Worlds apart, but Penn State and Florida A&M have questions to answer

State College, Pennsylvania and Tallahassee, Florida are far apart in more ways than just about 1,000 miles. However, they couldn’t be any more closer in terms of shocking scandal right now.

While a major football powerhouse and institution of higher learning faces an angry nation sickened by the innocence of children being robbed, a noted historically African-American University must regroup and change immediately after one of its major drawing cards consistently bucked administration and authority.

Penn State University and Florida A&M University both are in deep trouble these days, Penn State for a cover-up job of former football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky’s molestation of at least 15 young boys over 20 years and FAMU for the fallout following the hazing death of Marching 100 band drum major Robert Champion.

Oppression Olympics isn’t necessary for comparison’s sake, but for the purpose of this post, we’ll just say that both of these institutions have some heavy-duty rebuilding to undergo. The danger, as brought up by an acquaintance on Twitter this morning, is the blind loyalty both schools are being offered by alumni and supporters alike.

In the case of Penn State, the fact that people are still clinging to the ghost of Joe Paterno, who was found late last week to be negligent in reporting his trusted assistant’s vile behavior, is sickening enough to make you wonder if these folks could benefit from some kind of counseling. 409 wins doesn’t excuse Paterno from turning a blind eye to cruel and disgusting antics going on with someone employed within his department, but that’s what he did.

Many have called for the Death Penalty after former FBI director Louis Freeh’s 267-page report pretty much indicted Paterno beyond the grave for failing to do more in reporting Sandusky’s behavior in 1998 and 2001.

The Death Penalty is the NCAA’s harshest punishment for rogue athletic programs, meaning the sport in question can’t play and loses all scholarships for a determined amount of time. The most famed example is Southern Methodist University’s football program receiving the death penalty in 1987 after they were found to be providing student athletes with major benefits.

It would be a shock if Penn State’s football program received the death penalty but it wouldn’t be uncalled for. When one thinks about the scores of young boys who were violated under the guise of charity and benevolence and it happened right under the nose of the most powerful man in Pennsylvania arguably, there’s really no other alternative.

Yet and still many Penn State alumni and supporters are still riding for their late football coach and school in spite of the gruesome details that have been revealed since the fall. Why? I would hope these same people that want Paterno absolved would be smart enough to know that his negligence allowed Jerry Sandusky to continue his reign of terror. There’s no excuse for that and Penn State, fair or not, should face consequences.

Meanwhile, consequences and repercussions are buzzwords down in Tallahassee as Florida A&M continues to weather a tumultuous storm after the death of drum major Robert Champion last November in Atlanta, GA. The Marching 100 is one of the better known Black College marching bands and like most bands and other organizations, there are hazing rituals.

The ritual Champion underwent proved to be fatal and while several members of the band face charges in his death, the shakedown continues as the Marching 100 was suspended for the coming school year and as of this morning, university president Dr. James Ammons resigned immediately.

Hazing in general has been something I never understood, and full disclosure, I’m a proud HBCU (Historically Black College and/or University) alum but I never pledged or participated in any groups that conducted hazing rituals. It’s time for all these organizations at ALL colleges, HBCU and traditionally White, to look at their hazing practices and set some guidelines because too many kids get hurt in the quest to belong and feel important.

FAMU also is suffering from the same misguided devotion that Penn State is, with the school community believing that the Marching 100 and the school is being picked on by the media because of race and status, which may have a nugget of truth in it. But much like Penn State covering for Jerry Sandusky, the Marching 100 evaded and ignored the Florida A&M administration’s requests to clean up their act and slow down on the hazing. Now the band is gone for a year and the university faces some major changes as they prepare to welcome students back for what should have been another exciting year. There are consequences for all actions and now Florida A&M has to live with theirs, much like many hope Penn State will.

Neither Penn State or Florida A&M are unable to rebound from these shocking and somber situations, but an honest look at their actions is a good place to start. Ignorance of the law is no excuse.

And hopefully both of these schools learn from what they soon hope will be history, or else be doomed to repeat it.


One thought on “Worlds apart, but Penn State and Florida A&M have questions to answer

  1. I stumbled on this article while browsing through the #30in30. Very well written, but I have to agree with your assessment on the schools recovering. Actually despite their names being in the media still, they have already recovered. This is because these schools are still educations thousands of individuals and that’s what college is all bout in the first place.

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