On Penn State:

I've written before about the implications of the Penn State scandal, so I figured I should probably write something about the NCAA's punishment. In this instance, I think it's important to separate out three different angles from which the punishment should be interpreted:

1. The punishment: The punishments themselves are all, taken separately, reasonable responses to the situation. If the charge is that Paterno, Spanier et al decided not to turn in Sandusky because they believed doing so would damage the university's football program and its ability to police itself, then punishments that directly affect the most important aspects of the football program are merited. Football generates a lot of money: Penn State was fined some of that money, with the stipulation that the payments a. must come from football revenues and b. cannot affect the funding of other sports. Paterno's quest to get the record for most wins drove much of his behavior: strip him of those wins. The football program was overvalued vis-a-vis the rest of the university: allow it to continue, but not in a form where it can contribute to the previously poisonous culture (i.e. they can play, but only for love of the game). Most importantly, make sure that any student-athletes are not negatively affected by allowing them to transfer or leave the program without penalty. All measured responses. One might think them to be cumulatively too much, but that gets to point #3.

2. The NCAA: The NCAA is a corrupt and self-interested organization that only wishes to perpetuate its own power; this power grab was unprecedented, and it's troubling; the charges of hypocritical and sleazy morality are all absolutely true. And yet: the NCAA were the only people in a position to make these changes happen. This combination of damned-but-the-best-we've-got should look familiar to libertarians: it's the problem of the state writ small. The state is a morally contingent form of organization that just as frequently tramples on the rights and interests of individuals as it serves them (left and right can agree on this, I think); even so, sometimes the state is the only body with the authority to solve problems of domination in society--slavery being the big example. In the same way, yes, the NCAA is corrupt, but it's one of the few entities that can address the parallel corruption of individual schools. That it is an imperfect carrier of justice does not mean it cannot bring justice anyway.

3. Penn State culture: This is the most troubling part for me, even now. It's a Penn State-specific problem. What happened at Penn State couldn't happen at my alma mater because there are a sufficiently large number of people in Ann Arbor who do not care one iota about football and are happy to work against it. When the world's most minor 'major violations' were discovered at Michigan, it led to the rending of garments, full cooperation with the NCAA, and a sense that even the slightest deviation from strictly following the rules was completely unacceptable. The integrity of the football program and the university matter so much that punishment is accepted as part of the process of repentance.

The opposite seems to be happening at Penn State, even now: a complete denial of the facts, unwillingness to believe Paterno could have done anything bad, and the belief that the punishments now being given have nothing to do with the football program being out of control, but are rather attempts to tear down the Paterno legacy, of the "they've wanted to do this for decades, and now they have their excuse" variety.

There's very little actual contrition: there are pleas to remember the victims, as though remembering the victims and attempting to correct the culture responsible for the mess in the first place are mutually exclusive; there's an insistence that Penn State was always a university first and a football program second; there's an emphasis on graduated players, as though that matters, or as though it can make up for literally the worst college football scandal ever. They want to remember the victims and Joe Paterno as a great, nearly perfect, man, but those cannot coexist, either, and to embrace the reality of the latter is to deny the reality of the former. But it is a difficult thing to accept that something happens because, and not in spite of, the culture at an institution you love and cherish

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