Wednesday, November 9, 2011
There's so much going on today, I struggled to pick one topic. Maryland Swimming is under serious threat, a prospect that is completely terrifying. The first set of College dual meet rankings is set to be released later in the day. But you won't hear about either of those things if you turn on sports center. The sports world's gaze is firmly fixed on State College, PA. But this is a swimming blog! And still it might be the most important swimming topic of the day.
For those that haven't been following, news broke over the weekend that long time Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky would be indicted for committing sexual crimes against minors. That part of the story should be all too familiar to the swimming community, as the details of allegations against Sandusky poured out. They detailed how he used his position of authority and children's charity to get access to and abuse children.
Equally troubling are the indictments of two Penn State officials, Athletic Director Tim Curley and Vice President Gary Schultz. Both are alleged to have been given a first hand account of Sandusky having anal sex with a ten year old boy, but the only action they took was to ban Sandusky from Penn State main campus facilities. Head football coach, Joe Paterno and Mike McQueary, the graduate assistant who reported the incident to Paterno and the administration, aren't in any legal trouble, but they certainly are in moral trouble over their hesitance to do anything more than send it one step up the line.
It's both heartening and depressing to see the response. After "nothing to see here" response from Penn State president Graham Spanier, the board of trustees stepped in and seem to be moving swiftly to hold the administrators accountable. Is there even one person in a position of significant power in swimming that has taken action to hold coaches accountable? Or are they all in "nothing to see here" mode?
The masses seem to have no trouble publicly calling for the heads of Paterno and others. In swimming the response to our powerful people putting themselves before victims remains largely muted. The public outcry has already yield a pretty dramatic outcome: Paterno announced as I was writing this blog that he would be retiring at the end of the year. It may not be enough, but the thought of Paterno stepping away was pretty unthinkable a week ago.
There are certainly some positives to swimming existing mostly far out of the limelight. It keeps the majority of our athletes fairly well grounded. It means that as a college coach, I get to coach student athletes rather than running a minor league for the pros. The down side is this- there is almost no one outside of swimming to hold the most powerful people in our sport accountable. When Joe Paterno is in trouble, he has to hide from a ravenous media that wants him to answer the hard questions. When Chuck Wielgus is under fire, he gets lobbed a few softballs from Swimming World Magazine, shuts down access to anyone else and we're all supposed to forget it ever happened.
Penn State is a lesson to the swimming community- but is anyone listening?
Posted by Chris DeSantis at 8:44 AM