The Big Ten loved Joe Paterno when he was a benign sovereign over a by-the-book kingdom. Now that it turns out he was ruling over a culture that may have tacitly allowed an alleged sexual predator to prey on innocent children, the conference wants to make sure that nobody has Paterno's unbridled power again.
The presidents and chancellors of the conference's dozen members, meeting this week in suburban Chicago, intend to create their own ethics "stress tests" for programs, complete with "enforcement procedures and penalties" to make sure that there is sufficient oversight in every athletic department.
"There does appear to be sufficient information to raise significant concerns as to whether a concentration of power in a single individual or program may have threatened or eroded instututional control of intercollegiate athletics at Penn State," the conference' Council of Presidents and Chancellors said in a statement on Thursday.
To find out for sure, the league is asking the NCAA and Penn State to allow it "to participate in investigations and reviews ... as pertain to these issues," and punish the Nittany Lions for whatever unethical conduct is uncovered. The conference gave no indication what form those sanctions might take.
In an rather deadpan admission, the presidents of the Big Ten's universities "recognized and acknowledged that from time to time its institutions have failed to maintain the proper control of their athletics programs," the statement said, an understatement given that Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State, three of its most historically prominent members, are under varying degrees of investigation or sanction at the moment.
When such violations occur, "each other member of the Conference is impacted," the presidents said, so they intend to take collective action to head off any further loss of control. The Big Ten's executive board intends to design a "stress test," it said, to make sure no program is operating outside of its school's oversight, and "to prevent anyone, whether a trustee, administrator, faculty member, athletic director, coach, booster or otherwise, from eroding the effectiveness of an institution's practices and procedures designed to protect the institution's integrity and control over its intercollegiate athletic programs."