Welcome to college football season! I am an unapologetic Ohio State Buckeyes fan, and look forward to cheering the 11 warriors this season, despite the NCAA's sanctions that include a bowl ban and Big Ten championship ineligibility for this season. The new Urban Meyer era promises to be filled with thrills, big victories and good times for our Buckeyes. While we cheer the Scarlet and Gray, however, it would be wise to remember the plight of the Nittany Lions.
The defection of key players from Penn State to other programs in the wake of the Freeh Report and NCAA sanctions will make it difficult for the Nittany Lions to compete on the gridiron for years to come. The NCAA sanctions against Penn State accompanied the warning that football was the tail that wagged the dog at Penn State. Recent news that some members of the Penn State Board of Trustees, former football players, and the family of Joe Paterno are seeking to appeal the NCAA ruling and also sue the NCAA serves only to underscore the notion that football not academics is the primary reason Penn State University has existed for some time. This comes amid reports on ESPN this week that Centre County, Penn., prosecutors did not present all of the damning evidence they had against Jerry Sandusky at trial. No wonder Sandusky chose not to testify.
The university-commissioned Freeh Report on the Sandusky scandal was gut-wrenching, not just in terms of the multitude of unforgiveable sins committed by Sandusky, but also because of the numerous reports that Paterno wielded absolute power over the campus, from Penn State administrators on down to custodians who feared losing their jobs if they reported what they knew. Would those same custodians have feared calling the police if they had witnessed a biology professor engaging in the same acts? Unfortunately, we know that answer.
Ohio State will crush Penn State on the field in State College, Penn., Oct. 27. However, we Buckeye fans should not be smug about the results on the field. Had Sandusky been the defensive coordinator in Columbus rather than at Penn State, would Ohio State have handled things differently? We would like to think OSU presidents E. Gordon Gee and Karen Holbrook would not have swept such a matter under the rug to save face for a storied football program, but one must wonder after Gee's comments at the OSU news conference in 2011 that, "I just hope Jim Tressel doesn't fire us."
I hope the Buckeye football team will be a source of pride for years to come. At the same time, fans must remember that the football program exists to serve The Ohio State University, rather than the other way around. Let us support the student-athletes on the field but, at the same time, remember college football is just a game and, more importantly, a vehicle for students to gain a college degree. As long as we keep the proper perspective, we will not have to worry about the "next Jerry Sandusky."
James W. Fruth, Clinton Township