The burden of being a full-time graduate student at the Pennsylvania State University during the academic years of 1973-1976 was almost enough to push my frivolous enjoyment of Penn State football completely out of my life. I was spending much time in the stacks of the Pattee Library. Some of that time was spent on Saturday afternoons, occasionally Saturday afternoons when Joe Paterno's Penn State football team was competing against some other team right down the road from the library.
Don't get me wrong, I was (and remain) a big Penn State football fan, especially because of the pride I took in the belief that Coach Paterno attempted to assure that his players did things right. Education and the building of character first, then the winning of football games. It came to be called The Grand Experiment. But I skipped a few football games precisely because my education was even more important.
I knew numerous students at Penn State who had no interest in football. One of them, Frank Cibulka, was in a few of my Russian language classes. Occasionally, he would visit me at my apartment, where we played Scrabble -- in Russian! Thus, had anyone attempted to suggest that there was a football culture at Penn State that was held in higher esteem than any other cultural values; I would have scoffed at his absurd suggestion.
During my years as a grad student and especially my year as a teaching assistant, (when I assisted Professor George Enteen in teaching The History of Communism and when I replaced Professor S. V. Utechin -- who needed to go to England due to a family medical emergency -- as the person teaching The History of Russia) I came under increased pressure from faculty members to stop wasting my time with spectator sports in general and Penn State football in particular.
For example, during a seminar devoted to how various philosophers examined the question of human freedom, Professor Jack Wikse derided the two nuns at Shea stadium who were seen actually praying for the New York Mets. He questioned America's mindless obsession with spectator sports. Even worse, Professor Utechin explicitly chastised me for wasting time at Penn State football games. "Serious scholars do not do such things."
Thus, I was not surprised to learn that, just a few days ago, a joint statement was issued by former chairmen of the Pennsylvania State University Faculty Senate rebuking the NCAA for its "sweeping assertion that a culture permeating every level of the Penn State community places the football program "in higher esteem than the values of the NCAA, the values of higher education, and most disturbingly the values of human decency." The former chairmen, noting that their own cumulative tenure at Penn State spanned hundreds of years, minced no words: "Not only are these assertions about the Penn State culture unproven, but we declare them to be false."
Then, they added: "None of us has ever been pressured or even asked to change a grade for an athlete, nor have we heard of any cases where that has occurred. We know that there are no phantom courses or bogus majors for athletes at Penn State. Some of us have privately witnessed swift and unyielding administrative actions against small transgressions, actions taken expressly to preserve academic and institutional integrity."
Although it is unclear whether any of these former chairmen were invited to testify before the Special Investigative Counsel that issued the fatally flawed Freeh Report, the contempt with which they regard the Freeh Report is quite clear. "[A]s a document in which evidence, facts, and logical argument are marshaled to support conclusions and recommendations, the Freeh Report fails badly. On a foundation of scant evidence, the report adds layers of conjecture and supposition to create a portrait of fault, complicity, and malfeasance that could well be at odds with the truth."
Even worse, however, was their contempt for the NCAA, which based its unwarranted sanctions on the Freeh Report. "The NCAA Consent Decree, which substantially embellishes the initial Freeh findings in both tone and substance, claimed no standard of proof for its conclusions but nonetheless required Penn State to accept the Freeh Group's assertions as fact."
Given that both the Freeh Report and the NCAA sanctions lack justification, why would any Penn State professor, student or alumnus b satisfied with the cowardly acceptance of both by the Board of Trustees?
A link to the complete statement by the former chairmen can be found at the bottom of this page: http://walter-c-uhler.com/?p=612 .