Penn State decision harsh? Consider this

The decision of Penn State’s trustees to fire the storied football coach Joe Paterno and the president of the university is a strong, and a fairly unusual, statement in our sports-obsessed society that there are more important things than winning.

A friend calls my attention to an even more dramatic case that I wouldn’t have remembered on my own in which a university president made an even stronger statement by suspending the entire basketball program for three years to try to purge it of a culture of corruption.

Does the name Quintin Dailey ring a bell? I’m a sports fan, and the name conjured up for me a moderately successful NBA guard who played with Michael Jordan.

He starred at the University of San Francisco in the early 1980s, but in a drunken stupor, he sexually assaulted a nursing student after threatening her with a weapon. After pleading guilty Daily was sentenced to three years probation and never served time in prison.

But during his run-in with the courts, evidence also surfaced that a USF basketball booster had paid Dailey $1,000 a month for a no-show summer job. USF’s once-great basketball program had been place on probation twice before for violating NCAA rules. After Dailey’s disgrace, the Rev. John Lo Schiavo, president of the Jesuit university, didn’t wait for the NCAA to impose sanctions. He canceled the entire basketball program for three seasons, after stating that the repeated violations showed that the program had become “hypocritical or naïve or inept or duplicitous, or perhaps some combination of these.”

My only purpose in writing about this is to highlight what it looks like when an educator really wants to demonstrate that there is something more important going on in college than the sports teams and to publish that statement just above and the next one:

“All the legitimate purposes of an athletic program in an educational institution are being distorted by the athletic program as it developed,” Lo Schiavo said.

Of course, many young USF athletes who had done nothing wrong paid the price. That is sad but not tragic. Unfortunately, Dailey paid a much smaller price. He was done with college hoops anyway and was drafted in the first round by the Chicago Bulls. He played for 10 seasons, earning a couple of million (chump change compared to the ridiculous amounts paid to NBA starters and high draft picks nowadays).

The NYTimes obituary, from which most of this brief biography is cribbed, says: “He had problem upon problem, many self-induced. He missed practices and games, gained 30 pounds in a single season, twice violated the league’s drug policy, once attempted suicide and took leaves of absence for psychiatric care.”

By a small quirk, Daily died on Nov. 9, 2010, one year and one day before the Penn State board acted in its own case. That one is also sad for the school and its football fans but tragic only for the victims of the sex crimes that brought it about.

Sports are nice, but perhaps not worth the price our society pays for them.

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Dan Mondor on 11/11/2011 - 11:26 am.

    Zero comments? Wow, I so agree with your last sentence. But still, I know there are people out there that would disagree.
    Of course I didn’t remember the player you spoke of. And I think the Penn State board of directors finally did what should have been done ten years ago. Arguably, maybe, the entire board of directors should be replaced as well. Think, Vatican…

  2. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 11/11/2011 - 12:37 pm.

    As someone who spent 40 years as a professor (with the occasional athletic student — most of the major sport athletes did not major in things like Psychology),
    it’s been my opinion that universities should spin off major sport athletic teams and make them completely separate entities. Let them hire athletes; if those athletes want to register as students and are qualified to do so, let them be treated exactly the same way as any other working student.
    But do away with the myth of the student athlete. They do exist, but they are the rare exception in major sports in most universities.

  3. Submitted by Vince Brew on 11/11/2011 - 01:14 pm.

    Perhaps Eric can do a little more research and then comment on how Quintin Dailey turned his life around after his less than stellar days in the NBA? Perhaps he can talk to the hundreds or thousands of kids he helped get off of the streets of Las Vegas?

    I wish one public university would show the courage Father LoSchiavo demonstrated in living the values that USF espouses. I saw him a short time ago while watching the USF men’s baskatball team practice. I had both my teenagers there for a campus visit and we talked about “doing things the right way”.

  4. Submitted by geoff brunkhorst on 11/11/2011 - 06:39 pm.

    I’m not so in favor the self-imposed death penalty, unless the University is committed to it for all scholarship sports… forever. And since FB basically funds all other sports other than Basketball, cutting FB would do this.

    I also don’t think the NCAA should wade directly into this, as alluded to by Souhan in the Strib today, swinging a death penalty sword. While detracting from the university, nothing in this sordid affair affected the results on the field. The NCAA can come in and look at the general oversight of the FB program, but should stay within the bounds of their std examinations.

    At PSU (as common at the BCS member schools), so much of the identity of the school really was FB team, and JoePa was the face of that identity. That’s a Presidential/Trustees decision.

    My view on this is that the institution of football became bigger than the lives of young boys in the minds of Paterno, the AD, the President and likely a slew of lawyers. They conspired to hide criminal acts. _THEY_ should be punished. Much like the Catholic Church, the act of damage control caused much more damage, to individuals, and eventually to the institution.

    I’m less about punishing the players, the other coaches [who in the martial life of sports have a ‘chain of command’ they must adhere to for their careers], and the students (who live for PSU football, unfortunately). Cancelling the rest of the season only penalizes them.

    My position is that the rest of this season should be played out, including post season. All this seasons FB revenues after team expense should be donated to organizations who help child victims of sexual assault. [which should be 10s of millions of dollars]. Not in lieu of civil penalties, but now, to rid the college of these tainted profits and do some good with them.

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