Parables, paradigms and the brand

By Daily News • Last Updated 3:11 pm on Monday, November 21, 2011

For want of a nail the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe the horse was lost. For want of a horse the rider was lost, until the battle and the kingdom were lost.
That is a parable about how seemingly isolated matters can develop into big consequences. But the consequences become much worse when those warnings are continually ignored.
Had someone in the line of hierarchy at Penn State University been willing to stop the alleged long-term sexual abuse — in its facilities — of young boys by a former assistant coach by simply insisting on appropriate legal investigations,  the sanctity of the institution could have been saved. The tragedy of Penn State is that the brand — the school’s identity, especially with regard to athletics — was protected in lieu of any concern for innocent children.
Hence the national outrage.
Bo Schembechler, the iconic University of Michigan football coach, used to exhort his players with the concept that all their efforts were to be for the team, the team, the team.
Big-time college sports mantra is now: The brand, the brand, the brand.
The lengths to which devotees will go toward saving the brand has been exposed to the near-destruction of Penn State University’s reputation, one of America’s most proud institutions. The national media is frenzied in its exposure of every word and every move in the story of sexual abuse violations. Still, the university’s response is silence. Despite extensive media scrutiny, the story is still a matter of allegations, accusations, grand jury results, and the truth is still open to speculation.
Nevertheless, the spectacle has brought down the president of Penn State, as well as the athletic director, other administrators, and arguably one of the nation’s most admired and revered football coaches.
Coach Joe Paterno, aka JoePa, toiled for 46 years in a pressure-packed job and built a sterling reputation. His years at Penn State were untarnished by scandal or sanction only to be toppled, apparently, by his loyalty to the brand he worked so hard to build: Penn State football.
Big-time college athletic revenue — football, and basketball revenue in the main — covers the scholarships for male and female student-athletes across a wide spectrum of intercollegiate sports. This is a good thing. That contribution makes college possible for talented young people in all sports. For those students the payoff reaches far beyond what football and basketball graduation statistics would indicate.
The money comes from the efforts of amateur scholar-athletes. The system is supposed to remain pure, despite the fact that it is now a part of a multi-billion dollar amateur athlete television entertainment system.  Far too many of today’s values are directed by money. Nevertheless, if the value of “brand” is paramount, then pursuit of a “brand” characterized by the highest standards of integrity must be the bottom line.

Editorial opinions are a consensus of The Daily News editorial board.

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