Despite the severity of yesterday's sanctions, I have to believe there is little current president Mark Emmert can do either. The vast majority of collegiate athletic programs feature football programs that are too big to fail. While Penn State was at fairly unique in how much of a cult of personality it formed for it's football coach, it was not unique in it's worship of football. Since I entered high school, every institution of learning I have been a part of has put football ahead of it's own educational ideals.
I do not intend to portray that there is something unique about football that makes it evil or twisted. Rather, it is a reflection of our own culture and values as a society. Defenders of Joe Paterno often cite how much he did to build the prominence of Penn State and the actual funds he personally donated. Seldom do the same people pause to reflect on how poorly it reflects on our culture that Penn State (and many, many others) became football programs with universities attached.
It's not only the big schools that are affected by this culture. As an undergrad at tiny Colby College, a school playing in most likely the least prominent college football league in America, the reign of King Football was very apparent. It was public knowledge that recruited football athletes could be a full standard deviation below average applicants on an academic index used to evaluate incoming students. On a campus where the vast majority of students and administrators decried homophobia, the football program was seemingly exempt from any serious consideration.
Again, there is nothing unique about football that makes it evil. There's an inclination to extrapolate from the violent play on the field that somehow those who participate lack the moral character of genteel swimmers racing neatly in their lanes and politely shaking hands afterwards. The problem is not the sport itself, the problem lies with giving so much unchecked power to anyone.
While I can't know how other university athletic departments have been responding to this scandal, I can speak to my own. Georgia Tech had it's employees watch a two hour educational video on child sex abuse. Afterwards, the lesson that we should draw from it was made clear: use the information to limit your personal liability and that of the University. Other than that, life goes on here just as it did before.
The response, while informative, misses the point. The problem at Penn State was not that Joe Paterno and others did not know how to limit their own liability or that of Penn State, it was that they had the power to unilaterally ignore what had happened. Unless a concerted effort from the top down is made in athletic departments to empower the less powerful to speak up and be heard when they see abuse of any kind, college athletic departments are still going to be great places for abuse to be concealed.