Penn State: A Season in Purgatory
By: Michael R. Shannon
On Saturday, September 8th, the University of Virginia has a once–in–a–lifetime opportunity to demonstrate how an institution obeys the same honor code that governs its students.
The Cavaliers can prove to the world that UVA’s honor code is more than mere words when they refuse to play their football game against Penn State.
But wait, you say, that would be premature. The NCAA has not made its decision regarding possible sanctions. So what. That’s like the 37 neighbors who heard Kitty Genovese screaming for help while being stabbed to death, claiming they didn’t want to get involved because the police hadn’t begun an investigation.
One of the core values at UVA is “honor and integrity.” What’s more, “students are expected to hold themselves and their peers to high standards inside and outside the classroom and to engage ethically in their local, national and international communities.”
How can the university hold its students to a standard it’s not willing to meet? Playing Penn State means turning a blind eye to depravity and what the Freeh report termed “the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims.” An individual or institution cannot associate with the dishonorable without tarnishing its own honor.
What Joe Paterno and the See No, Hear No and Speak No Evil cabal did at Penn State was against the law and the laws of decency, but it did not violate NCAA rules. The only role for the NCAA in this scandal is allowing any Penn State player who wishes to transfer to do so without losing a second of eligibility.
Any “death penalty” sanctions the NCAA might take are outside its authority and simply unnecessary if the universities on Penn State’s football schedule live up to the bromides they broadcast to students.
One of the many problems undermining the country’s future is American passivity. We sit and wait for government or some outside “authority” to take action while we check The Drudge Report to see if anything has happened. We don’t trust our instincts on almost anything. We rely on “experts” who tell us how to raise our children, train our dogs and relate to our fellow man.
In the face of great outrage a self–reliant person or institution can and should act individually to try and repair the fabric of society. I believe the operative phrase is “think globally, act locally.”
Sure, refusing to play Penn State and urging the other schools to do the same requires a little more effort and commitment than starting a Facebook page, but the result is much more impressive.
Still I can hear the administration’s objections. Refusing to play the game will result in lost revenue for the football team. What that excuse tells students is UVA’s convictions are rock–solid as long as they are convenient and cost free. Besides this reasoning is eerily similar to the rationalizations Paterno and his shower sleuths used to justify refusing to report child rape to the police.
Where I grew up a decision by UVA to live by its honor code and refuse to associate with a football program defined by lies and exploitation is called putting your money where your mouth is. (Here in Washington I believe the term is a “fiscal commitment demonstration project.”)
Then there is the legal excuse: UVA has a signed contract; the school is committed. Then break the contract. Surely it contains a “moral turpitude” clause, and if not I’ll contribute to UVA’s legal defense fund.
There is, however, a solution to the revenue problem that allows UVA to maintain its honor. Instead of playing Penn State, UVA plays the University of Ohio, which is Penn State’s first opponent. The Bobcats expected to be annihilated by Penn State anyway; so visiting Charlottesville merely changes the locale of the execution.
Once UVA and Ohio refuse to play Penn State the pressure not to play begins to cascade on the remaining schools. Positive peer pressure — a phenomenon almost unknown in modern America — is revitalized and the rest of the schedule falls into line.
It’s fine if Big Ten conference schools attempt to replace Penn State by scheduling a team that doesn’t bring the ghosts of molested boys into the locker room. Or, on what would’ve been game day, the schools can hold one of the “conversations” that are so popular in academia and discuss “social justice” for little boys.
Refusing to play Penn State is the right and honorable thing to do. Even better, the refusal leaves Joe Paterno with a fitting legacy for his last team. The 2012 Nittany Lions will be undefeated, unscored upon and untouchable.
Michael R. Shannon is a public relations and advertising consultant with corporate, government and political experience around the globe. He is a dynamic and entertaining keynote speaker. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.