By TOM LEA
MADISON – Because the ongoing scandal casting the darkest of dark shadows over a once proud Penn State football program didn’t create a competitive advantage for the current football team, Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez is hesitant to assume the NCAA is going to issue the death penalty on one of the Big Ten’s member institutions.
“There would be too much collateral damage to people that had nothing to do with it,” Alvarez, speaking on ESPN Madison’s (FM 100.5) ‘In the Trenches’ radio program Thursday night, said. “I think the Big Ten and the NCAA is waiting to see what Penn State — the new administration — will impose upon themselves.”
So far the NCAA has not gotten involved in regards to imposing sanctions on the program that seemingly covered up former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky’s repeated sexual misconduct as it related to children. Penn State has yet to levy any sort of penalty on itself, although investigations continue to murmer.
Sandusky was found guilty of 45 of 48 counts of sexual abuse of a child last month. The charges demand a minimum of 60 years in prison and a maximum of 442. He is currently behind bars.
There has been strong public support behind the potential unleashing of the death penalty resulting from the lack of action inside Penn State's athletic department — basically eliminating all football operations for a specified amount of time — but Alvarez isn’t fond of that sentiment.
“Let’s be realistic,” he said. “Everybody who was involved is gone. The athletic director is out of there, he’s on paid leave (Tim Curley). The president has been fired (Graham Spanier). Another administrator is gone, Joe (Paterno) is gone. They’ve taken some steps already and they’re revisiting this.
“They have not broken any NCAA rules. Institutional control? Yes. But where do you go with that? It’s unprecedented.”
Louis Freeh, longtime director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, released his 267-page report that strongly suggested a culture of secrecy inside the Penn State athletic department and amongst its board of trustees on July 12.
“Our most saddening and sobering finding,” Freeh explained during his press conference on July 12. “Is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State.”
Freeh dug through 3.5 million emails and interviewed more than 430 people involved with the case.
“They’re trying to do things the right way,” Alvarez said. “They’re addressing them. They don’t have their head in the sand. They’re not denying anything. I’ve been very impressed with Dave Joyner (PSU’s new athletic director). He’s a no-nonsense guy. I can see that.
“They’ve taken a stand. They’ve fired people in very high places.”
Alvarez went on to talk about the difference between the Penn State case and cases that resulted in programs being placed on probation by the NCAA, such as Ohio State (free tattoos) and Southern California (improper benefits).
“There was no competitive advantage here, which the school’s put on probation did have,” he said. “They had a competitive advantage on the things they were allowing their players to do or things they were allowing them to receive.
“This is a moral issue. The lack of institutional control does play into it.”
TOO MUCH POWER INDEED
One of the much-supported gripes regarding Paterno, his legacy and the recently unveiled culture of cover up highlighted in the Freeh report is that the long-standing head coach had accrued too much power throughout his decades-upon-decades run atop the football food chain.
Alvarez, a former Big Ten coach, echoed that sentiment by sharing a story regarding Paterno and former athletic director Tim Curley.
“Tim Curley was a walk-on for him,” Alvarez said. “Tim was a graduate assistant (GA) for him for one year and then he put him in the administration. He (Paterno) got Tim that job. I love Tim Curley and I have great admiration for him, always have. He wouldn’t let Tim go to practice. He kicked him out of practice. Can you imagine that?
“Who’s running that place? You think Tim is going to tell him,’ Okay, you’re going to step down from the job’ or ‘No, that’s not right?’
Alvarez, though not implying things of the same extent, said Paterno probably wasn’t the only head coach that had outstanding power within his respective program.
“Joe was bigger than the program,” Alvarez said. “Joe was bigger than the school. I’m not too sure Woody Hayes wasn’t the same way, although they let Woody go after he punched an opposing player on the sideline. Let’s take a look at Bobby Knight. How strong was Bobby Knight when he was at Indiana?
“I’m sure people would say, although he was fired, that there wasn’t anybody stronger than him and he was going to get his way.”
Listen to Alvarez’s entire interview here.
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