Removing the Thorn From a Nittany Lion’s Paw

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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50 Responses

  1. greginak says:

    Perhaps they should consult with the pros in the NFL about how to handle discipline and when it is appropriate to modify it. I’m sure they could offer advice on how not to look like immensely clueless numbskulls.Report

  2. Burt Likko says:

    Congratulations are due to the entire Penn State organization for both successfully not raping any children nor covering up evidence of children being raped for two consecutive years.

    I guess we have to set the bar for excellence at some level. Keep up the good work out there, fellahs!Report

  3. Saul Degraw says:

    College sports and Professional sports are becoming signs of an increasingly corrupt scam as far as I can tell. Almost absolutely rotten to the core but easily able to influence politicians and get public money.Report

  4. Saul Degraw says:

    The big problem is that the only way for professional sports and college sports especially the NCA to reform is if they start hemorrhaging money because of massive boycotts and that is almost certainly not going to happen. People would basically need to boycott all NCAA football games or all NFL games to express outrage at the Ravens issue and the Penn State issue.Report

    • Chris in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      The NCAA is teetering on the edge of irrelevancy, in fact, because the Big 5 are edging closer and closer to either leaving and forming their own organization (which would almost certainly include some form of compensation for players). It’s looking like the NCAA is already going to give them a fair amount of leeway, but I suspect that as things become more and more contentious between those conferences and the rest of the NCAA, the organization will splinter, and it will do so in the relatively near future. Of course, the Big 5 conferences are as bad as the NCAA, so an organization comprised entirely of them will be no better in most ways, but it will be different.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Chris says:

        Perhaps but that doesn’t stop the professional sports problem. People will always find ways to talk about how their team is different because that is what people do and perhaps in some ways individual teams are better ethically and morally but the organizational structures are where the problems are. I real blow would be if teams refused to play the Ravens this year or something like that, even if it meant forfeiting those games. That would be moral courage.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Chris says:

        And this is why Will’s otherwise correct argument that the NCAA oght “to be thinking forward about how they can be harder on renegade programs,” won’t work in practice. The NCAA is no longer in charge, and holds its sanctioning authority only at the forbearance of the big 5.Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Chris says:

        A few years back, I predicted that the future of big-time college football was four power conferences, each with 16 teams, and an eight-team playoff drawn solely from those conferences. If the lesser schools were lucky, the four would set things up so that teams that were too bad for too long were dropped, and rising schools allowed in. Those conferences would give the NCAA the option of blessing that arrangement, or the conferences would pull their teams from March Madness, and let the NCAA bankrupt itself trying to compete. I still think that’s where it ends up.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Chris says:

        So who disappears, Big 12 or ACC?Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Chris says:

        It’s a common prediction. The biggest obstacle remains that the have-nots still have political clout of which the P5 do not want to run afoul. The BCS wasn’t modified to give Boise State a chance because the power conferences were kind-hearted (and the NCAA didn’t have the power to force it).Report

      • Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Definitely. In fact, I’m sure the Big Ten was actively lobbying for this.I imagine the conversation went something like this:

        Big Ten: Look, dude, we kinda suck this year, and it’s not like people outside of Big Ten country have ever enjoyed the Big Ten style of football. Our revenue is going to be down; we are going to need all hands on deck. Can ya free up Penn State for us?

        NCAA: Well, you know, what happened there was pretty bad, and I’m not sure it sends a great message if we don’t force them to complete the full punishment.

        Big Ten: What’s that? Sorry, I’ve got SEC and ACC on another line, and we were just tossing around ideas about how we might share revenue in a new organization while you were talking. Could you repeat that?

        NCAA: Penn State has not had another incident since the sanctions began. They clearly feel bad about what they did. How ’bout we let them go early for good behavior, eh?

        Big Ten: Excellent. Good talk. [Click.]Report

      • Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Political clout doesn’t count as much as TV revenue, and with the Big 10 Network, the SEC Network, the Longhorn Channel, etc., we’re very close to a point where the Big 5 schools can negotiate their own TV deals entirely independently of the NCAA.

