Interesting discussion regarding Penn State today on Face the Nation. Here’s the transcript:
Bob Schieffer: And joining me now to talk about this situation and the impact it’s had on football in general and, kind of, the state of sports in America, Sara Ganim, who is a CNN contributor. She won the Pulitzer Prize for her work for the Harrisburg Patriot-News” on the Sandusky scandal. Sara, you are how old?
Sara Ganim: Twenty-four..
Bob Schieffer: And you’ve already got a Pulitzer. All right. Bill Rhoden is a sports columnist for the New York Times. Buzz Bissinger is a contributor for Newsweek and “The Daily Beast.” He wrote “Friday Night Lights,” one of the best books about football ever written. And our own James Brown, who’s here at the table with me; and out in Los Angeles, Jim Rome, both, of course, of CBS Sports. Sara, I’ve got to talk to you. You have heard the president. What — what struck you here? What are the questions we need to be asking now?
Sara Ganim: Well, I think the — the situation about the money and how they’re going to pay, not just for the fine that the NCAA imposed but the lawsuits that are inevitably going to come, the millions that they’re already spending and will continue to spend on crisis management. How will they ensure that this doesn’t come from the three key areas, from tuition money, from taxpayer money, and from donations from people who give to Penn State because they went to school there or enjoy the program? And the interesting thing about Penn State is that, unlike many state schools, it’s what we call in Pennsylvania “state-related,” so it gets state money, but it doesn’t have to open up its records. So we cannot — no one, no members of the public, no journalists, — can look and see the money trail. And while President Erickson is telling us what pot of money they want to take the $60 million from, we don’t know where that money was going before. So how do we know that — where that $60 million might have gone to, you know, build the new academic building or a laboratory? How are they paying for it now? How are they paying for the — the other sports programs? All of them, except basketball, are dependent on Penn State football. So where is that money coming from? And how do I know that my tax money isn’t going to that?
Bob Schieffer: Bill, let me just start with you, and just go around the table. A short question: Did the NCAA impose the right penalty here? Should it have been harsher or was it not harsh enough?
Bill Rhoden: Bob, absolutely not. They should not be playing football. The fact that — the fact that they are playing football is one of the greatest abdications, moral abdications, maybe, in the history of the NCAA. There’s no way that they should be playing football.
Bob Schieffer: All right. Jim Rome out there in L.A., what’s your take?
Jim Rome: Bob, I think they got it right. I think the NCAA actually had to come down the way they did. We’re talking about the worst scandal ever. The NCAA couldn’t just sit that one out. We’re talking about a head coach who knew and an athletic director who knew, a vice president and a president knew that they had a pedophile within their buildings. They had to do something. So I think that they got it right. I think it certainly was punitive. I think that it was just. And I think that they had no — no other opportunity or no other choice but to do what they did. And I think they got it.
Bob Schieffer: Buzz Bissinger?
Buzz Bissinger: Yeah, I mean, given the past conduct of the NCAA in which they literally never do anything, I think the sanctions were appropriate and correct. I think it’s going to have a severe impact on the Penn State football program. When you lose scholarships like that, when you’re restricted and you’re not going to bowl games, kids — it’s a business, and kids and their parents are going to say, “Don’t go to Penn State.”
Bob Schieffer: You know, my daughter went to SMU the year that they got the death penalty, no football. They canceled all the games the first year, canceled the visiting games the second year. SMU went ahead and canceled the home games. I remember going to the homecoming soccer game…
…. and it just wasn’t quite the same. SMU didn’t do nearly what happened at Penn State. Do you think the penalty was right, James? BROWN: I think, on balance, it was fair. I thought it was punitive enough. There’s no such thing as a penalty that will be fair with all parties involved, Bob. The current athletes, they had nothing to do with it. I hate the fact that they’re going to be impacted, but there’s always collateral damage when there’s a punitive measure put in place. And I think the right thing was done. Because, for me, it begins and it ends with the young people who were raped and abused. That says it all to me.
Bob Schieffer: Obviously, something like this can’t happen without consequences, but what the people in Penn State argue, some of them, and in the community, as well as some members of the board, is that the wrong people are being punished. The guys that did this have been fired. They’ve been sent on their way. And it’s the football players, it’s the fans who are being punished here, Bill.
Bill Rhoden: Oh, God. You have got to stop — I mean, that’s the whole problem. The only innocent people in this whole drama are the kids who were raped. You know, I don’t know if anybody has been the victim of abuse. But that’s something that’s forever. They’re the only people — and the fact that — if you listen to this whole thing, the only thing that Penn State wanted, the only thing it would listen to is, let us play football. That’s the only thing they wanted to do, let us in the game. Let us in the game, as long as we’re in the game, we can make a little money here, make a little money — if you shut it down, you’re sending a message that resonates to California, down to Alabama, up to the Northeast. But by letting them play ball, that’s the only thing they want to do, just let us play ball, and they play ball.
