it.” Emmert said instead of paying student-athletes, “We’ve got to cover the full cost of attendance for a student to go to school.” He also spoke about the new college football playoff system and said it “is a great step in the right direction” and the Final Four format “will at least partially satisfy folks that have been clamoring for a championship game.” Emmert said the potential revenue from this playoff system is “unprecedented” (“Tavis Smiley,” PBS, 7/16). 

NOCERA WEIGHS IN: In N.Y., Joe Nocera writes under the header, “Throw The Book At Penn State,” and states the school will “almost surely finish the painful process of removing the halo from the head of its late coach, Joe Paterno, which the Freeh report has begun." Only the NCAA "can impose the so-called death penalty, forcing Penn State to shut down its football program for a period of time." Nocera: "Yes, it would make a mess of television schedules, not to mention the rest of Penn State’s athletic teams -- which rely on the revenue that football generates -- but it’s the only way to send the right message” (N.Y. TIMES, 7/17).

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