        Keep in mind, the NCAA was on the brink of a catastrophe a couple years ago when Texas made its Longhorn Network deal, resulting in the near complete breakup of the Big 12 (when A&M, Colorado, Nebraska, and Missouri left, Oklahoma was also on the brink of leaving, at which point there would have been no Big 12), which almost certainly would have resulted in a realignment to 4 16-team conferences built around the existing ACC, SEC, Pac 12, and Big 10. If that had happened, the NCAA would probably be either dead now, or look very different. And the compensation issue, which the SEC, ACC, and if I remember correctly, Big 10 all agree on (basically, give players a stipend on top of their scholarships) is going to reach a point at which the only thing holding the NCAA together will be the TV deals. If the Big 5 can negotiate their own, which they will almost certainly try to do using their own networks as leverage, the NCAA will be relegated to a sort of second tier college organization, and schools on the outside looking in will be scrambling to get the Big 5 to let them in.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Chris says:

        Had the Big 12 split up, I doubt 4/16 would have happened. The whole assumption requires a degree of cooperation I don’t think it’s possible among conferences and schools competing against one another.

        4/12-18 would have been a possibility. Had that happened, though, things would look a lot like they do now, except with four conferences instead of five and a few more have nots on the outside raising a ruckus.

        The NCAA isn’t the obstacle. Congress is. The BCS tried to shut out the have nots, but had to relent. They’ve had to settle for being mostly, but not entirely, in their own class.

        They have enough leverage to get to further separate themselves financially, but if it were as easy as just leaving they would have left. They need the next two conferences to voluntarily give up, which isn’t happening any time soon.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Chris says:

        To pick a relatively simple example of why the 4/16 model is a tough nut to crack… James asks whether the Big 12 or ACC will survive under it. The answer is both. Yes, it was the case, briefly, that it looked like one might swallow the other (or that one of them might be swallowed by multiple conferences). But that didn’t happen due in part to a failure in cooperation that is pretty constant. Unlike with the NFL, which is far more of a collective, college football has strongly divergent interests between conferences and between teams. Way too many egos involved.

        The P5 do have some common interests, to be sure, but not to the extent that they’re going to trade teams between conferences to balance things out. Not to the extent that any of them are likely to take in schools they don’t particularly want for the collective benefit. Especially when the benefits of doing so aren’t actually all that great. They already have most of what they want, and are getting more, with half of the headaches, with extra home games.

        At most, what the current arrangement costs them is a single slot in an 8 or 9 team playoff. The smaller schools aren’t able to stand in the way of their paying athletes, and at least a few other conferences are going to follow suit (as best they can).

        I think people like the 4/16 model because it’s seen as nice and orderly. People like the idea of it being as neat and orderly as professional leagues are. The big boys cooperate and the smaller ones go away. I just don’t see it. Which is not to say that the Ultimate Separation can’t happen. But it’s actually kind of a long and complicated road between here and there. There’s a reason it hasn’t happened yet, despite the fact it’s been “inevitable” since I was in high school.Report

      • Chris in reply to Chris says:

        It wouldn’t have taken cooperation. It would have been a self-organizing system: the teams in the now-defunct Big 12 scrambling to get into a conference, conferences courting some teams (Texas, Oklahoma), teams from other conferences and non-Big 5 conferences taking the chance to make a leap. It would have been chaos, but in the end conferences would stop adding at around 16 (much above that and things get unwieldy for the money-making sports) and things would settle down.

        And we really were on the brink of that. The Big 12 and Texas, which caused the problem in the first place, were basically on their hands and knees begging Oklahoma to stay, and I’m sure offering them pretty much anything they wanted (particularly since by that point Texas almost certainly would have had to join what was the Pac 12, which would have been great for the Pac 12, but less ideal for Texas than the West-of-the-Mississippi conferences (except the Big East, maybe).

        What that would have meant for the NCAA is that the attractive TV ratings would have been even more concentrated. With league and school-focused networks, those conferences would have had leverage in TV deals, and TV deals are where the money is.

        I’m sure Congress would have made an attempt to influence the outcome, but I doubt the NCAA would have survived. The money would have been talking way too loud for even Congress to ignore. And it’s going to take some serious concessions that create a even more inequity in college sports for it to survive going forward.Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Chris says:

        I’m a patient man. In the long run, 4×16, no matter the NCAA or Congress. Conference championship games disappear, absorbed into the first round of an eight-team playoff. The big bowl games either get on board or fade away. Despite tradition, some of the smaller schools in the big-four conferences get squeezed out (eg, Colorado would be much happier as a second-tier athletic school in the new regime, no matter how much they protest now). My guess is that the Big 12 disappears. Which hurts me, having grown up a Big 8 guy. UT has painted themselves into a corner by insisting that they’re more important than whatever conference they happen to be part of. Doesn’t matter what they think, Texas/Oklahoma is not a big enough TV market to let them dictate terms, once you subtract out the pro teams, Texas A&M, etc.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Chris says:

        I’m not contesting the outlines of what you are talking about about the flirtations between OU and the Pac-12. I was following that closely. Texas, Oklahoma, and a couple others leaving was definitely within the realm of possibility. After that, though, you would have schools left behind. I don’t think that the SEC and Big Ten would have been particularly anxious to take them in. The more schools you leave out, the more problem with complete separation.

