Radio Times

What’s wrong (and right) about college athletics

November 15, 2011


Hour 2

Penn State fans at this Saturday's game against Nebraska, the first game in decades without coach Joe Paterno.(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Over the years , in what he called the Grand Experiment, Penn State football coach Joe Paterno set out to prove that it was possible to build and field a championship caliber football team without sacrificing the academic integrity of its program.  Paterno, though oftentimes cantankerous, was one of the most respected college coaches in history.  In his 45 years at the helm of the Nittany Lions, no other coach in the history of Division I college football won as many games (409) as he and the University ranks at the top when it comes to the graduation rates of its players.  In many ways, Penn State football was an example of what was right about college athletics.  But in light of the serious accusations of child sexual abuse against former coach Jerry Sandusky, a different and disturbing picture of Penn State sports has emerged —  a highly insular football program, a coach with more power than the University president, and an athletic system without any accountability to either administrators or the Board of Trustees.   What does all this tell us about what’s wrong with college sports and can the system be fixed?  We’ve invited writer Buzz Bissinger and Ohio University’s David Ridpath to join us.  They’ve both written extensively about sports and its complicated influence on higher education.

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