Was anyone really paying attention when the Penn State football catastrophe was unfolding?
After absorbing the fact that an assistant coach at one of the most prestigious programs in the NCAA was sexually abusing kids for decades, everyone began asking how such a thing could happen without anyone knowing. It should be asked.
The popular conclusion is that administrators at Penn State were afraid to keep an eye on the program out of fear they would upset coach Joe Paterno, who also happened to be a huge contributor to other areas of the college. They allowed him to do anything, without making sure he did the right thing.
That’s not uncommon, particularly in today’s world of multi-million-dollar football programs that bring students and publicity to the university. Administrators turn their heads instead of risking making the coach mad and possibly having to replace him. It’s much easier than doing what they’re supposed to do: make sure every university employee — including the head football or basketball coach — does the right thing.
We’ve seen I’m-in-control-and-don’t-forget-it coaches this season do and say things administrators should end. Again, they turn their heads.
None of the examples about to be mentioned is in the same hemisphere with what happened at Penn State, but they are issues.
Alabama’s Nick Saban is the best coach in the nation, but he stepped out of line when he scolded reporters for writing stories about Western Kentucky that weren’t helping prepare his team for the game. He said there were plenty of positive stories to write instead of noting that Western Kentucky was overmatched.
Saban has a point. Stories about the performance of true freshman running back T.J. Yeldon or new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier would be good, positive stories. But there’s a problem. Saban won’t let reporters talk to them. He controls which players are allowed to talk to reporters. Assistant coaches are off limits.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier refused to talk to reporters last week. He blurted out a couple of meaningless sentences, declared it was good enough and left the room.
If I were the university president, I would have reminded Mr. Spurrier he gets paid $3 million to promote his program and the university and being a horse’s rump doesn’t cut it.
When a reporter asked USC coach Lane Kiffin about the status of an injured player, Kiffin abruptly ended the news conference and left.
These and other examples make you wonder why the boss puts up with it. Administrators have a responsibility, too.
Mike Goens can be reached at 740-5740 or mike.goens@TimesdDaily.com.