        Congress wouldn’t have been able to stop the conference-swapping. Or the TV deals. That would have meant a wider gulf between the haves and have nots… but we have that anyway! I don’t see how that would have killed the NCAA. I don’t see why those four conferences would have behaved differently than the P5 we have now. And I don’t see how the P5 actually kills the NCAA. Especially given the leverage they have over it now.

        If your argument is further financial separation, I can’t very well disagree with that. It’s that what most people consider “the next logical step” actually has some pretty significant political barriers, costs, and uncertain financial benefit (considering their getting those TV contracts already, plus extra home games).

        I point again to the BCS and the new bowl system. Concessions weren’t made because the NCAA demanded it. The NCAA wasn’t in a position to. The political (and legal) realities, on the other hand… while they don’t preclude the making of lots and lots of moneys, they do require other concessions.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Chris says:

        It’s my observation that virtually no program self-selects to be more competitive in a lower division, or remains happy there if relegated. Appa State had it all in the FCS and in my view really belonged there. They’re in the Sun Belt now. Idaho belongs in the Big Sky Conference, but… Sun Belt (the closest school to them being 1000 miles away in the air, almost 1500 on the ground). UMass left the perfectly appropriate CAA and… they can’t even get into the Sun Belt after getting kicked out of the MAC.Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Chris says:

        I’ve been less than clear. The NCAA is dead only if they decide to fight the 4×16 football schools to the death (winning move — tell us we can’t run the top tier of college football our way, and we’ll run our own 64-team basketball tournament in March, maybe inviting the best of the teams outside our conference in place of the worst of our own). The probable 4×16 conferences had what this year, 12 of the teams in the round of 16? Six or seven in the round of eight? If you’re CBS and the three dwarves, which tournament are you going to cover? Or the NCAA can compromise, allow a 4×16 college football arrangement, and comfortably manage the rest of college athletics. Although in the even longer run, the March Madness money would be tempting.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Chris says:

        Oh, the NCAA wouldn’t stop the 4×16. I’m skeptical the conferences will so self-organize and that they would be able to organize that playoff (that’s where politics matters) . Or that they would want to. The SEC would argue that their #3 is better than the Big Ten #2, and so on. That would require way too much cooperation, even if they could get a couple dozen senators and a large number of congresscritters not to suddenly become much more interested in tax exemptions.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Chris says:

        Incidentally, had the Pac-16 happened, I don’t actually think that everything would have fallen into 4/16 afterwards (I might have misspoke earlier). Regardless of which four schools left (the two most plausible scenarios are UT/OU/Mizzou/Kansas or UT/TT/OU/OSU, the former being the Pac-16’s preference and the latter possibly being the political reality), the rest would not have found homes in the other major conferences.

        The Big Ten snubbed Missouri, and wouldn’t have looked at K-State very enthusiastically. So you would have still had Iowa State, K-State, Baylor, and some combination of Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Kansas, and Missouri. If Missouri were available, obviously the SEC would take them, but I’m not sure about any of the others. But even if so, you still have four. Six if you count TCU and WVU or Louisville, which I mention because…

        What likely would have occurred is some sort of merger between the Big Leftovers and the Big East, creating a P4.5 scenario*. The Big East still would have lost some schools to the ACC and Big Ten, but they still would have been majority BCS schools (unlike the AAC), and it would not have been easy to exclude them from the table the same way that the AAC and MWC are.

        What actually happened was about as clear-cut as could be managed. More clear-cut than the BCS days, where the daylight between the MWC and the BE was at times dubious**. Now, the daylight between the weakest of the P5 and the strongest of the G5 is pretty wide, with the MWC and BE having been decapitated***. The BE/B12 would have had a weaker TV contract than the others, but would have been hard to formally exclude.

