Should Penn State Decline a Bowl Invite?
It was only a month ago that Penn State football fans were trying to understand how a quarterback-less team was having such a surprisingly successful season, and few envisioned a Big Ten title and New Year’s Day bowl game.
Now, as the Penn State football community prepares for the season finale in Madison, questions remain about to what bowl the Nittany Lions, now ranked 19th in the BCS standings, will be invited. The question few are considering is whether Penn State should play in any bowl game. Should the university trot out a squad on January 1 and further glorify a program which produces an athletics-first mindset that has dominated this university? Is it appropriate to further celebrate the triumphs of the season in light of the severity of the situation at home? Yet how can one justify penalizing completely innocent players and fans, and in the process further extend the dark cloud that sits over Penn State?
First, let’s look at why Penn State should embrace a potential bowl invitation. Independent of recent events, Penn State is having one of its best seasons in the past decade, and fans should relish the opportunity to see the team play in a prominent bowl game. Thousands of individuals have been diehard supporters of Penn State football; among them are hosts of students who chose to attend Penn State in part due to the football atmosphere here.
Is the message business as usual? Or must we show some restraint? It is not about a feeling of shame as Penn Staters, but rather a feeling of respect and reflection.
Why chastise the student-athletes and diehard fans who are blameless? Now that Penn State has taken swift action in response by firing Paterno, demoting Spanier, and giving administrative leave to Athletic Director Tim Curley, Gary Shultz, what better way to move beyond a trying time than to come together in support of a NCAA surprise success story? Despite a university-damning scandal rooted in the football program, in an odd way, that same program can serve as the unifying outlet to move beyond dark times.
Penn State has long championed an unblemished image, void of major violations. In the past two weeks the world has watched this façade crumble to pieces. The very core of our beliefs about Penn State University have come under scrutiny. Yet, while every bone in our bodies urges us to rally behind a quietly successful football team, and count me among those feeling this way, we can’t forget to stop and wonder if accepting a bid to a New Year’s Day bowl game is the best message this athletic department and university administration can send. The national spotlight will give Penn State students and administrators an opportunity to continue raising funds to support victims of sexual violence and in turn begin to amend our image.
In an effort to mitigate losses in the aftermath of the scandal, swift actions were taken to remove President Spanier and Coach Joe Paterno, despite local opposition and calls for further investigation. Decisive action was taken to separate the athletic program from Paterno. In the midst of an NCAA investigation, the national eye will be centered on Penn State. The Penn State Board of Trustees hasn’t shied away from decisive and polarizing action.
Immediately afterwards, many wondered if Penn State, let alone Joe Paterno, should finish the season. Wisely, Penn State decided to conclude the season as scheduled. Penn State had an obligation to its fans, the Nebraska, Ohio State, and Wisconsin fans, and the Big Ten conference.
But a potential bowl game is different. By defying conventional and monetary incentive, declining a bowl game would unquestionably send a sobering message that the university must take a step back after the regular season and reevaluate the place and influence of athletics.
Over the next two weeks, root for Penn State as I intend to, but remember to consider that beyond the initial excitement of a bowl game there lies a complexity of questions, ethics, and challenges. Penn State’s actions during these trying times will affect all of us for years to come. When someone looks at a Penn State diploma, will they envision a school that celebrated a Big Ten Championship and prominent bowl game following a scandal? Or a university who shouldered the blame and placed ethical responsibility above athletics? Can this be accomplished by preventing the current players and fans from embracing an opportunity they have worked tirelessly for? Is a bowl game the first step for Penn State to usher in an era of transparency while using the national event as a platform for abuse awareness?
These questions don’t come with a simple answer, but they’re ones we must consider. As Penn Staters we are all stakeholders in the Penn State reputation. What is your take? Share it with us in the comments section.
26 Responses to “Should Penn State Decline a Bowl Invite?”
Play the game. Sponsor commercials for RAIN, et al., throughout the game. Give 50% of all profits to one (or more) of the charities. But play the game.
Play the game. Sponsor commercials for RAINN, et al., throughout the game. Give 50% of all profits to one (or more) of the charities. But play the game.
All the bad eggs are gone, why punish ourselves further?
Play the game. If the University declines a bowl bid, more than likely a major bowl game, I will be even more embaressed of my school. It will be an admission of continuing to punish everyone around the problem without actually addressing it.
Like Mike here said, use it as a platform of appology, but also as a way of saying WE are Penn State…not the scandal, not the morally void people who were involved. At some point Penn State needs to make an effort to embrace what has happened but begin to represent itself (and thats not being disrespectful to the victims, thats being respectful for the hundreds of thousands of people who are educated by this school).
I can’t say what anyone *should* or *shouldn’t* do in a situation like this, but I will say that I think declining a bowl bid would send a powerful message to the world that the University is contrite and certainly humbled by this scandal, and in the long run, do a lot for our image.
