Journal Prompt Week 11: What If Penn State Had Happened at Florida State?

ImageFor this week’s journal entry, I’d like you all to first listen to the radio story from WBEZ’s This American Life here–about the first five minutes or so, until they start “Act 1.”

I think we can all agree that the child rape and subsequent cover-up that happened at Penn State was an unjustifiable atrocity. The student reaction to the news (not all students, we have to assume) was disappointing as well: angry fans tipping over news vans in reaction to Joe Paterno’s firing, angry outcry over the penalty imposed on the football program, that kind of thing.

It’s easy to hate on Penn State, and entirely justifiable. But I think it’s important to note the similarities between a school like Penn State and a school like ours: both are large state colleges with tons of school spirit. Student life at both schools revolves in large part around football season and the drinking scene off-campus (see the This American Life episode “#1 Party School” for an examination of the debauchery at Penn State recorded two years before news of the Sandusky scandal broke). Until the scandal broke (and, for some people, even after), Joe Paterno was every bit as beloved as Bobby Bowden.

So I think it’s only fair to ask ourselves: what if Penn State had happened here?

You can react to this prompt in a number of ways. You could reflect on the importance of football in our higher education system, or write about the value of transparency and accountability in any organization, athletic or not. You could talk about the nature of fandom, and how it might lead us all to do stupid or unreasonable things sometimes. How does a school make amends for such a heinous crime being perpetrated on its grounds? How can we keep our administrations accountable so that cover-ups like Penn State don’t occur?

I know we’re coming off a huge victory this week, and I certainly don’t want to put a damper on anyone’s school spirit. But this is the point of English class more than anything else: thinking critically about the ideas and institutions around you.

As always, 200 or more words, due by midnight Sunday, November 10.


24 thoughts on “Journal Prompt Week 11: What If Penn State Had Happened at Florida State?

  1. Obviously, attending such a football-oriented university such as Florida State has turned me more into a crazed football fan. I’m a girl, I shouldn’t really like to watch sports, but Florida State football is the only games I can really get into. If you think about it and really take a look on campus, everywhere you look has something to do with “The Seminoles” or the football team. I mean, how could you not? We’re undefeated and probably have one of the most beautiful stadiums I’ve ever seen. Come to think of it, it’s almost like this institution is brainwashing us into being these insane, die-hard college football fans. Just from this past weekend and witnessing the competition and cruelty from the Miami fans, it is crazy to think that all of this hostility is caused by a game where you throw a ball across a field. The real reason why colleges put so much into these teams is for money. With Miami tickets selling alone for $200, it is an awesome way to bring in the big bucks. If something like a Penn State situation ever happened to FSU, it would scar it for life. We have a reputation of being crazy partiers and not a lot of people taking us seriously. And if something like this were to happen to such a school-spirited and traditional institution, the student bodys’ reaction will be equivalent to that of Penn State. People would try to look the other way, because football seems to be the most important aspect.

  2. If Penn State had happened at Florida State, I feel as though the same thing that happened there would have happened here. Loyal fans of Bobby Bowden would still be loyal fans. Those who criticized the behavior of Sandusky and Paterno would have still been the ones to criticize the actions of the respective leaders here at Florida State. Those wanting to attend Florida State would (for the most part), still attend FSU afterwards. I live in Pennsylvania, about 4 hours from Penn State’s main campus and about 10 minutes from one of its smaller campuses, Penn State Lehigh Valley. Of course, coming from the home state of this horrible discovery, it was talked about at my school amongst my peers probably more than any other state’s schools. Many students from my school had siblings attending Penn State and were loyal fans of the football team, and Joe Paterno himself. When the news hit, everyone was talking about it- and I mean everyone. But when it came time to apply to and make a final decision about where to attend college, a very large portion (I would guess somewhere around 50%) of the students in my grade still chose to go to either Penn State Main or Penn State Lehigh Valley. I feel as though if this situation were to have happened at FSU, it would not ward off many potential applicants and future students. Us kids know that just because there was one large mistake made multiple times by one man and another man attempted to cover it up, that reflects little upon the standing of the school otherwise.

  3. Florida State University has a strong football program and many fans that stand behind it, just like Penn State’s. What the Penn State program did is not acceptable, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t happen to other schools as well. I believe our school would react the same way, some taking the news lighter than others. Everyone looks up to our football program like it’s on a pedestal, whether we like it or not. Fans gear up to tailgate religiously and many alumni return for the games as well. With this being said, we have to understand that sometimes when people or programs are in the lime-light they tend to crack under pressure. If a situation like this were to arise at Florida State I believe it would affect the football program, not the school itself. The entire school can’t be ostracized because one sector made a mistake. But even the football program wouldn’t be too disrupted. Bobby Bowden will be forever loved and remembered for the good things he did, people wouldn’t be able to focus on the one bad thing he did among the many good. Maybe fandom would decrease a little or school spirit would dwindle but overall football is a beloved sport here and it can unfortunately afford to get away with some things. Let’s just hope our university won’t have a scandal like that.

