Our beloved Brew.

Our beloved Brew.
R.I.P. Big guy.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The NCAA Got the Penn State Punishment Right.

As a brand strategist I see PSU as a dream assignment. I'd urge PSU not to focus on image repair, public relations or marketing at this stage. What the institution and the brand need most is leadership on campus that will take responsibility for changing the culture, instituting new practices of responsibility and accountability and tangible evidence that its values have been restored.

As I've said countless times, branding is about differentiating behaviors more than image management. For all the security and equity PSU thought it had in it's brand, this shameful incident proves emphatically my point that a brand exists solely in the mind of the beholder.

 For once, I agree with the NCAA (and the Big 10) on their discipline. By bringing Penn State football to its knees but not cutting off its legs shows wisdom for which the NCAA has not been previously known. While in our hearts, those of us who considered Joe Paterno to be a role model and now feel betrayed, might have liked to see the NCAA deal Penn State the football "death blow" for betraying all those raped boys, it isn't fair to indict every student, faculty member and staff person past, present and future, as a decision of that magnitude would. 

 In stripping the school of years of victories and athletic accomplishments it wipes out any claim that can be made to past glories and thus takes away the schools most sacred currency, it's reputation. By releasing the athletes who wish to leave and giving them immediate eligibity elsewhere, the NCAA puts the burden on those charged with rebuilding, as it should be, and not on the backs of innocent student athletes. Admittedly, out of loyalty, some will choose not to leave. But a significant number will leave and a greater number still will rethink their intention to come in the future. Maybe through the rebuilding process, the institution, the players and their supporters will learn to keep football and those who run it in check. 

Football should never have gotten bigger than PSU itself. Taking Penn State out of bowl consideration for four years will not only cost the school and the program potential dollars but will also deliver a message to current members of the team that the change that is necessary must begin with the attitudes of the current crop of heretofore privileged athletes and help to set a new example for those yet to enter the program. 

 Finally, the $60,000,000 fine will create a legitimate hardship on the institution on top of all the legal settlements it still faces with the victims. Football generated the lion's share (no pun intended) of the revenue supporting virtually all other Nittany Lions sports programs. With the crippling blows to football at PSU, it's likely every other sport on campus will feel the sting as well. In the end, you can always follow the money. In an effort to keep the gravy train going, people at PSU looked the other way, avoided doing anything, let alone the courageous thing, all to protect their piece of the pie. The NCAA did the right thing in changing the future size and shape of the pie for years to come.