HOLIER THAN THOU: It was only after pressure from the state (seeing as Rutgers is no longer a private church-affiliated school) that guys like Tim Pernetti started getting the axe. Photo courtesy Elsa/Getty Images

HOLIER THAN THOU: It was only after pressure from the state (seeing as Rutgers is no longer a private church-affiliated school) that guys like Tim Pernetti started getting the axe. Photo courtesy Elsa/Getty Images

In news that isn’t really news, Tim Pernetti, the now former Athletic Director at Rutgers University has “resigned” amidst the scandal over the Mike Rice video. I say “resigned” in quotes because it wasn’t voluntary and I say it isn’t news because we all knew it was coming.

In fact, these college scandals — all of them — have become sorely formulaic. They’re like bad action movies. Or, thrillers, I guess in this case. Maybe the characters are different and the setting is new, but we all know what’s going to happen.

Maybe it’s because these athletic programs behave in a predictably irresponsible manner or maybe it’s because the faux outrage of public opinion forces the same results, but these college scandals begin to mesh together. One after another, when you stand back and look at them from afar, they become facsimiles of one another.

In fact, in the wake of this latest one, the one at Rutgers University, I’ve got it down to a near-science. Allow me to introduce to you the anatomy of an NCAA scandal:

Photo courtesy ESPN/Outside The Lines

Photo courtesy ESPN/Outside The Lines

The Incident
This one is a bit of a no-brainer. Every NCAA scandal starts with an NCAA infraction. I say NCAA infraction because, with the exception of a few extreme scenarios (Penn State) the wrongdoing isn’t actually illegal. It’s just in violation of a school athletics governing body. Jim Tressel essentially lost his job at Ohio State because players were giving away memorabilia for tattoos. Outside of the strict eye of the NCAA, that’s just capitalism at its finest.

The Media Outrage
People on CNN and ESPN don’t just report the story, they tell you how horrible it is. If the judicial system is innocent until proven guilty, the media system is “our kneejerk reaction is infallible”. The media talks about the story so much that WE begin to talk about it. This convinces OTHER news outlets that it is, in fact, a really big story, and news programs that hardly ever cover sports are now discussing the incident as if they were experts all along.

The Culprit
This is the guy that’s dead-to-rights guilty. Mike Rice. Gerry Sandusky. The players at Ohio State. These are the guys that did something wrong, the evidence has damned them, and there’s no way for them to wriggle out of culpability. Every NCAA scandal has its grey areas, but this character ends up being about as black-and-white as the scandal becomes. The only people siding with him are probably his friends and direct family. And even they have a tendency to jump ship. This character always, ALWAYS gets fired. That is, unless they are no longer there.

The Negligent Superior
I already mentioned Jim Tressel and he’d go right here. Tressel and Joe Paterno and Tim Pernetti. Every culprit has a boss who clearly should have handled things differently, or at least known more about what was going on. The tricky thing with these guys, though, is that it’s never clear how much they DID know. In every instance, the spectrum of public opinion is broad ranging from “he knew nothing” to “he knew everything and looked the other way”. And every one of these opinions, due to the behind-closed-doors nature of these scandals, don’t have nearly enough evidence to substantiate them. After the dismissal of the culprit, this guy is usually the next to go.

The Failed Cover Up
All of these scandals revolve around the fact that the infraction in question happened sometime in the past. Manti Te’o didn’t realize Lennay Kekua wasn’t real and come running for the news cameras. Gerry Sandusky didn’t get caught molesting kids and the school immediately ostracized him and had him arrested. Mike Rice didn’t call one of his players a f***ot and get fired on the spot. Someone above them, sometimes a GROUP of people above the culprit, would rather have a pedophile or an errant coach on staff than face the public with the problem laid out before them. So when the public DOES find out about it, it’s always at a later date and we’re always left saying, “How could they hide something like this?”

Photo courtesy The Washington Post

Photo courtesy The Washington Post

The Loosely-Connected Tragic History
This is where the news outlets dig up a previous scandal at the school in question and re-present it to you as if to imply there is a serial history of wrongdoing. With the Manti Te’o fiasco, it was Declan Sullivan, the student who died on a skylift while videotaping a practice, and Lizzy Seeberg, a Notre Dame student who took her own life after accusing a Notre Dame player of sexual assault. Here, with Rutgers, its Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers student who killed himself as a result of anti-gay bullying. These horrible tragedies are strung together in the loosest of terms (Gay kid bullied -> Coach uses homophobic slurs/Football program allegedly covers up rape allegation -> Football player’s dead girlfriend never existed) so that an already over-inflated story becomes even MORE over-inflated. It’s not just an isolated incident, it’s ‘Rape U.’ or ‘Anti-Gay Church School’. Implications and innuendos get in the way of hard facts to convince us there is something more sinister at play.

The ‘How Far Does This Go’ Phase
Furthering our love for conspiracies, the public begins roping in everyone that could possibly have something to do with the scandal. The president of the university is the PRESIDENT of the UNIVERSITY. Surely, he had to know something. And what about the boosters? Were there people financially backing a monster KNOWING just who he was? Our minds run rampant. Everyone is guilty and everyone must pay. The institution is cancerous and every part of it has been infected. At some point, we even begin to associate FANS of the school — perhaps people who never even attended school there — as somehow fostering behavior we are all of the sudden appalled by.

 The Inevitable Lull
Because this momentum of outrage is built entirely on half-truths and invalidated assertions, the investigation eventually slows. It turns out there’s not really some insidious aspect of the school, there was just a handful of people who made mistakes. For some, like Sandusky, the mistakes were unthinkable. For others, like the Ohio State football players, it was things that were really just frowned upon. No matter how bad the scandal actually is, the fact that we made it out to be even worse eventually assures that the public witch hunt dissipates.

The It’s-A-New-Era Resolution
Whoever held onto their jobs (or freedom) in the wake of the scandal come out and launch a full-blown PR campaign. They want everyone to know that they’ve cut the bad apples from their tree and all is right with the school again.

That is, until the next scandal surfaces. And we begin all over again.

NOTE: This story was originally published for SportsHead. To read this article and others click here.
When Bryan isn’t writing, he is on Twitter! Make sure to follow him @bclienesch for NCAA updates and other shenanigans!