Senior College Football Columnist

Let Freeh's damning report ring -- King Football needs to answer for sins


King Football must die. It must die a painful and immediate death.

It must be hanged in the public square to show that now and forever King Football can't rule a sport, a school, a society. It is time. It is overdue. If you don't know that the culture has changed after the release of the Freeh Report on Thursday then you are blind to the toxic byproducts of the second-most popular spectator sport in our country.

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It is the football culture. Bigger, actually, because this doesn't end at the goal line. But it was an adored former defensive coordinator who currently sits in a 6-foot by 8-foot cell today, convicted of child sexual assault, who provided the tipping point. He was aided by an adored former boss who, incredibly, wrote "this is not a football scandal."

Pathetic. It is a football scandal because football was valued over all in sheltering, protecting and enabling a child molester. That was the epic conclusion of the Freeh Report. Penn State's top administrators, the boss' bosses, essentially took their orders from that head football coach.

"There's more red flags," Freeh said, "than you could count."

Not a football scandal? Ask yourself if Jerry Sandusky had been a chemistry professor, would his acts been ignored by the dean of the school? Meanwhile, in the Penn State football building janitors were afraid to report a witnessed felony because they didn't want to lose their jobs.

"If that's the culture at the bottom," Freeh said, "God help the culture at the top."

Not a football scandal?

"The rapes of these boys occurred in the Lasch Building," Freeh said, referring to that football building. "Mr. Paterno had his office in the Lasch Building."

King Football won again, horribly. It is a culture that awards mere mortals royalty status. It is a culture that has grabbed hold of our youth and wrung some of that youth out of them. It is a culture that winks at a supposed 20-hour weekly work "limit" imposed by the NCAA that we all know is a joke. It is a culture that (until recently) allowed head coaches to "cut" players on an annual basis simply because they weren't good enough.

It is a culture that tacitly supports academic fraud and "clustering," the practice of guiding athletes to easy classes that produce the least friction against their athletic lives. It is a culture that allowed five Ohio State football players to participate in a bowl game in the middle of a major infractions case primarily because the school argued in favor of it.

If you disagree, consider those were the basic descriptions of recent significant violations at Michigan, North Carolina and Ohio State. There are more examples. Lots more. A football playoff was recently instituted without public mention of how any of the newfound revenue will be spent on the actual players.

It replaced a system (BCS) that was controlled, easily manipulated and put money directly in the pockets of the men who participated in the coaches poll.

King Football oversaw it. It is a vile culture and it must perish.

Draw a line from the BCS to Sandusky? Absolutely. It's not a blanket indictment of coaches and schools but it's an indictment. Of a culture that allows kids to die, not in games, but -- in this century -- exclusively in offseason conditioning. Of a culture that drives $5 million salaries.

King Football rules all. The head coach gets his way because he wins. The head coach, rewarded handsomely for his organizational skills on the field, doesn't take blame when his players get in trouble off of it. Can't watch them 24 hours a day, goes the refrain.

How about concealing damning emails that could hurt your program, Jim Tressel? How about allowing a sleazy booster deep inside the program, Miami? How about allowing a monster to roam free for 14 years, Penn State? They're all connected because at some key point King Football was allowed to make the call.

It is comforting and incredible that the truth was exposed in two of the biggest scandals of our time -- Watergate and Sandusky -- by an FBI administrator. "Deep Throat" was former FBI associate director Mark Felt. The biggest sins drew the most virtuous voices.

It took that intervention because there is no central authority to combat King Football. Others have argued eloquently that college football needs a commissioner. Agreed. It also needs a bath. The NCAA may step in, but that would be only at Penn State.

This is clearly a nationwide football scandal, a wakeup call that amateur sports must be cleansed by a Hazmat unit. If there were only enough reform-minded persons around willing to act. Among those working on reforms last year at an August NCAA summit were the CEOs of Miami (Donna Shalala), North Carolina (Holden Thorp), Ohio State (Gordon Gee) and ... Penn State (Graham Spanier).

There was a lot in the Freeh Report on Thursday that we already knew. Fortunately, we are not numb. Not yet. We should reminded of and outraged at Spanier's epic words defending former athletic director Tim Curley and former vice president Gary Schultz.

"I have known and worked daily with Tim and Gary for more than 16 years," Spanier said in November. "I have complete confidence in how they handled the allegations about a former university employee."

On Thursday, Louis Freeh said all three men -- plus Joe Paterno -- allowed a monster to roam free for 14 years.

In that sense, King Football remained undefeated. The question now becomes, for how long?

Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.

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