Recent scandals in sports question ethics

Recent allegations against former Pennsylvania State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky have caused a media frenzy across the United States.

Sandusky has been accused of sexually assaulting underage boys, and members of Penn State faculty have been accused of covering up the alleged crimes. Due to the scandal, head coach Joe Paterno has been fired, while President Graham Spanier has been forced to resign.

“It appears that the power structure associated with athletics at Penn State might have-and the money involved-may have influenced some decision making, but we don’t have the information at this point to make that kind of assumption or draw that kind of conclusion,” said Janet McMullen, associate professor in the communications department at UNA.

McMullen said she is concerned about the media coverage of the scandal because it appears many people are jumping to conclusions quickly. She also said the coverage has been mostly based on leaked grand jury records. She said the story has turned into what she called a “feeding frenzy” and has become sensationalized.

After Paterno was fired Nov. 9, more than 1,000 Penn State students rioted in the streets around campus, according to The students flipped over a media van.

“They looked very stupid,” said David McCreary, a student at UNA.

McCreary thinks that the fans and the media have made Paterno’s firing more important than the alleged crimes.

“You don’t really hear more about the scandal; you hear more about the coach,” McCreary said.

McMullen said she can understand the fans’ reaction. She said that the loyalty and affections of the fans are likely to make them want to protect Paterno’s image. She points out that the very next night, the students held a candlelight vigil for the alleged victims.

“I think we need not rush to judgment (of the fans and their reaction),” McMullen said.

Paterno and Spanier are not the only people who have been affected by the scandal. Tim Curley, the Penn State athletic director, is on administrative leave while Gary Schultz, head of the Penn State police department, has resigned. Mike McQueary, who testified about an alleged assault during the grand jury trial, has received threats and been put on administrative leave. Sandusky is banned from Penn State’s campus.

“The college in general did the right thing by firing and cleaning out the house, because the longer those guys are there, the longer (the drama is) gonna last,” McCreary said.

McMullen points out that the entire institution has been blackened by the allegations and the negative media coverage surrounding them. She said it isn’t fair to the students, faculty or athletes that the university is getting such negative publicity.

“There are staff and faculty and students and alumni of that university who believe in the goals and the values and the traditions of that university, which were set at a very high standard,” McMullen said. “When we paint with a broad brush because a few individuals did some egregious things or are accused of doing some egregious things, that’s not fair.”

McCreary said the victims and their well-being are more important than the university’s reputation.

“They have to understand that the kids are the most important thing about the whole thing,” McCreary said.