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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Penn State problems may run even deeper

Many are aware of the unfortunate situation that has unfolded in recent months around former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.  The allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior are still being dealt with through the legal system.

But it was also telling to read of a separate issue on campus to do with the state of the football team, a program that has been a source of great pride at the institution for decades.

As the school’s team was preparing for its January 2 Bowl game, it suddenly found itself in a situation where it’s first, second and third-string quarterbacks may not be available to play.

The first team quarterback had engaged in a fight with a teammate.  The second-string quarterback was facing discipline because of an apparent “prank”, as his coach called it, whereby an item was taken from a store on campus.

The third-string quarterback, who has been academically ineligible in 2011, was waiting to see if he would be eligible in time for the Bowl game.

A story in USA Today details the various issues facing the team at

The point here simply is:  Many athletes on scholarship—perhaps most—earn their paid-for education through their talent and hard work, and show their appreciation by continuing to work hard and behave appropriately throughout their years at school. 

It’s impossible to judge the individual circumstances in the case of the aforementioned Penn State players, but id does remind us that some young college athletes may not fully appreciate the privilege of receiving a “free” education—four years, covered in full in return for playing a sport.

The value of such an education, if taken seriously, goes well beyond the tens of thousands of dollars it saves the young athlete and/or their family during the young person’s undergraduate years.  It potentially sets them up for the rest of their lives.  Most of these athletes will not play sports professionally, but they will lead (hopefully) productive and inspired lives- anchored in part by their university and college experience.

The tragic Sandusky episode aside, it is just unfortunate to see a program at an institution like Penn State going through this kind of circumstance, where some players seemingly abuse the privileges that they had earlier earned.