Penn State Univ. is "reassessing the role of its giant football program in the wake of a sexual abuse scandal," according to a front-page cover story by Johnson & Whiteside of USA TODAY. PSU President Rodney Erickson, in his first extensive interview since taking office last month, yesterday said that he is "seeking to transform the university's public image from a football school to a 'world class research institution.'" Erickson: "We want that to be the front face of the university." Erickson said that the school is "establishing a national Center for the Protection of Children to conduct research and provide treatment to sex abuse victims across the country." He added that it will be "initially funded with part of $2 million in college football bowl proceeds it is slated to receive from the Big Ten Conference." PSU VP/Student Affairs Damon Sims said, "I don't think we need to promote ourselves as simply a football school." But he added that a "de-emphasis does not equate to 'damaging' the program." Sims said that it would be a "'terrible mistake' to pay a new coach on a scale equal to other recent football hires." Former PSU football player Lydell Mitchell said any effort to "de-emphasize football makes no sense whatsoever." Mitchell: "We never want to forget those victims. But to try and put this all on football is just ludicrous." Erickson said that former PSU football coach Joe Paterno "won't be part of the rebuilding process or have any input into who the university might hire as [its] next coach" (USA TODAY, 12/7). NCAA President Mark Emmert yesterday said that "every school should examine its athletic program." Emmert: "There's no question the allegations at Penn State should cause us all to look at the role of an athletic program and determine whether or not we have everything in proper balance" (USA TODAY, 12/7).
BOWLED OVER: AD AGE's Rich Thomaselli noted PSU's football program was "apparently snubbed from more attractive -- and more lucrative -- bowl games." PSU will play Houston in the TicketCity Bowl on Monday, Jan. 2, in a nationally televised game in Dallas, but that game is "seventh out of eight on the Big Ten Conference's pecking order of bowl games." PSU was "bypassed three times by bowl games that selected teams with worse records." Insight Bowl Chair Duane Woods said, "We think negative media would overshadow the game experience for both teams and negatively impact our sponsors and partners, leaving a negative experience for all participants." Another bowl game exec said, "Nobody wants to punish the players for something they had nothing to do with, but I know I wouldn't want Penn State here when another interview with Jerry Sandusky ends up on the front page of The New York Times. We have a sponsor to answer to" (ADAGE.com, 12/5).