Nov 27 2011
The Penn State Press Release I Wish They'd Write


Penn State Board of Trustees

November, 2011



We are Penn State.  


And Penn State is a university, an institution of education.  This is our identity and mission.  The alarming recent events have revealed we have a created a insular and powerful culture, one parallel to our mission, that has little to do with the real work of Penn State University.  We, the trustees, have an opportunity to re-evaluate and re-calibrate our institutional priorities, given our existing mission statement:


Penn State is a multicampus public research university that educates students from Pennsylvania, the nation and the world, and improves the well being and health of individuals and communities through integrated programs of teaching, research, and service.

Our major college football program has not advanced this mission.  In fact, it has damaged it, and distracted from it.


While are not the only school guilty of over-emphasizing sports, we are not charged with making decisions for all schools.  We are charged with fulfilling the mission of Penn State.  To that end:


-- Our football program will cease operations; to begin again in the spring of 2015 for the 2015 season.

-- Penn State will be no longer be offering athletic scholarships.  Prospective student-athletes will gain entrance to the same admissions process as non-athletes.  Need-based aid will be available to all students.

-- Current athletic scholarships will be honored, but football athletes will be extended a release to transfer to other schools upon request.

-- Penn State will continue to field athletic teams, based largely on an Ivy League model.  

-- We will be severing our athletic ties to the Big Ten conference.


We certainly recognize that specific businesses in our immediate area will be impacted by the loss of traffic on several Saturdays during the year.  While we are saddened by the hardship that may produce, we also recognize our job, given that we are entrusted with the Penn State University, is not to provide football-related income to area businesses.  We are charged with our educational mission, solely.


We recognize that this step away from "big-time" college athletics will alienate some who've aligned themselves with the Penn State "family".  However, we're convinced true Penn State supporters and alumni, those who did not confuse football with our very mission, will stand by us in our re-focused commitment to educational excellence.


While there is certainly much a student may learn from sport, we are convinced it need not be in the context of a multi-billion dollar industry. We realize that students, nationwide, have often come to expect big-time college football as part of a "college experience", but we believe this marketing emphasis has largely been a means of disguising a decline in the overall value and quality of undergraduate education.


At Penn State, we will continue to offer a true college experience, one centered around the very meaning of the word "university":  Together, we will pursue truth, from diversity of both academic discipline and perspective.


As we re-commit ourselves to this purpose, and this purpose singularly, we recognize the idea of the "university", or even the purpose of "education", has largely become incoherent.  Few, including many in the professoriate, can articulate its purpose, and perhaps this very fact has contributed to a stunning "mission drift", yielding a beer-and-circuses "college experience" as a stand-in for the larger, catalyzing mission of education.


Penn State has an excellent academic staff, and excellent students.  We have allowed, but will no longer allow, what should be a mere adjunct to learning - sports - to become a culture with power (financial or emotional) capable of staining our academic standing.  


While this decision will strike many as draconian, the Board of Trustees disagrees. When we indicated serious measures would result, we were not merely hoping for the press firestorm to move on, and then merely insert "better" people into a system that is fundamentally broken.  This decision will enhance, not subtract from, Penn State's reputation for educational quality.  (We note that the University of Chicago, to give a relevant example, hardly suffers an identity crisis without its former membership in the the Big Ten.)


We have been proud of our group identity, but we recognize it was too often founded on producing an entertainment product, not our mission.  We have an opportunity, now, to either continue with the status quo, or change to make Penn State better than ever.


We are Penn State, and we are sorry for the culture we inadvertently created, one which valued the reputation of an athletic program over doing what is just and merciful.  


While we are humbled, we will use this opportunity to learn.  We will cast a vision for course-correction.  We hope this horrific chapter serves as a clarion call to purpose.  We will not let this happen again. 


We are Penn State, and we will not be content to offer cosmetic solutions to systemic problems.  We are changing more than our coach.  


We are changing our culture, and we are changing it immediately.

Comments (18) -

11/27/2011 6:38:58 PM
Trish United States
I beg you to please send this to Penn State.  This is spot-on!