    -Christie Gleason

  4. When I came up to Tallahassee for the first time during my junior year of high school is was to meet with the head baseball coach so he could give me a tour around campus to recruit me. The very first thing we went to see was Bobby Bowden field at Doak Campbell Stadium. It’s obvious how much football means to this university, now more than ever. I cannot even begin to imagine waking up and hearing news that One of our football coaches who everyone on this campus loves and respects so much would do something to an innocent child. There is no “game-plan” that a University has for a scandal like the one Penn State underwent. It goes back to the very beginning when the first coach walked in the showers and saw Sandusky doing such a terrible thing. That coach had every right to beat the old man Sandusky until he could never harm a young boy again; but he didn’t. That coach also had the responsibility to call the authorities and get Sandusky thrown in jail forever; but that didn’t happen either. The University wanted to keep it a secret so they would save the downfall of a single coach…in turn, they ended up with the downfall of not only the entire football program, but the administration of the university as well. Penn State missed their opportunity to make things right with the situation when they failed to call the police immediately. They tried their best to cover up the tracks even after they were busted; the removal of Peterno’s statue and other memorabilia around campus was the best they could do. What they couldn’t do was save that little boy from having to live his entire life with a sense of insecurity. Big cooperations and universities are the face of this country. If we cannot rely on them to do the obvious right thing in a situation like this then we’re in some serious trouble. I’m proud to say I go to Florida State, home of the greatest college football coach their ever was, Booby Bowden.

  5. If the Jerry Sandusky scandal happened at FSU, I think the student body would react the same way that Penn State’s did. Penn State had a reputable school and football program. Joe Paterno was beloved of all his players and fans. However, Paterno did cover up one of the biggest crimes in NCAA football history: the 45 child sexual abuses made by his assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky. What Sandusky, Paterno, and the Penn State athletic department did was wrong. They should have fired Sandusky on the spot after the allegations were made known. As a result of the cover of the child sex abuse scandals, 111 of the games Paterno won when he knew of the scandal were vacated and the school and football programs received a huge fine. I believe that the students became upset and started riots because the school’s reputation diminished. Penn State will now forever be tied to the Sandusky child sex abuse scandal and cover- up. If “Penn State” happened at FSU, students would be outraged especially because of FSU’s high football status. FSU’s reputation would be lost and the school and football programs would have to rebuild from the bottom. However, I do not believe the riots were justifiable. Child sex abuse scandals are very serious and should never be covered-up. School administrations should make precautions against this from happening and make the punishments greater to decrease the likelihood that the Penn State event would happen again.

  6. If what happened at Penn State were to happen here at FSU, I think our school and the community surrounding the football team would have reacted the same. The football team’s history at FSU is thought of highly. Similarly to Penn State’s former coach, Joe Paterno, Bobby Bowden has put football to the top at FSU and has made it a priority. Bobby Bowden is thought of as a hero just as Paterno was once thought of. If a scandal like Penn State’s got FSU involved, Bowden’s name would be tainted forever. He would not be known as the man he is today. His talent for coaching and winning college football games and all that he will be remembered by is his lies and the stories he has had to cover up. The football games would just not be the same after. Don’t forget all the consequences such as, NCAA penalties, and loss of interest in the school for recruits, and the team’s hype and moral would definitely not be the same. How can a student paint himself in colors and cheer on a team that seems now to be a big lie and the people in charge untrustworthy? Hopefully nothing ever happens like this at FSU because if it did, our team would for the first time become conquered.

  7. Honestly, the Penn State scandal could have happened here, it could have happened anywhere. It’s nothing but a tragic and disgusting act but it was kept a secret for years so who knows what else colleges are hiding. I don’t really think there is a way to change an adults mindset. If they are going to cover something like that up, there’s really no way of changing that. I think the only way to avoid an issue like this would be to educate children on ways to seek help. If the children came out earlier and reported what had happened, all the years of secrecy could have been avoided. That is not to put blame on children, I just think in my opinion adults can put work before morals. Children need to learn to stand up for themselves and know that what happened to the Penn State victims was and is completely wrong. A rapist deserves punishment and every child and victim should understand that, even though it is something that is hard to admit.
    If this had happened here at FSU, it would be heartbreaking. To take advantage of children and for adults to cover it up is unthinkable, only it is since it happened but hopefully it’s not something that will ever occur here.

