Brent Musburger, regarded by many as the voice of college football, was the guest on Pardon The Interruption's Five Good Minutes yesterday to talk about the situation at Penn State. Despite his status as the top play by play man in the sport, Musburger has never been one to be shy when it comes to offering his opinion. The same is true regarding the happenings at Penn State. Musburger presented a strong opinion against the NCAA taking action, keeping the focus on the victims, and thoughts on Joe Paterno's legacy.
While Musburger strongly condemned Jerry Sandusky and provided thoughtful commentary on the rush to get back to talking football, it was his comments on Joe Paterno that drew a strong reaction, again showing the volatiity remaining in this story. First the audio and quotes from Musburger after the jump, followed by some added perspective on his interview with Tony Kornheiser and Kevin Blackistone.
"This is a horrendous story involving Jerry Sandusky who has been found guilty and probably will die in prison, and that's certainly is as it should be. But this is a criminal investigation that has gone on. It has nothing to do with the NCAA and I believe that due process should have been followed by the NCAA and they should have looked into the matter of the coverup even further.
"When they (the NCAA) start investigating criminal activity, that is a very slippery slope for them."
"They talked about culture, there's only one way you're going to change the culture in big time college football - take down the scoreboards."
"I think it was basically a PR move… this is not a football story, this is a story about a pedophile who happened to be a football coach."
"To me it is about those victims being taken care of, it's about talking about child abuse. It's not about talking about a coach's victories, it's not about talking about off tackle plays. I think the NCAA did us a horrendous disservice by pushing football back to the front and the victims to the back. Go take a look at the sports pages today and see what the stories are all about."
"If I thought for a moment the NCAA penalties were going to stop child abuse across the country, I'd say go for it. I know better than that."
"I can only speak from my heart about how I feel for him. I liked him, I enjoyed his company very much. I think he did so many good things throughout his career, I loved being around his former athletes listening to the stories. He apparently made one horrendous, horrendous decision but I don't think that can eliminate all the good that I feel that Joe Paterno did throughout his entire career at Penn State. I can only speak for myself, not for anybody else."
Musburger's appearance, and its reaction, is fascinating. College football's most recognizable voice speaking out against the NCAA in such a forceful way should not be taken lightly, nor should Musburger's willingness to take such a strong stand.
But what about those Paterno comments? There were certainly voices criticizing him as a Paterno apologist because of that very last statement. This is where the challenges for the media come into play Ben spoke of yesterday.
It's quite easy to take a soundbyte of Brent Musburger saying he can't eliminate all the good Joe Paterno did and throw him to the wolves as a Paterno defender and an out of touch apologist. The comment is not a "defense" of Paterno necessarily, but rather an honest statement on not completely erasing Paterno's contributions. To much of the public though, Paterno's name is still too toxic to consider even that.
If one listens to Musburger's entire interview, the Paterno comment tells nowhere near the whole story.
Brent's perspective on the NCAA's swift action, leaving behind due process and creating an enormous precedent, is valuable commentary whether you agree with him or not. Musburger is also one of the strongest advocates of keeping the focus on the victims and on the crime of child abuse instead of making this about football or Joe Paterno. In fact, he did one of the best jobs I can remember in this entire story in actually keeping what's truly important at the forefront instead of Penn State football or how other programs will benefit from poaching their players. This isn't someone that's trying to feign outrage and reach for an extreme position to get his name out there.
Brent Musburger's Five Good Minutes on PTI was some of the best and most honest commentary on Penn State emerging from the sports world because it took note of the complexities of the story and what was truly important. Musburger didn't shy from sharing his true opinion, whether it meant being critical of the NCAA, speaking of Jerry Sandusky dying in jail, or even his perspective on Joe Paterno. Hopefully his final words on Paterno don't narrowly define him, because many others in the media and elsewhere can learn from the balance of his thoughtful, influential commentary.
College Football is now Big Money, and many people derive celebrity, power, and money from the industry. Men who stay in the industry too long become tainted by their sense of self-importance. Paterno should have retired about a decade earlier, and clearly, by the time his program was spinning out of control, he had lost his judgement. The same could be said for Musberger, but then, when he was young, he spouted off the "black skinned storm trooper" comment about Tommie Smith and John Carlos, so his judgement has always been suspect, just as his announcing style has always been overly dramatic.
If Joe Paterno had made just "one bad decision," Musberger would have an excellent point. Unfortunately, being part of a coverup of heinous crime to children for years that led to further crimes against children is not "one bad decision." Furthermore, Musberger argues that Paterno did so much for the university outweighs his "one bad decision." Paterno gave a total of around 4 million to the university, and yet he secretly negotiated a 3.3 million dollar buyout when he saw the writing on the wall. I love hearing Brent Musberger call a college game, but he's too close to the situation here.
What Brent doesn't get is that Paterno is the new "Nixon'... In 20 years, people can again talk about what he did right as opposed to what he did wrong. But because you can never fix what happened, what the NCAA did essentially dismantle the object that caused Sandusky to have this power and access to children and serve as a warning to others. His legacy has to fall on the proverbial sword for any of these folks to have some sense of justice in my opinion.
I respect Musburger and his commentary, including his warm, personal feelings for Paterno. I appreciate that he had a very short amount of time to give his perspective on PTI and, if he had had an hour or unlimited time to do so, his thoughts might've been more nuanced. He and I might even agree completely if we had a chat about the Penn State mess. That all being said, I do think he engaged in unfortunate hyperbole when he called the NCAA's actions "basically a PR move" and "a horrendous disservice". Perhaps he really feels that way, but, if he does, then (in my opinion) he has failed to acknowledge the complexities of the situation. The NCAA was going to be criticized no matter what action it took. I find it hard to separate Musburger's criticism of the NCAA from the other blow-hards out there.
I happen to agree with everything Musburger said. While I'd be naive to suggest that the cover-up had zero bearing on protecting the PSU brand, it is interesting that the media has consistently failed to discuss an additional motive. Sandusky and Paterno were great friends. Sandusky was the coach-in-waiting at PSU before such arrangements formally existed. Paterno did not want to see his friend publicly humilated let alone sent to jail. Therefore, the cover-up was also about protecting Sandusky. None of this is intended to be an acceptable rationale by any stretch, merely an explanation as to another motive behind the wrongdoing.
I both agree and disagree with Musburger. I disagree because it IS about football in the sense that Paterno and the other administrators did what they did (or didn't) because they were protecting both the legend and the lucre of the PSU football program.
But I agree in the larger sense that with both Penn State and the Catholic Church, the criminal negligence in protecting and enabling serial pedophiles was to protect the institution, which was somehow seen as "more important" than the actual child victims that they failed to protect. In both instances (but for different reasons), the institution was seen as "too big to fail." So in that light, it wasn't just about "football"--it was about the perceived "bigness" of the program.
@leftydana This is exactly right. They covered up the scandal to protect the program. They allowed more boys to be victimized to protect the program. The only thing they valued in this situation was the program, so the only effective punishment is to punish the program.
The NCAA felt they had a power to discourage programs from covering-up such crimes in the future. Had Paterno and others done the right thing in the first place, had it been an isolated incident, instead of an institutional issue, then the NCAA should have stayed out of it.
Now, if any other program thinks it is appropriate to cover up a crime to protect their program, they put it at greater risk, than if they deal with it immediately.