Yesterday I read this letter that appeared on the editorial page of the Dallas Morning News criticizing the sanctions handed down by the NCAA. The letter writer said those sanctions only punished the innocent — past and present football players.
This person still doesn’t get it, but then she lives in a state that perpetuates the same kind of thought that led to the Penn State scandal.
Now I thought, at the time, I was a comparatively well informed 14 year old, but I had never heard of the University of Houston prior to our establishing lodging in the Bayou City. My first mistake was admitting that to a new neighbor and a U of H grad. "You never heard of the University of Houston?" he asked with this look of absolute astonishment. "Why just two years ago we played Ole Miss!!!"
That, dear friends, was how I learned that, in Texas, the quality of the universities was measured by the notoriety of the schools its football team played.
So that’s the culture that this letter writer was raised in. Still, however, she doesn’t get it.
Let’s set the record straight here. The NCAA sanctions had nothing directly to do with sexually abusing innocent children. They did, however, have everything to do with the perpetuation of the culture I just described above — a culture in which football is so important that it takes priority over preventing the sexual abuse of children on the university’s campus. All these people involved in the football program — players as well as coaches — created and maintained this image of the ideal football program and nothing was to be uttered that in any way could shatter that image. Whether they knew that abuse was taking place on campus is irrelevant — the crime was willingly participating in a program that all the participants were convinced was above reproach.
And that’s what the NCAA punished. But more than that, it said loud and clear to all universities: "Sports have an important place in a university’s life, but they are not what keeps the institution’s heart beating."