  8. The scandal that took place at Penn State was devastating not only to the football program but to the university and community as well. We always think that events like this could never happen to us. But if lightning were to strike and Florida State found itself in this predicament, the effects would be just as severe upon the university and the community. As Joe Paterno was the idolized head coach of the football program for Penn State, Bobby Bowden is the flipside comparison for Florida State. We place these people upon raised pedestals and believe they could do no wrong in our eyes. When things go awry and a Sandusky rears its ugly truth, even the highest pedestals can topple and the idols will fall. Everything that happened at Penn State would be no different if it happened right here in Tallahassee. We would be subject to national criticism, fallen heroes, NCAA sanctions, and worst of all self-defeat. Before the news broke out students of “Paterno Town” celebrated the program and university that could as they thought “handle every situation perfectly.” Well that theory did not hold true. All any university can hope for is that the program stays truthful and that a situation does not happen to them.

  9. I think that football in our higher education is important not only to get the school exposed to other parts of the nation but also to bring in money from ticket sales and sponsors. The fans at FSU love their team and coaches very much while wining and they seem to hate the team and coaches when they are losing or not playing up to their standards. If what happened at Penn State were to god forbid happen here at FSU. The fans would be outraged beyond belief, there would be riots in the streets and anarchy would reign at FSU. The schools would have a lot to try to amend for such a heinous crime. I personally think you can make amends when it comes to something like that. You would I guess have to find out what the family would need as compensation and remove the offender from the program and from the school itself. We can keep our administrations accountable for this sort of stuff by imposing stricter penalties on the violators. The violators should be severely punished for committing such a heinous act.
    Palmer Harper

  10. Andrew Miller

    College football has grown to become a culture of die-hard fans and priceless bragging rights, and most would agree–fan or player–that they would do whatever it takes to win. That does not include extreme circumstances, and certainly doesn’t include keeping a child molestation case in secrecy. If the same had happened here at Florida State it would be confusing at first as to what to do next. I think the strict sanctions imposed on Penn State were fair because even though it wasn’t directly the football team’s fault, such a travesty cannot go unpunished. It still did not feel like enough, though. No punishment will ever be enough. The focus should instead be shifted towards preventing these types of unspeakable acts. More attention should have been paid to raising awareness on child molestation and keeping children safe. That won’t eradicate such an abomination like raping a child but hopefully it will eliminate enough of it so that more attention can be paid to cases like Penn State’s. Tragedies like this bring people together, and even if such an embarrassing and disgusting thing happened at our beloved university, I would still hold my head high. I would still hold true because I know that Florida State University stands for so much more than that, and I’m sure Penn State does too.

  11. If the whole Sandusky Incident happened at Florida State the university would be scarred forever. First off our beloved noles football team would not be in the National Championship hunt as Penn State cannot participate in any postseason bowls or championships. Also i doubt we would have half the players we have now. I doubt Jameis Winston the star quarterback of our team would want to come into an environment like that. Not to mention he really has nothing to play for. The Penn State team lost so many scholarships the majority of their team is walk on’s and partial scholarship kids. As a big football school it would literally crush us. Another point would be the amount of money we would lose. Penn State is giving 20 million dollars to 20 or more different victims. That’s a ton of money lost for this university.To be honest I doubt I would even be attending Florida State if this tragic incident happened to us. I came to Florida State to watch some good football, get a degree, and party. If it weren’t for the killer football team I could be attending a different school. An incident like this would destroy Florida State.

  12. Football being what it is in college makes any of the bad things that go on seem less important and to sometimes never be heard of. I think that if the same situation happened here that it’s obvious that our fans would be hurt and their spirits crushed but I also believe that our fans and students are stronger than that, that they wouldn’t let that kill all of our school pride because one man made a large mistake. Our loyal fans may become weary but I think that we have a more loyal fan base. That our fans wouldn’t just abandon FSU because of this mistake I think that we would come together stronger than before to get over this trauma. I mean if you like FSU whatsoever and you are sitting in our massive stadium with 80,000 fans singing the war chant there is no better feeling for pride in your team, our school in that moment. In that moment it is almost over whelming there is just so much energy coursing through everyone that it is just contagious. Being there in the moment no would let that get in the way of being proud to be a Seminole.

  13. Isn’t it funny how something as simple as fandom can bring the most unlikely of people together? The spirit here at FSU is over the top. Everywhere you go you see student, parents, and professors dressed in garnet and gold. On Saturday game days, the campus is flooded with people dressed to support our team. Fans all gather in our castle of a stadium to cheer on the Noles. However, this cheering on of our team can get rather violent at time. The union of over spirited and drunk college kids at a rival football game is a recipe for disaster. Yes it is important for students to have school spirit and to be proud of the university they go to, but it gets to a point where it’s just too much. Some fans get violent to show their support for their team. When it gets to that point, I believe the purpose of sports is lost. The reason we have sports is to “fight” and show who is better without actually fighting. FSU is already showing all its rivals who is boss and we don’t need violent fans to make our dominance look bad. Get together with some friends, drink some beer, and have a great time at a football game without causing more tension with our losing rivals. They can clearly see who is winning from the scoreboard, no need to rub it in.