        Incidentally, I did come up with a way that comes a little closer to a 4-conference scenario. This one was never explored. Before the ACC signed their GOR, I was thinking “What if?” and wondering what if the Big 12 had decimated the ACC. Which may sound unlikely given the Big 12’s own turmoil, but there was some talk of Florida State and Clemson bolting after Maryland departed and it looked like the Big Ten was going to take two more. Had the Big 12 gotten those two, they would have had their pick of the rest. Put WVU in the East with eight top ACC teams, and they’d have a hell of a conference, TV-wise. Though even then, you would have leftover ACC and Big East forming a conference that would have been a lot stronger than the AAC and MWC are now, and not easy to exclude.

        Anyway, either a Big 18 or BE/B12 would have presented a continuation of the Big East Problem, which is a major conference that is major enough to include, but not major enough that everyone thinks it belongs. What actually happened is remarkable in that it actually managed to avoid that. The only way it could have gone cleaner is if the ACC had gone to 16.

        * – The merger was my speculation at the time, but WV’s athletics director has since said that there were actual discussions.

        ** – At least in the public eye, I think the BE was stronger than a lot of people give it credit for.

        *** – Though I will point out that the AAC champion beat the Big 12 champion, and there was no enthusiasm gap insofar as it was a first appearance for both schools.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Chris says:

        And we really were on the brink of that. The Big 12 and Texas, which caused the problem in the first place, were basically on their hands and knees begging Oklahoma to stay, and I’m sure offering them pretty much anything they wanted

        Well, everything except a cut of Texas’ TV deal, or Texas opting out of their individual TV deal to just be part of a Big12 Network. It was Texas that almost destroyed the Nig 12, and was willing to do anything to save it except stop doing what was destroying it. NE and MO said “fuck you very much” and got out before it all went south, while Iowa State and K-State looked on on a panic wondering if they were going to be relegated to the Sunbelt or Mountain West like struggling FA teams.

        (particularly since by that point Texas almost certainly would have had to join what was the Pac 12, which would have been great for the Pac 12, but less ideal for Texas than the West-of-the-Mississippi conferences (except the Big East, maybe).Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Chris says:

        …since by that point Texas almost certainly would have had to join what was the Pac 12…

        There was a huge sigh of relief in Boulder when that didn’t happen. Colorado to the Pac-X was a long time actually happening, but it was fairly clear that that was CU’s secret dream when I moved here back in 1988. The Texas-Pac-12 rumors were met with, “What? We finally got to the Promised Land and we’re still going to be stuck with Texas?”Report

      • Chris in reply to Chris says:

        James, right. Texas’ insistence on having its own network damn near blew up major college sports.

        I assume the fact that Texas has had several down years across multiple sports is some sort of karmic punishment for that.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Chris says:


        Bah, Colorado is in no way, shape or form, “Pacific.” The Arizona schools were a stretch, but at least made geographic sense. Colorado and Utah are abominations, every bit as much as those Eastern teams joining the Midwestern-based Big 10.

        (Part of my desire to see Penn State further punished is my firm belief that they should never have been invited into the Big 10, and that that invite was the beginning of all this mega-conference nonsense.)Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Chris says:

        Colorado and Utah are abominations, every bit as much as those Eastern teams joining the Midwestern-based Big 10.

        If you assume that the long-term steady state configuration is 16-team conferences — which I do, but admit that it’s not a slam dunk — then the Pac-16 will want to be the west-of-the-Great-Plains conference. CU’s favorite out-of-state recruiting area has long been California — Rick Neuheisel’s hire was for precisely that reason. I would argue that from a “cultural” perspective, at least two of the teams that fled the Big 12 ended up in conferences where they were a better match than they were in the Texas/Oklahoma-centric Big 12 — CU in the Pac-12 and Nebraska in the Big 10. Texas A&M and Missouri I’m less sure about.

