In every scandal that has plagued college athletics in the last few years, there has been a pattern of steps that I’ve seen in all of them. From Florida State’s cheating scandal to the Ohio State rings-for-tattoos scandal to Miami’s Nevin Shapiro scandal, they all take the same path. Penn State’s scandal is no different, though it is definitely more appalling.
Below are the five steps that these scandals seem to take, and you can tell me if this seems right.
1.) Early details of the scandal are leaked
There’s always that first time you hear initial details about a scandal, and it’s usually something small that doesn’t seem quite right. It’s a leak that always ends up being just the tip of a massive iceberg. It’s that moment at Miami when someone says, “Hey, there’s something going on with a booster in Coral Gables.” It seems like something that won’t end well, but it never seems as bad as it will when Step 2 is complete.
2.) The bombshell is dropped
This is the moment you’ll never forget — that time when that one piece of news comes out and you think to yourself, “Ohhh boy. This is bad.”
It was the grand jury’s testimony at Penn State. It was the tell-all report by Yahoo! Sports finally being released at Miami. It was the release of Jim Tressel’s cover-up emails, and it was the tell-all interview with the rogue tutor at Florida State. There’s always one of these moments, and that’s the moment that the situation gets noticed by the entire public, not just the sports media.
3.) The PR nightmare happens
In a world of political correctness and professional PR teams representing everyone, there seems to still be a moment (or possibly several moments) where you are stunned and scream, “What are they THINKING???” For Penn State, this was the constant cancellation of press conferences when they needed to say something the most, just to calm the storm.
For me, at Florida State, it was the moment when I was sitting in a press conference with President T.K. Wetherell about their continued fight with the NCAA during the cheating scandal. Wetherell was asked about the crippling nature of the scandal, and his answer was some five-minute tangent that finished with a grandiose scheme to plant a rogue tutor on Florida’s campus to take down Tim Tebow in the same manner, diverting the attention from FSU.
This would be like Miami President Donna Shalala joking about planting Nevin Shapiro on FSU’s campus. It wasn’t something that should have been said. But that’s what makes it a blunder that makes the scandal dig even deeper.
4.) People are fired or removed from the program
Eventually, when it’s gone on for too long, heads have to roll. This is when the school decides that the only way to fix things is to clean house and move on. It’s the only way to change public perception of the scandal and get the national media to go home. In a situation like the one at Miami, players are suspended if there are no coaches around to take the blame.
5.) Trying to move on
Then, it’s time to move on and figure out a way, hopefully, to never repeat the same mistake. Usually, moving on for the sports world means another scandal has been uncovered, and it’s time to pay attention to that one instead. It’s a sad state of affairs, but that’s the way college athletics seems to be these days.