Of course, it would end up punishing people who had nothing whatsoever to do with the crimes, and that is a shame. But sometimes we all have to “suck it up” in order to prove a point. The prevailing narrative that is coming out of this whole mess in the media is that blind faith in football and addiction to the dollars it brings in where the underlying cause of “the coverup” (in quotes because I don’t know if any real proof has surfaced that things were actively “hushed up”, or if just a series of unbelievably bad decisions were made). I think declining a bowl bid would do a lot to show that Penn State is serious about this whole mess and is willing to sacrifice some almighty dollars in order to demonstrate that is not controlled by any football program– sort of in the spirit of JoePa benching a star player before a big game in punishment for some infraction back in the day– our fans would be disappointed, but overall would say, “we run a clean program here at Penn State” and support the decision.
Just my humble opinion. Cheers everyone. Have a great Thanksgiving.
Don’t punish the players.
Yes. With the likelihood all promotions will come from within, declining a bowl bid may show PSU has some class and reverence for the current situation. It already feels like business as usual around here.
yes, let’s punish the student athletes for the actions of a pedophile and several spineless administrators. the idea is absurd. Stop bringing it up and actually trying to give the idea some semblence of credibility.
on a site full of terrible articles written for nothing more than the thrill of controversy, this ranks near the top of that list.
You really think things feel like normal at Penn State? I see a shell of the University, a student body confused and void of any pride or respect, and an administration caught in a tailspin of backtacking and finger pointing. I do not thinl, at all, anything here feels like business as usual.
All the bad eggs are gone? Where do you go to school?
I go to Penn State
*overreaction* thats what it felt like the first week, aaron
I concur. I love Penn State football, but now, each time we take the field, I can’t help thinking that we are just trying to act as if this never happened.
While as a lawyer, I want to see evidence before convicting or indicting anyone, there seems to be evidence that University officials did wrong. At the moment it is hard not to speculate that some information was more widely known and that more than the two indicted school officials chose not to do as most of us would have wished.
By opting not to attend a bowl game, we as a University demonstrate in a real way that we realize that things must change. That football is not the most important thing and that faced with issues in the future, we will do better. Attending the game while saying the right things is not the same.
Whenever a school gets caught violating NCAA rules, the punishments effect those who had little or even nothing to do with it. Still, while we can’t go back and change what happened, we can demonstrate that we are learning our lesson.
Jeff has this right. Of course we will accept the invitation notwithstanding, because I fear the University has not learned any real lessons at all. We will need the NCAA and Federal government to teach us what we should already know.
I feel it too. Too much talk of Big Ten Championships and Bradley taking the job.
Great suggestion, Mike. As noted in the post, Penn State can use the “national event as a platform for abuse awareness..”Certainly, donating a significant percentage of the game revenue would send a powerful message, while still allowing fans and player to enjoy the game that the team has earned.
Utterly, utterly, UTTERLY ridiculous.
Several years ago, a half dozen football student athletes raided an apartment and beat the heck out of some people. Who had to pay for all that? The entire team. All of them had to clean the bleachers in Beaver Stadium. Why? Because as a team, you live and die together.
There are thousands of people impacted by the acts of just a few in this latest and most horrific scandal at Penn State. 99.99% of them aren’t even remotely part of what happened over decades but they are part of the team.
People come to Penn State for a variety of reasons; academic, athletic, social, alcoholic. . . they’ve all come to Happy Valley to be part of something bigger than themselves and conceptually, bigger and better than anything they could find anywhere else. They’ve come to be part of the team.
And so, if you make that decision then you’ve got to ride it out with the rest of the team even if you had nothing to do with anything . . . you’ve still got to pick up the garbage at Beaver Stadium.
My point is this; the momentum of the environment that these acts caused and were potentially allowing to be “covered up” (in quotes), are all part of it. As part of the team, even if you weren’t part of the act, you’ve got to pay some level of price. Why? Because if the price is high enough and the burden heavy enough these lessons will never have to be learned again.
I admire the University for maintaining its commitment to the B1G schedule – but a Bowl Game is something altogether different. I would only support the football team attending a bowl game if 1) ALL of the proceeds that were to be paid to PSU were donated to appropriate anti-sexual abuse charities, 2) The team showed up the day before the game, participated in NO pre-Bowl festivities and left immediately after (much like a regular game), 3) the uniforms were modified to include a blue ribbon and 4) PSU sponsored a sexual abuse symposium in the days leading up to the game as a way to use the might and intelligence that the university has, to actually do something good.
I’m as sad as I’ve ever been thinking about my ties to Penn State and the people I know that still live in Happy Valley. WE can’t let this continue on the way it always was…WE must take a stand and say, ‘no more like it’s always been’.
Happy Thanksgiving all . . . and peace be with you!
Don’t you think people are looking for a distraction from all this mess?
I believe doing all that would make every Penn Stater truly proud again, whether they be a football fan or not. Let’s move past this and focus on making it better.
So they miss a Bowl game – big deal.
If the players themselves announced they will decline any Bowl game invitation in honor of the victims, that will go a long way in showing that PSU is an institution of dignity and morals. To me, that’s more important right now than one Bowl game.
Can’t anyone in that university step up and do SOMETHING to show these victims they are sorry? Damn.
The idea that Penn State acted “swiftly” in regards to allegations of child rape is one of the most deluded things I’ve ever read on the internet. Which is saying something.