James Brown: The competitiveness of the program is going to be impacted. The reduction in scholarships for sure. No bowl money revenue will be disseminated at all, $60 million is a pretty significant hit, especially to the second-biggest employer in the state there, being the Penn State University, period. So I think it was very punitive for sure. I do hate that the kids won’t be able to pursue. But you know what? That’s life. I mean, Sara said it back in the green room. There’s nothing fair about that, but when you’re talking about a situation that is as egregious as this, the right thing was done.
Bob Schieffer: Well, Sara, talk to us a little bit. As a reporter, I’m interested, this must have been a very tough story to get.
Sara Ganim: Well, you know, it’s funny you say that actually. Because when you talk about — a lot of people have been talking about the culture at Penn State. As reporters in State College, there was a joke, we used to call Penn State “the Kremlin.” And it really was impenetrable. I mean, the Penn State practices were closed, the football program was incredibly secret. And when you talk about what happened and looking back in hindsight, these were things that were not really — these were known things. It was very difficult to get information out of Penn State, out of the administration, out of the football program. It was just impossible. And so that — you know, that has definitely carried through. And I — in some ways, I think President Erickson recognizes that and is trying to make things more open, but I do think Penn State has a long way to go before we really know what’s going on.
Bob Schieffer: What did you do? Did you get a tip? How did you find out about this?
Sara Ganim: Yes, I got a tip. It was kind of dumb luck in a way. I asked a source, anything else going on? What else should I know? And the source said to me, hey, you know, Jerry Sandusky has been accused. And this is the point where it’s just one child, one boy, a teen boy who had accused him. And six weeks later that person called me back and said, hey, remember that thing I told you, never mind, it’s not true. And that was the beginning of three years before we really could get a solid story to print.
Buzz Bissinger: You know, and there are still a lot of unanswered questions. I have a lot of questions about the conduct of Governor Tom Corbett, why this investigation took so long. Why was a grand jury impaneled, as opposed to arresting Mr. Sandusky and then you could have continued the investigation? I mean, he put other children at risk. This investigation took three years. He had one investigator, he says two, on the case for the first two years. A narcotics officer — and by the way, he was an attorney general running for governor, and you have to ask the question, was he scared of offending the Penn State base, which is enormous in the state of Pennsylvania?
Bob Schieffer: Jim Rome, I asked President Erickson, what about Joe Paterno, did he stay too long? I found him fairly forthcoming considering the circumstances, but he clearly dodged that question. He said, well, people have to make up their own judgment about whether he stayed too long. Is that what happened here? Was this an icon who just should have retired or been retired some years ago?
Jim Rome: Yes, Bob, I don’t think it’s a matter of him staying too long. I think it’s a matter of a man who had an opportunity to do the right thing and did not do so. I mean, the one thing that we could always believe in, in college sports, was Joe Paterno, a man of integrity, a man of virtue, a man that would do the right thing given the opportunity at the right time. But that’s not what he did. And a lot of Penn State fans are really upset about this, but the fact of the matter is, this is now his legacy. This went on under his watch. He knew about it, the A.D. knew about it, the vice president knew about it, and the president knew about it. And he did not do the right thing. And unfortunately, this is now what he’s going to be remembered for more than anything else, not that he stayed too long but that he had a chance to do the right thing and didn’t do it.
James Brown: Hey, Bob, if I could coat-tail on what Jim Rome is saying, that to me galls me the most. You have got adults who are in position of responsibility, there to be carrying the banner for honesty and integrity and transparency, and they failed miserably in that. And this — while this is the most egregious situation that I’ve seen, the tail wagging the dog, the athletic department wagging the dog at a big-time athletic program is nothing novel. I’m just hopeful — I’m not very confident that it’s going to happen, that there will be a significant change because this isn’t the only place where the tail is wagging the dog. Big-time college athletics is viewed through the prism of money and it runs the show.
Bob Schieffer: All right. We’re going to keep talking about this, but we have to take a little break and make a little money for FACE THE NATION.
Bob Schieffer: I want to go back to Sara. Do you think — you just heard Jim Rome say, and we all seem pretty much in agreement that Coach Paterno had to know something about this. Do you think he was just out of it, though? Was this a fellow who had had a great career but probably didn’t really know what was going on? Because it seems to me like the self-perpetuation of the Joe Paterno legend became even larger than the football program at Penn State?
Sara Ganim: I would say it was larger than Penn State. Joe Paterno and Penn State were basically synonymous. And I think that — when I talk to students there, and I’ve been talking a lot to students, I was a student not that long ago at Penn State, one thing that I really hope that people learn from this is that this was almost idol worship at this point to Joe Paterno. And it’s just not fair to the fans. It’s not fair to the person, to Joe, that we hold people to such a high standard on such a pedestal. I mean, really, honestly, to erect a statue, a larger-than- life statue of someone who is still alive on campus in front of the place where they work, can you imagine going into work every day with a 10-foot statue of yourself?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I’d like that.
Bill Rhoden: Nick Sabin does. Nick Sabin does. Nick Sabin goes down whatever it’s called, and there’s a big statue of Nick Sabin because he now won a national championship.
