Created on Wednesday, 16 January 2013 03:59 Written by Rohith Palli \ Columnist
According to Public Policy Polling, 52 percent of voters in Pennsylvania support Gov. Tom Corbett’s challenge of the NCAA’s sanctions against Penn State. This is absolutely baffling. Let’s review the sanctions to explore just how deplorably unreasonable Corbett’s suit is.
Corbett explicitly names several groups he believes are punished by the NCAA’s sanctions: “the past, present and future students, current and former student-athletes, small businesses and the citizens of Pennsylvania.”
Since Corbett proposes that the $60 million Penn State was fined remain in the state — to be spent on child-abuse-prevention programs — anyway, it seems that he believes that past, present and future students at Penn State are being harmed by not being able to watch quite as good a football team or bowl games. How terrible.
He says that former student-athletes are being punished by having their wins vacated, because of course it must be of critical importance to the lives of student-athletes 10 years removed from college that their wins remain official in the NCAA’s books. Current student-athletes, admittedly, are being punished by their inability to participate in the postseason. However, this seems an acceptable side effect of the sanctions the NCAA has applied to reduce the emphasis on football at Penn State.
Finally, Corbett names small businesses and the citizens of Pennsylvania among those whom he seeks to protect. Presumably, small businesses would be damaged by the lack of bowl games and reduced enthusiasm for Penn State, and the citizens of Pennsylvania would thereby be damaged economically.
The facts are, however, that small businesses are unlikely to be greatly adversely affected. Despite the bad publicity, Penn State has the 26th-best recruiting class for 2013, according to ESPN, and enthusiasm for Penn State football still seems to be running high.
Corbett himself cites the creation of 2,200 jobs by the football program and $5 million in tax revenue for Pennsylvania, but the NCAA’s sanctions in no way would reduce these numbers. Despite the fact that the football program may be slightly worse off, it still has fans and still plays games, so the effects it has on commerce will remain the same. So no real economic harm will be done, other than bars and restaurants not benefiting from the viewing of a bowl game.
This, however, should be irrelevant. Despite the fact that Penn State is no longer generating that revenue for Pennsylvania businesses on a bowl game day, the money to be gained doesn’t just go down the drain. Since bowl game placement is a zero-sum game, Penn State not having a berth means that someone else does, and small businesses in that area will receive the benefits instead, something that doesn’t seem so terrible, given the circumstances.
The argument seems to be, “I, selfish governor of a state that I want to reelect me, wish to have all revenues and taxes and money remain within my state and not benefit the rest of the nation, and the law is on my side.” This attitude is further evidenced by the claims on how to spend the money fined and the fact that six out of nine negative effects of the NCAA sanctions listed in his lawsuit result in “harm to the state revenue base.”
An even more egregious example of this attitude was the lawsuit by state Sen. Jake Corman, which aimed to keep all the money that is already earmarked for children’s nonprofits in Pennsylvania. What happened to, “united we stand, divided we fall?” These actions represent a clear effort on the part of elected state officials to ensure that their state has an edge on other states.
Admittedly, eliminating awe for the Penn State football program and removing monetary incentives from hiding scandal at such a football program coincidentally also serve to shift some amount of revenue from Pennsylvania to the rest of the nation. But this shift is undertaken for the betterment of both Penn State itself and college athletics, in general.
Ultimately, a resentment of this is somewhat understandable, but these lawsuits and the perspective they engender both lose sight of what is important and act incredibly unwisely.
The NCAA’s goal for these sanctions, in my own words, is to ensure that officials remember that football is just a game: something that Corbett has clearly lost sight of. Furthermore, despite the NCAA’s notorious shortcomings, by accusing the organization of punishing Penn State merely to bolster its own reputation and benefit other schools, Corbett is leveling unjustified, likely untrue accusations.
In Point 55 of Corbett’s legal filing, the author points out that Ohio State seems to have a similar reverence for the football program in that the president of the university joked that the football coach could fire him. This is a far cry from undermining the NCAA’s position, and it lends incredible validity to what they are doing. The message is clear: over-respecting a football coach can and will get you in trouble from now on.
The governor of a state such as Pennsylvania should have much more productive things to do than prop up a football team. It is my hope that the NCAA and its president pursue slander or defamation charges against Corbett. This sort of treatment is exactly what would be deserved for showing such a profound lack of reason or judiciousness.
Continued public support for Corbett’s sentimental, nonsensical lawsuit reveals the outsize value that our society (or Pennsylvanian society, at least) places upon sports.
The existence of this lawsuit and the fervor with which it is being pursued reveal a horrifying lack of ethical and practical consideration on the part of both the voters of Pennsylvania and their elected representatives.