The release of the Freeh Report last month capped arguably the biggest scandal in the history of American higher education.
The 267-page document, the result of an independent investigation led by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, is laden with details about Pennsylvania State University senior officials’ inaction in the wake of allegations against now-convicted child molester and former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. The report primarily highlights a “total disregard for the safety and welfare” of Sandusky’s victims and a failure by school administrators to follow federal provisions requiring crimes of such nature to be reported.
It will take a while for the sting to subside, but the lingering ordeal can at least provide a cautionary tale for schools nationwide, including USC, as to how a football culture can overwhelm a university.
Among the reasons for Penn State’s inaction was “a culture of reverence for the football program that is ingrained at all levels of the campus community,” Freeh said in his report.
Like Penn State, USC is a school that upholds a storied legacy on the gridiron, one that lends itself to local, national and even international acclaim.
But the Nittany Lions’ program serves as a stark reminder of how deference toward football can go too far, even motivating a university president to cover up allegations of sexual abuse in order to protect the team and its coaches. Football became not just a varsity sport played by student-athletes but a way of life that clouded the judgment of administrators and fans alike.
USC, as well as other schools boasting elite collegiate athletic programs, should always understand the balance between preserving its image and making moral decisions. Trojan football does not define our school. It’s more than just a typical aspect of student life — in fact, it’s an undeniably important part of it — but it also has its limits.
In 2012, this school will compete for college football’s highest honor: a BCS national championship. But as students, faculty and administrators, we must never prioritize the needs of an athletic institution over the well-being of individuals.
As Penn State has shown us, no school is too big to fall.
Staff editorials are determined by the editorial board. Its members include Elena Kadvany, Nicholas Slayton, Jennifer Schultz, Eddie Kim, Joey Kaufman and Sean Fitz-Gerald.