By CHRIS DUFRESNE, Los Angeles Times
A good rule of thumb is to never build a statue of anyone living, and rarely of anyone dead.
Someone recently suggested to Saban that the football coach at Alabama, dating to Bear Bryant, had potentially dangerous power.
“Well, you know, it’s not true if that’s the perception,” Saban said.
Penn State is a reminder, though, of why light needs to be shined into the dark corners of a democracy that loves tailgating.
Interestingly, the opposite is happening. Coaches with $5-million salaries have a virtual stranglehold over operations and players. Postgame locker rooms used to be open — now they are closed. Player access to the media has become increasingly limited.
The narrative at most powerful programs is controlled, with puppet strings, by the head coach. Anyone think this will change?
For years, the NCAA operated in the catacombs, revealing about as much of itself as Hoover’s FBI. The NCAA was also once ruled a monopoly by the Supreme Court, which is the reason it lost control of Division I football.
The NCAA this week became more dictatorial — they claim it’s only temporary! — when the organizational body gave Emmert unprecedented power to expedite an unprecedented case. It then bypassed due process to move swiftly and harshly against Penn State.
Machiavelli would have applauded.
What exactly, though, hath the NCAA wrought? Time will decide whether it sufficiently crippled Penn State, or mobilized it. Did it spare the school the “death penalty” and a TV ban to protect its own fiduciary interests?
Football-crazed powers not killed by the NCAA tend to defy it. Miami and Alabama won national titles within a decade of so-called “punitive” sanctions. USC is poised to compete for a national title in the third year of major probation.
Penn State coach Bill O’Brien, on a conference call this week, outlined a potential artery weakness in the NCAA’s actions.
“They let us play football and let us be on TV,” O’Brien said. “We can play football in a beautiful stadium in front of passionate fans. … I understand we can’t go to a bowl game; I really do. But how many bowl games are played in front of 108,000 fans? … We play six or seven bowl games a year right here.”
Because it balked at putting Penn State out of business, the NCAA is in the unique position of actually needing one of its member institutions to fail. It also set the bar for egregiousness lower than the booster payouts that led to Southern Methodist’s “death penalty” in 1987.
The NCAA meted out to Penn State one more year of probation than it gave Caltech.
What if Penn State doesn’t fail? Are there unintended consequences we have not yet contemplated? Might one of those be the wholesale, unseemly poaching of Nittany Lions players?
The answers await us all.