The NCAA was created in 1906 because football was killing people. It was organized under the aegis of President Theodore Roosevelt because “plays” like the “flying wedge” were routinely resulting in the death of college students. He didn't want the game to become more important than human life.
The penalties imposed today on Penn State are in keeping with that mission, and while Pennsylvania is a northern state they will resonate most in the south. The last decade has seen an incredible football money chase, accelerating every year, and to say that any football program in the Southeastern Conference is subservient to its academic masters is a gross lie.
I hear it on sports talk stations all the time. What does President (Insert Name Here) know? How dare he criticize Coach (thus and so). Or when an honest coach with a losing record is fired, what's the message there? Just win, baby. And the boosters nod in sympathy.
Even in the wake of this press conference, ESPN “College Gamday” analyst Chris Fowler insisted that college athletics isn't “going backward,” that the money put into it will only go up. “It's going to be an uphill fight,” he added, but he seemed skeptical the fight will really be made.
Coach Lou Holtz, by contrast, had it right. “College football is way too big. Coach's salaries are out of line.” But Holtz was never “just” a football coach. (Of course we thought that was true of Paterno.)
The people who wrap their lives around college football, who pore over lists of recruits like Kremlinologists, and who throw their hard-earned dollars into “seat licenses” and other gimmicks for ever-larger football palaces, they're the real enablers here. We created Joe Paterno. He never went into football expecting, or wanting to be, that guy. That he was seduced into becoming that guy tells you everything you need to know about the level of corruption, and temptation, in the sport.
It can get to anyone.