Thank you for saying what needed to be said!
11/27/2011 6:53:37 PM
Tom United States
Clueless. Football pays for ALL sports at the university. It offers chances for kids to get an education who might not be able to afford it, in many, many other sports other than football. You would punish all these other students for the actions of a few administrators? Sorry, don't buy it.
11/27/2011 7:27:18 PM
Mark Christensen United States
Mark Christensen
I want to comment but each time I start I change my mind. My wife attended USC for her undergrad and post grad and I saw the financial benefit of the football program and how that particular school uses it for so much unadvertised good in their local community and how it impacts the other sports and how it provides an opportunity for so many young people a chance to attend an amazing university that they might otherwise not be able to afford. The popularity of the football games also is used to draw attention to other sports and students that are a great example to other students via their personal success and achievements. So I'm torn bro. I am so thoroughly disgusted by what has happened at that school and would love to see a school have the heart to write a letter like you wrote but I don't think they'd ever make that balance. I just don't think a secular school could make that hard of a decision. Ugg, my boys are playing Super Mario Cart and yelling like crazy so I can't think anymore.

I'll think more when the house is quiet.

By the way, love your show, I emailed back and forth with you once before about Stryper. Anyway, you're doing a great job.

Rock on!
11/27/2011 7:37:31 PM
Mike United States
The two comments before mine neatly polarized the two sides of this excellent posture.

I haven't had time to consider the implications of such an action, should Penn State decide to pursue it. However, I think this speaks not just to the nature of the multi-faceted problem facing Penn State, but also to a larger multi-faceted problem facing the United States of America.

Most of us are aware of several issues facing our country: deficits, unemployment, unwieldy government structure, etc. And although many of us can likely come up with the needed solution(s), we are afraid to implement them because of the impact to a variety of people across the country.

Just so with PSU and other institutions of higher learning that have come to depend on major college athletics for significant financial reasons. The erstwhile press release points to mission creep and provides a concrete solution and way forward.

It would be nice if we could have that same clarity surrounding the mission creep in America.

Well said!

11/27/2011 8:05:34 PM
Brendt Waters United States
Brendt Waters
To be clear, the severing of ties with the Big Ten is just because we can no longer stand those stupid division names. Wink
11/27/2011 8:12:39 PM
brant United States
Tom, questioning the value of big-time collegiate sports is not "clueless".  Sorry.

I'm well-aware (this "football pays for everything" business is trotted out enough to be cliche) of the familiar refrain.  And yet, somehow, someway, universities without major FBS programs are somehow also able to offer, say, volleyball teams.

How do you suppose that is?

What's more, there's some budget trickery that goes on, regularly, at most D-1 football programs.  They claim to be self-sufficient, but most athletic programs actually operate at a deficit, subsidized by students who may care less about the triple-option.

(Penn State, one of the few "successful" programs -it's odd to call it that, now- maintains that millions of dollars "contributions" are made by the football program to the general fund, but, in fact, those are in the form of athletic scholarships for the football players.)

There are only 120 FBS schools. All their fans will make the argument that "football pays the bills", but actually, the cost of big-time athletics is paid by...students, to the tune of approaching a BILLION dollars, yearly, in student fees to prop up these "big time" programs.  Is that fair, to provide entertainment and an ego boost for fans who align their identities with rah-rah?  Seems like a legit question, I don't know.

Scale it down, focus on actual education, instead of beer and football.  And I'm a big sports fan, by the way, who can argue RGIII, Andrew Luck, and Matt Barkley with most.  I wish my alma mater would do that go the route of focusing on actual education, but it would be less an ego hit for me, because Illinois is pretty terrible.
11/27/2011 8:16:51 PM
brant United States
Brendt, that's hilarious!  I had the same reaction to "Leaders" and "Legends", but then realized this is a sports landscape of "Banana Slugs", "Boomer Sooner", and, at Illinois, we say, uncritically, "Oskeewowow."  

By the way, Mark, you're right:  This letter won't happen.  There's simply too much personal identity wrapped up in college sports, too much personal ego in play.  Witness the reaction from people:  The idea of NOT having a major football program is just...just...unthinkable! - even though it has nothing to do with the mission of a university.  
11/27/2011 8:17:15 PM
Brendt Waters United States
Brendt Waters
Brant, you had this Georgia Tech alum until you spoke disparagingly about the triple option. Sacrilege! Wink
11/27/2011 8:44:06 PM
Mike Taylor United Kingdom
Mike Taylor
Hey, Brant!