Buzz Bissinger: Look, you know, we can use Joe Paterno’s age as an excuse. Joe Paterno was a dictator. It took five years and an appeal to the state supreme court to get his salary, which was public. He knew something was going on in 1998. He definitely, according to the Freeh Report, had an impact on the decision that was made in 2001. At the end of the day, Jerry Sandusky was a member of the football mafia family, and as long as you don’t rat, you’re a member of the family. And what is the most troublesome in all those e-mails we’ve read, not one word about any of the victims. Not a single word.
James Brown: You know what, I don’t begrudge the success of any college coach who wins and wins consistently and does it right. I don’t know all the story there. Time and distance from it will tell the full story. There’s a truth that says that which was done in the dark will ultimately come to the light. So I don’t begrudge the success. It’s just the degree to which we deify them and then they’re insulated, there’s no firewall between — the university is supposed to be running the show and that doesn’t happen many places.
Bob Schieffer: Well, let me bring Jim Rome back in to this. So we know how it happened at Penn State. Do we have this same kind of situation at other big universities around the country because football has suddenly become very, very big business — not suddenly but is very big business?
Jim Rome: You know, Bob, I’ve got a couple of thoughts on that. Number one, it will never be like it was at Penn State because we’re talking about somebody that was there for 40-plus years and we’re talking about a very small community that really derives a lot of its identity, both from that university and the football program. So it could never be like it was at Penn State with Joe Paterno. That was an anomaly in and of itself. However, I would say, and Nick Sabin’s name came up, you can’t tell me Nick Sabin is any less powerful right now than he was before this whole thing went down. To me that is what is so troubling. This is not going to change anything at all. The only thing this is going to change is the way Joe Paterno was seen. It’s going to change the way that football team looks on the field there. But it’s not going to change anything nationally because the stakes are always going to be what they’re going to be and people are going to want to win and that’s not going to change. I don’t think it changes anything.
Bill Rhoden: Do you think Les Miles has less power than the president at LSU? Are you kidding me?
Jim Rome: None of them do.
Bill Rhoden: And so I just want to make this very clear about this whole thing. I think that what we talk about here — and you mentioned mafia — we’re talking about death penalties. The NCAA itself should get the death penalty. They is — I want to get back to it — they took care of the member of the club, OK, Penn State is a member. They slapped them around publicly, $60 million — USC we were slapping them around a couple of years ago, USC is the preseason number one. And guess what — and USC may get one of Penn State’s guys. I mean, this business, the deeper you get into it, is incestuous and it’s coming to the point it’s immoral. And look what we’re doing here, we’re punishing a moral trespass with money. We’re saying, “okay, you raise a moral — but give us some money”
Buzz Bissinger: You are punishing with sanctions, you are punishing with significant sanctions, more…
Bill Rhoden: But it’s still money.
Buzz Bissinger: More than USC — yes, it was a PR move for the NCAA. Is it going to change the culture of college football? No. Should players be paid? Of course. But we have this myth, this ridiculous myth was whole man that never existed, that was perpetuated by Walter Camp and Grantland Rice. It’s a disgrace, and the NCAA is a disgrace. And part of it was a PR move.
Bob Schieffer: Sarah, how many of the football players — they can can now transfer to other schools without losing any eligibility. What’s your take? What are you hearing? Do you think many of them will?
Sara Ganim: No, I think many of them are going to stay.
Bob Schieffer: Do you?
Sara Ganim: Out of loyalty. And, you know, I think there’s really only one — correct me if I’m wrong, guys — but there’s only one who has been talking — openly talking — Silas Reed, to USC. And most of the players at Big 10 media day said, “look, we’re sticking together. This is a decision we’re making as a team. We’re going to play this season.” And I think a lot of them are standing behind Bill O’Brien. It’s the same kind of reaction in the community. People are saying, “I don’t care how much a football ticket, is I’m going to go to the games, even if I wasn’t going to go to the games otherwise to show, hey, you can’t beat me down. I’m going..”
Bill Rhoden: They don’t lose.
Sara Ganim: I’m going to support Penn State
Bob Schieffer: We’re about to go out of time. I want to go back to what buzz said. should we be paying our college athletes?
Bill Rhoden: No, I don’t believe in that. I do believe…
Bob Schieffer: Because they’re the only ones not making a whole bunch of money out of this.
Bill Rhoden: Well, that’s the rule of the NCAA. The only people who make money are the adults. But I don’t believe — I do believe that there is something to be said for going to these great universities and getting an education.
Buzz Bissinger: They don’t go there for that. They don’t have the time. They don’t have the wherewithal.
Bill Rhoden: I think that a lot do.
Buzz Bissinger: I think very few do. I think very few do. And Cam Newton probably made tens of millions of dollars for Auburn, tens of millions of dollars and gets nothing. It isn’t fair. It is a form of indenturement.
Bob Schieffer: All right, well, I’m sorry, that is where — we’ll probably continue this conversation after we go off the air, but we have to end this part of it. We’ll be back in a moment. Thank you all so much