Asmussen | Troubling 'trend' continues to emerge

Asmussen | Troubling 'trend' continues to emerge

You can write off one scandal as an aberration. Two scandals signal a pattern. Three scandals mean you've got yourself a trend. Not the happy, pleasant or positive kind.

The Big Ten is dealing with its third sex scandal in a decade.

The first, of course, was the notorious Jerry Sandusky case at Penn State. School officials ignored the obvious signs of trouble involving their longtime defensive coordinator.

Ultimately, Sandusky went to prison, the late Joe Paterno lost his job and the program suffered a two-year setback that pales in comparison to the long-term harm done to the victims.

I used to relish my trips to Penn State. The chance to get ice cream on campus, take a picture with the Nittany Lion statue and drive by Paterno's house.

But the thrill is gone. Forever. Call it Unhappy Valley. I have no interest in returning to State College for anything other than the obligation of covering a football game. The next trip will be Oct. 16, 2021. I won't spend a dime in State College and will stay in town for only part of the day.

The earlier the departure, the better.

With the Big Ten's complicated schedule, Illinois figures to play at Penn State no more than once every four or five years. I will do my job and make the trips.

Spartan sadness

Big Ten scandal No. 2 hit at Michigan State in 2017. Longtime team doctor Larry Nassar was convicted on multiple counts of sexual assault. He was sentenced in Michigan to 40 to 175 years in prison.

The repercussions were widespread at the school. President Lou Anna Simon was forced to resign. The school will pay up to $500 million to settle lawsuits brought by the victims.

And there is a huge image problem for Michigan State. How do you convince parents of top students that the school will do the right things in the future? The recent case showed the school missed multiple opportunities to stop Nassar before he did more long-term damage,

The welfare of the students has to be the top priority. Period. School administrators sometimes sacrifice doing what is right and only think about what will keep them out of trouble. Often with disastrous results.

The latest

Scandal No. 3 is the recently unearthed case at Ohio State involving 14 varsity sports and longtime team Dr. Richard Strauss.

Strauss, who killed himself in 2005 at age 67, is accused of sexual misconduct. The allegations date back as far as the 1970s.

The Ohio State case includes some political intrigue. Current U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan is denying charges by former Ohio State wrestlers that he was made aware of the doctor's conduct. Jordan, a former star wrestler at Ohio State, was a Buckeyes assistant coach from 1986-94.

Ohio State continues its investigation. Like at Michigan State, it faces the potential loss of big bucks in down-the-road lawsuits.

Crisis management

On the field and at the bank, the Big Ten is the best conference in the country. Sure, the SEC wins bigger in football and the basketball titles have eluded the conference since 2000.

But overall, the Big Ten is No. 1. Commissioner Jim Delany is given endless credit for his many great works. All deserved. He was smart enough to see the potential of BTN and kept the league at the top in terms of television revenue.

Delany is always one step ahead of the other conference commissioners.

We will see how the Big Ten responds to the Ohio State scandal. Significant penalties need to be handed down for programs that fail their student-athletes when it comes to safety.

Put teeth into any action and make sure it serves as a deterrent. One scandal was too many. Two was worse. Three should never have happened.

Bob Asmussen can be reached at 217-351-5233 or by email at asmussen@news-gazette.com.

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