So some time in 2009 you just stopped posting to Letters to Kamp Krusty and I thought you'd stopped blogging, and I was sad.

Now -- much, much later -- I find that you're still blogging, but over here.  So now I am happy again.

But!  You never posted a "goodbye, you can now read me over here" message on LtKK, and I fear you may have lost of lot of readers because of that -- people who, like me, never even knew that the new blog existed.

Is it too late to post something like that on LtKK?
11/28/2011 7:34:09 AM
Caleb United States
Ok Brant, I think I'm going to have to agree to disagree.
I don't think they should shut the football program down. Downscale, yes; shut down, no. There are poeple that NEED scholarships to get into college, and I don't like the idea of the school handing out money to any kid who "needs" it, when they have no incentive to make it through. The kids with scholarships EARN their way through school, not through handouts. poeple seem to be more responsible with things they work hard to get than when it was handed out to them

P.S., I am not a sports fan(sure makes it easy watching sport events with friends, they tell me who to root for, I root for 'em)

P.P.S. I am probably going to need a scholarship, my dad said he COULD (but probably won't) pay for any 2 of the 4 kids, and he already said on no uncertain terms he wants us ALL to earn through college(pay for or scholarship, he doesn't care, though he recomends scholarship)  personally, I don't want a sport sholarship because everyone I have ever known who ever played sports, has needed joints replaced and lots of corrective surgery, I already had my fair share and about ten others fair share of surgery and hospital visits.
11/28/2011 7:36:05 AM
Caleb United States
I am also homeschooled, so...
11/28/2011 10:25:14 AM
brant United States
Mike, you know, that's an interesting thing. I'm honestly afraid LfKK folks will be disappointed.  I have a different audience here, and, while I'm loosening up a bit, I'm very cognizant that not all will understand the LfKK stuff.  I'm working on that. I hope you are doing well!  I certainly miss that blogging environment...

Caleb, I think (?) you may misunderstand "need-based scholarships".  I'm just saying that athlete-types will need to apply through the same levers as everyone else.  If they don't qualify for need-based aid, they won't get it, just like everyone else. If they are gifted academically, they may qualify for merit-based aid, like anyone else.  That's all.

I know all this seems like crazy talk, like it will never happen, and I suppose that's true.  Doesn't mean a guy can't dream.  I'm a traditionalist, I guess.  Totally enjoyed club sports (like hockey) when I went to Illinois.  Great crowds, great fun, actual students.
11/28/2011 10:27:16 AM
brant United States
BTW, I'm not arguing for "no more football".  Just a massive scale-down, a de-emphasis, and a re-emphasis on undergraduate education.
11/28/2011 10:45:57 AM
Denise United States
I gotta agree with you about LfKK. I was disappointed with your new blog at first compared to the old ones, and for a while labeled you under "Anthems for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl" ("used to be one of the rotten ones and I liked you for that/ now you're all gone, got your make-up on and you're not coming back").

I like this blog now that I'm used to it. I have wondered, though, whether you have a not-work blog, like you did back then.
11/28/2011 4:18:00 PM
Trish United States
How about a de-emphasis on football, and an emphasis on the fact that children were MOLESTED?  How would all of you feel if it were your child that was molested?
11/28/2011 7:45:57 PM
brant United States
Denise, that's funny.  And I understand.

This is purely a function of weariness.  Knowing that 10% of people will "get it", while 90 will be angered, while largely missing the points, takes its toll.  

I'd still write the other blog, but I just haven't had the time and gumption.  I like saying "gumption".  I haven't said "gumption" for some time.  

11/28/2011 8:27:49 PM
Brendt Waters United States
Brendt Waters
Jon Acuff praised the use of the word "vittles" today over on SCL.
11/30/2011 8:02:07 AM
Nicole United States
I just want to say 3 things:

1. I agree with Brant

2. More people need to think about it from the victim's point of view. what if you were the victim or it was your son? how would you feel?

3. What a great way for Penn State to show the seriousness in which they are taking this matter and how apologetic to the victims and their families they are by shutting down the football program and re-evaluating what their purpose and mission is.
P.S. Jesus still loves Jerry Sandusky
Comments are closed