Mandel’s Musings: With Sandusky Decision Looming, A Few Thoughts

Published on: 21st June, 2012

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New York — With the sickening Jerry Sandusky trial about to come to a close in the public eye, if not for the victims and their families, a few thoughts about what allows coaches like Sandusky to roam free in their bastions of university glory. The question is, why have these men not been subject to the rules and regulations of common society, let alone their employer’s expectations?

The problem is, like it or not, the largest revenue streams at major universities go through their football programs. Plain and simple, football is king on the campuses of our highest profile schools. In fact, the one consistent element that contributes to that high public profile are the sports teams, especially when they win lots of games. There are increasing financial incentives for universities to do whatever is necessary to win lots of games, get ranked nationally, and get selected for a post-season bowl game.

It starts with the letter M and rhymes with honey.

It is not the political scientists nor the business professors or the great medical researchers, working to discover ways to truly improve mankind, who balance those increasingly difficult-to-reconcile university budgets.

Nope. It’s football. That sport, alone becomes the great lifeblood to profitability for most of our biggest colleges.

Does that fact make it any easier to accept the monstrous behavior of a sick man like Sandusky? Of course not. But, it does make an organization and the key players within that organization hesitate before they opt to bring down their entire program in one fell swoop because of the actions of one of their own.

Some people might refer to that as cooking the goose that laid the golden egg.

Those members of the university community who are doing the good work most of the time and following rules tend to operate way below the radar screen while the real cowboys of the campus, the old boys clubs of the sports department and more specifically, the football programs, are enjoying the freedom of doing and acting as they please with little fear of retribution from their “bosses,” a phrase used extremely lightly these days to describe athletic department chairpersons and university presidents.

Money doesn’t flow out of academia, plain and simple. Only at the great research universities does money flow INTO academia. Great research doesn’t enrich universities financially in any significant way. The business of running a college these days has become a poor business. Colleges do not present an economic profile that business schools will study for years on end. Most of what occurs on university campuses take place under the column headed, “cost center,” not “profit center.” Therein lies the problem.

Nothing compares to the gigantic impact college football has on the fiscal health of this nation’s largest schools. Football fills their stadiums every weekend, upwards of 110,000 paying fans who also buy concessions and merchandising, monies that go directly into the university coffers.

Football is also responsible for television networks paying the schools and the governing body of college sports, the NCAA, millions upon millions of dollars to broadcast the games. Post-season Bowl games tack on another 10-20 million dollars on top of the already existing pot of gold for those schools lucky enough to get into a major bowl.

Last season, there were about 40 bowl games played in the post-season, involving schools you barely heard of. Most of these games were created in a variety of markets to sell more of the game sponsors’ crap (Meineke Muffler Bowl?) and, to pay the participating schools (McNeese State vs. Ohio Weselyan????) a couple a mill more just for coming out to Idaho to play the game in front of 25,000 sleeping fans. But, it doesn’t matter. Television packaged these games, got advertisers, and paid out the cash to the schools. Who cares if nobody cares about the Muffler Bowl? It pays (very well) to play in those games, if a couple of million dollars means anything to the bean counters at some of these colleges.

The point is, football is and will remain king of the campuses. The better the coach, the better the team, the more money they’ll rake in. It’s why college presidents like the one at Penn State and the one at Ohio State put up with the serious issues with their football coaches and programs. (See Woodrow Hayes, Ohio State and).

Since there isn’t an old girls network empowered with running college football these days or in the forseeable future, it remains for the old boys network to oversee their fiefdom and ensure the cash flow. In return, these boys get tremendous power and latitude from university administrators who prefer to turn the other way when boys act like boys or worse, act as sociopathic, sick, abusive sub-humans, like Sandusky. Those boys will lose their jobs only if they blatantly (and publicly) embarrass the school.

Take a look at the career-path of the very successful, high-profile coach, Petrino, most recently at Arkansas but prior to that coached 11 different teams in his 27-year career. Petrino has been breaking the rules his entire career while winning more games than most. For his success, he has usually been given a pass by his next employers, who always paid him more money to come over to their school knowing he would continue his record of never having stayed in one job for more than four years. He has left jobs and teams in midseason, leaving his players in the lurch with no warning for reasons he never had the temerity to share with his employers. Suffice to say, he always left for more money and more power and didn’t care if his players were hurt or not.

This time, earlier this year, the married Petrino went a bit too far by having an affair with an intern in the Arkansas athletic dep’t., one he himself had interviewed and hired for her job in the athletic department. Evidently, Petrino and the intern had been seeing each other before the job interview took place so this was a charade of the highest order. He’s about 50-something. She’s an intern. Only when Petrino, riding his motorcycle on a dirt road in Arkansas with the intern on the back seat, her arms around his waist, got into a serious accident did the truth come out. You know, police reports and all that messy truth stuff.

Petrino is out of work now but guaranteed, he will be hired soon by a struggling university football team that needs a winning program so they could reap the financial rewards of having one of the good old boys roaming their campus in search of revenue enhancements.

And, like it or not, university officials will continue to make sure they don’t cook the goose that laid the golden egg.

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