Penn State Football: After Sandusky Report, Too Big to Fail?

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"The NCAA is only one piece of it. The larger problem is that no one is control. The almighty dollar is in control. College sports is being controlled by the dollar. No one is in charge. The NCAA has very a small purview, setting some regulations. You have conferences, television networks, so many folks with control that no one is in control. You can have one meltdown like Penn State and it still won't change the system," McMillen said.

Penn State's football team draws some $70 million to the university each year, funding other athletic departments and some academic programs.

Following the Freeh report, some supporters pointed out that if the football team were to be demolished - even for a year - there could be a ripple-effect of economic and academic consequences.

"First, all other sports die. All. Other. Sports. Because PSU football subsidizes the rest. All women's sports, particularly, go away," Penn State alumnus Jason Fagone wrote on Twitter Thursday. "It's not just the $40 million football economy that goes. It's academics. There's a tangible risk of decreased state appropriations; legislators go to football games, get free tix. That's 14% of total budget."

If the NCAA does not impose suspensions on the football team, Penn State would also have the option to impose its own suspension, much like Florida A&M University did this year after the hazing death of one of its famed Marching 100 band members.

In the months after drum major Robert Champion died, the band leader and the university president resigned, and the university suspended all band activity for the 2012-2013 school year. Champion's death, like Sandusky's crimes, led to revelations that the program had too much power and too little oversight.

The administration at Penn State hasn't spoken publicly about an internal suspension as an option. In a statement Thursday following the Freeh report's release, the Board of Trustees said it remained "proud of the accomplishments of Penn State's student athletes over many years, and we reaffirm the fundamental premise that academic excellence and athletic achievement are wholly consistent and complementary goals."

The university also gave new head football coach Bill O'Brien a five-year contract worth more than $950,000 each year, a move that seemed to confirm the administration's commitment to playing football for each of those five years.

McMillen said that whether or not Penn State or the NCAA suspend the Nittany Lions football team in 2012, the influence exerted by powerful college athletic departments will not go away.

"As sad as this is, as tragic as this, it will not lead to systemic reform and reason. It's going to take a major cataclysm, something involving many schools, a gambling incident or programs going bankrupt," he said. "It all has to do with this reverence of football, or basketbtall, that it becomes larger than the university, and it can't be, it just can't be. Higher education is too important in this country for the tail to be allowed to wag the dog."

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