The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

Separation of church and football

This week for one of my classes I’ve been watching the documentary “Pony Excess,” a film all about the demise of our school’s football program in the mid-1980s. I consider myself functionally illiterate when it comes to most college football teams so the movie was enlightening for me. Repeatedly the boosters, former coaches and players who were all interviewed talked about how in Texas football is like a person’s second religion.

It’s amazing to me that college football programs could so blatantly cheat when it came to recruiting a short while ago. It’s almost as if schools were outdoing each other with how extravagant of enticements they could offer potential players. And it’s not as if the outside world was oblivious to what was going on; these practices were endemic to basically all of the schools in the old Southwest Conference. The only difference when it came to SMU was that they were the first ones to actually get caught.

Following the invocation of the Death Penalty for SMU’s football program by the NCAA, our athletics program certainly has not been the same (though during the new era of June Jones it appears we’re moving in a better direction over the past few years).

However, corruption in college athletics is not something that’s gone away. One need only look at the current situation at Penn State with the firing of Joe Paterno to see the impact that these scandals have.

Last week as I was following the news surrounding the Penn State incident I read that not only had Joe Paterno been asked to leave, but so had the president of the university. That revelation took me aback.

I tried imagining what would happen to SMU if both June Jones and R. Gerald Turner left tomorrow. In many ways, I feel like the school would cease to function. I can’t imagine the administrative turmoil at Penn State right now.

That’s not to say that I think Joe Paterno’s ouster was unwarranted. On the contrary. If the allegations against the former head coach are true and Paterno had knowledge of the abuse happening under his auspices, then I bear him no sympathy.

I don’t care how long Paterno has been serving at the school nor does it really matter to me how beloved he was by the students at Penn State. Covering up a scandal of this magnitude is deplorable in my eyes, and he shouldn’t be excused because of his age or tenure.

I think what’s still amazing to me about this whole affair is the sheer number of people rising up to defend “Joe Pa” and his actions.

Last week, groups of students all over the campus at Penn State rose up in protest over the whole affair, as if a person getting fired for essentially enabling sexual abuse is some sort of grave injustice. That some people could so easily overlook his errors is astounding to me and is a horrible disservice to the abuse victims here for whom we ought to be advocating.

Moreover, I can’t help but notice that the response here could only happen with a college football program. Imagine an incident like this happening with a tenured college professor. Would anyone really be defending them? Would people organize protests on campus decrying the firing as unfair? I highly doubt it. Football is a very different beast. The sport is very much like a religion in that many of its followers simply don’t like having their dogma challenged, and I think this is a highly dangerous trend.

Ideally, justice will be served pending the investigations at Penn State and things will return to normal in the coming months. But I sincerely hope that “normal” won’t entail maintaining a top-notch athletics program at the expense of any and all ethical obligations. If we’re going to make football into a religion, perhaps we should make room for some lessons in morality.

Brandon Bub is a sophomore majoring in English and edits The Daily Campus opinion column. He can be reached for comment at [email protected].  

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