        After your how-to-define-the-Midwest post a while back, I finally downloaded and started fooling with cluster analysis and recent interstate migration data (my hypothesis being that people tend to move to someplace where they think they’ll feel culturally at home). Nothing horribly surprising about it, although Kansas/Missouri ended up as part of what I’ve been calling “Greater Texas” rather than part of the Midwest. I’m starting to drill down to the county-level data, which looks like it will be more interesting — at first glance, it appears that lots of states have split patterns. For example, Texas and New Mexico are “close” based on the number of people that move back and forth, but it’s very heavily dominated by the area around El Paso.Report

      • Kim in reply to Chris says:

        Pittsburgh used to be midwest, but is moving more “midatlantic” by the minute.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Chris says:

        Colorado and Utah are abominations,

        By the way, I only meant that as members of the PAC 12. As schools, only Colorado is an abomination. As states, only Utah is an abomination.Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Chris says:

        I’ll get to Pennsylvania eventually. One of the things that I think I’m seeing — I need better tools — is that there are two overlaid interstate migration patterns. One of them is interurban. In the case of NM and TX, about 25% of the interstate moves are in both directions between Albuquerque and the big four cities in the eastern half of the state: DFW, Austin, San Antonio, and Houston. 75% of the moves are between border counties around El Paso. I suspect that when I get to it, Pittsburgh will be dominated by interurban moves.

        To the football discussion and whether CU is “Pacific”, there’s a lot of movement in both directions between West Coast cities and the Colorado Front Range.Report

    • j r in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      The big problem is that the only way for professional sports and college sports especially the NCA to reform is if they start hemorrhaging money because of massive boycotts and that is almost certainly not going to happen.

      You are right. And further, I am not sure that anything should happen.

      Here is my prediction for the NFL. Ray Rice will be a story for another few days until the internet hive mind finds something else. The NFL will adopt some face-saving measure that includes a substantive change to their domestic violence rules and some punishment for Rice that shows they care, but doesn’t bar him from football for life. The people that cared about football before, will continue to care about football. And the people who don’t care about football, will continue not to care.

      As someone who watches football, I’m not sure how an incident involving a single player, away from the field, ought to ruin the whole sport for me. A situation like Penn State is different, as it involves a man using the organization to systematically victimize and the organization turning a blind eye.

      The concussion issue, however, is a whole other thing. That may pose a real threat to the future of football and could be something that would eventually lead me away from the game.Report

      • Jim Heffman in reply to j r says:

        “I’m not sure how an incident involving a single player, away from the field, ought to ruin the whole sport for me.”

        It is exactly as relevant to the entirety of football as Todd Akin is to the entirety of non-liberal philosophy. i.e. it’s not, but the people who hate the thing need examples for why.

        It’s ridiculous that the punishment for smoking weed is so much more stringent than the punishment for throwing your wife down the stairs. But is that because the NFL doesn’t care about domestic abuse, or because the NFL honestly expected that pro football players would hold themselves to a standard of behavior that didn’t include throwing their wives down the stairs? Hey, I don’t see anything in the NFL rulebook about infant cannibalism. THE NFL DOES NOT CARE IF ITS PLAYERS EAT BABIES. BOYCOTT NOW.Report

  5. Will Truman says:

    Maybe Penn State should put up a sign. “It has been [ ] days since the football program was caught covering up child rape.” That way we can celebrate each and every day as the true accomplishment that it is and give Penn State a pat on the back.Report

  6. notme says:


    Since when has PSU been a “premier program?”Report

  7. FridayNext says:

    Just as an aside, and because you brought it up, the assistant coach who could not in good conscience go along with the cover up and blew the whistle on the whole conspiracy continues, last I can find a record for, to labor in blue collar jobs all but blacklisted by college basketball for being disloyal to his coach and program. Dave Bliss continued to get coaching jobs in the Texas prep school circuit where he continued to rack up recruiting and other violations. Bliss’s “Show Cause” order from the NCAA is over in 2015.

    Anyone want to take bets on if Bliss will find an NCAA job (maybe not to coach, but in an office or scouting position) a year from now, while Rouse continues to wallow in obscurity and indebtedness?Report

    • FridayNext in reply to FridayNext says:

      Oops, forgot to put the OP’s Baylor quote in that post. That’s who I am talking about.Report

    • James Hanley in reply to FridayNext says:

      Schools may be a bit gunshy. Rick Neuheisel is probably out of D1 coaching for life, having failed to ever combine winning and not putting his school on probation.

      Then again, there’s Kelvin Sampson, with whom I have to hope Houston has an iron-clad “violations = termination with no compensation except a police escort as you leave campus” clause.Report

  8. Jim Heffman says:

    So the sanctions shouldn’t have been instituted but having been instituted they should have been carried out to the fullest extent, and people should have had no expectation that a miscarriage of justice would be corrected?

    Interesting. Tell me more about how people in prison for nonviolent drug-possession offenses should stay there for twenty years. Oh wait, you were talking about something else?Report