The Penn State scandal has again raised questions about absolute power in college athletics, cover-ups and who oversees the overseers in a system that can be easily exploited, ruining lives in the process, all in the name of money.
On Tuesday, UConn women's coach Geno Auriemma, a native of Pennsylvania, was asked about the situation at Penn State. And Auriemma, as he's prone to do, didn't sugarcoat things. He was open and honest, something we could use more of (via the Hartford Courant):
“I guess the easy answer is to say since the head coach gets all the credit, unfairly, the head coach is ultimately responsible for everything - most of the time unfairly, but not always,’’ Auriemma said.
"If one of my kids is walking around at the mall and someone says to them, `Let me buy you a pair of shoes,' and the kid decides they want them, are you ultimately responsible for that? I guess you are because that player should know [not to accept them].
"But that [example] is so that’s trivial. When something like [Penn State] happens, and I don’t know all the details or what’s really going on, all I can say is that I have no idea how much a head coach is supposed to know, not supposed to know, can possibly know.
"I think the issue is what happens when you know. That might be a bigger issue than are you supposed to know. It would be like your own children. Do you really know what your kids do when they go out at night? You’d like to hope that they don’t do anything stupid, but we were all there. We’ve been 18, 19, 20, 21.
"From my standpoint – and this is my personal opinion - the issue is not whether you can you possibly know everything that’s going on in your program; I don’t think [it's possible]. But what do you do when you know? I think that’s where [coaches and administrators] are going to get judged."
Auriemma's exactly right: it's impossible to know everything, but once you do know, what do you do with the information? Penn State, it appears, chose to cover it up. What's worse: Auriemma talks about hoping players "don't do anything stupid." But in Penn State's case, we're not talking about teenagers. It was a grown man, in a position of authority, allegedly preying on the kids he was supposedly protecting.
It's a sad, sordid situation, one that puts sports in perspective. But it's also an important reminder of sports' role in college life. The chance to make millions has obscured that.