As the tawdry events continue to trickle out of Happy Valley in the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal, it may be time for the school’s Board of Trustees to implement a response of nuclear proportions… suspend the football program for five years. Impossible you say – No! Unthinkable – No! Necessary – Yes!
A decisive, swift and unexpected decision to suspend the football program is nearly the only option left for the Board of Trustees if it wants to send a clear message about its recognition of the seriousness of the situation and its commitment to aggressively addressing corrective measures. The football program is already on a path into the wilderness of college sports. Even without the eruption of the current scandal, finding a legitimate replacement for the legendary Joe Paterno would have been a serious challenge. Recruiting student-athletes to the school to play football will be an even greater challenge. Would a parent consider sending their child to a school in the midst of such a firestorm of controversy, especially one involving the sexual abuse of children?
If the University were to self-impose a suspension of the football program, it would simultaneously need to do everything in its power to support the current students and employees. All scholarships would have to be honored. Student-athletes wishing to transfer to other universities would have to be given all appropriate and allowable assistance without penalty or sanction. Employees of the football program would need to be offered other positions within the University or assisted in finding other employment.
Impossible you say, not so! The NCAA imposed 1-year a suspension of the Southern Methodist University (SMU) football program in 1987. The school declined to play in 1988 as well, even though the NCAA would have allowed an abbreviated football schedule that season. The NCAA imposed what ultimately became a two-year penalty on SMU in the wake of its investigation into the payment of players to attend the school to play football from the late 1970’s through 1986. A serious infraction to be sure, but not one rising to the level of the alleged sexual abuse of children by a university employee and with the apparent knowledge of at least some of Mr. Sandusky’s superiors.
There are obviously contractual obligations to consider with employees, with the other schools of the Big 10 Conference, sponsors and many others associated with the University. However, the outlook for the Penn State football is bleak; the wound to the program is already so deep it may be fatal in many eyes. The suspension of Penn State football by the University is its only chance to truly begin the healing process. For more information on the Fallston Group call 410.420.2001. Or send email inquiries to info@FallstonGroup.com, a crisis communications company.