Recent articles by The Spokesman-Review on Washington’s highest-paid employees (university coaches) and the alleged Penn State University sex abuse coverup highlight two long-standing elements of collegiate sports.
First: disconnects between many institutions of higher education and their respective athletic departments. Because many departments are funded by ticket revenues and private contributions from alumni and other supporters, it has become fashionable for the athletic tail to wag the educational dog, often with said dog’s implicit consent. Many coaches and athletic departments feel justified in making ill-thought-out decisions about their programs, including outrageous compensation, independent of their school’s academic leadership.
This carefree attitude has resulted in the creation of the NCAA, whose efforts to rein in unseemly recruiting practices, enforce eligibility rules, and administer many other matters which the schools it monitors are unable or unwilling to control, often border on the laughable.
Second: sacrosanct major athletic programs’ expectations to be granted preferential treatment and to be held to a different set of rules than their respective academic populations, which often aid and abet such expectations with studied indifference and/or maniacal support. The furor over the revocation of Joe Paterno’s sainthood is a classic example of where this can lead.