  14. Going to a high school that did not have a football program has only made me appreciate football here at Florida State University more than I anticipated. With an undefeated football team this season, the students of FSU can say the same thing. The support the student body is incredible, and you can see the love our students and faculty have for the team and coaches. So, if the scandal that took place at Penn State happened here, the outcome would be almost the same. Our up and coming football team would fall apart, and our chance of having another National Championship, or even playing in a Bowl game, would not happen. We would lose many of the scholarships we have and the school’s reputation would be scarred for a long time. The school would be torn apart by constant arguing, accusations, and fights. Perhaps, the funding and donations to the school by alumni and sports fans would decrease as well. Same with the admissions—they may take a turn for the worse if fewer students would be interested in coming to the school. That’s why it is so important for the school to prevent any events similar to the Penn State situation from happening, to protect our beloved Seminoles and our school’s great reputatuion.

  15. The actions of one man can affect the overall view on a huge entity such as a college football team. One man named Jerry Sandusky tainted the Penn State football’s program for the past few years and many years to come. It was a horrible thing and I hope nothing like this will happen at FSU or anywhere for that matter. However if this did happen at FSU I would remain a loyal fan and still support everyone on the football team except those involved in the scandal. It would taint the FSU football program for years just like it did to Penn State. With how good our football team is this year, it would be nothing short of a tragedy because everything everyone has worked to build for 30 years has now been for nothing. This is because for the past few years the first thing you think of when you think about Penn State football is Jerry Sandusky and Joe Paterno. Even though Paterno was not involved in the molestation he was still aware of it happening in his facility and did nothing.

  16. If the Penn State scandal had happened here, I can only imagine what would happen; not only to student life, but to the school itself. To start, the football program would be dismantled by NCAA sanctions on the schools allowance of scholarships. Just as at Penn State, their team’s strength and prestige took a nose dive when the NCAA took action. FSU’s student life is highly affected by the excitement and good times brought on from a good Seminoles whooping of another team. To watch our team struggle due to a lacking of skill from those scholarships being taken away, our schools pride and morality would hit an all-time low. The love of Bobby Bowden would also be a huge “Punch in the gut” to football fans, as they would feel betrayed. At Penn State, the verdict was that Joe Paterno was fully aware of what Sandusky was doing. Should it have been Bowden that was aware of a scandal happening here, the reaction might be similar to Penn State’s students rioting. With student and faculty morality being so low, a football program in the dumps, and a new bad image of the school as a whole (from negative media attention) the school itself would begin to reach a rapid decline. The enrollment of freshman classes would begin to drop as high school students would see the decline in current student moral as a sign to not attend FSU. Slowly the decline in the schools funding would cause issues with projects such as the student housing re-building and projects that keep the school looking as nice as it currently is. I’m not saying that the school would look like a war-zone 10 years down the road from such an incident, but the results wouldn’t keep the school on it’s current path of improvement and growth.

  17. Saturday morning hits. Three hours before the game, pre-gaming begins. War paint covers the bodies of hundreds, feathers become tangled in the hair of many, beers are shot gunned by many a frat boy- this is college game day. I never knew what football was until I came to Florida State. I didn’t know didly squat about wide receivers or first downs. Before this experience, I just watched football to spend time with my Dad and see people get tackled. Now, I’m just as crazy as the Garnet and Gold guys. I have FSU hats, shorts, shirts, bows, hair ties, pom-poms and so much more. I wear it all with pride on game day. Like any good Seminole, I hate the gators. They’re color scheme is ugly and their school is overrated. Florida State students have an undying love for Football. If you attend Florida State, you must love football. There is no other choice.
    The aforementioned scenario is similar to that of Penn State in 2011.Football and fandom were everything. The way Florida State treats Bobby Bowden is one hundred percent similar to the way Penn State treated Joe Paterno. We have a stain glassed window of Bobby Bowden- he is Florida State University’s God! But when it comes to whether or not a thing like the Jerry Sandusky scandal could occur here is unanswerable. There is no way of knowing if something as horrific as that would happen here. Our school is so consumed with football and beating those damn gators, but I hope someone would stop and take the time to report such a grotesque action. I hope someone would do the right thing, but I have no way of predicting that. I have the slightest feeling that no one would because of how well we are doing currently, but I hope to be wrong.

  18. Timmy Corrigan

    If the scandal at Penn state happened at Florida State I would imagine that the mood on campus would shift quite dramatically. Since this school revolves around the football team it would impact everyone. It would be hard to cheer for a the team knowing what had happened in the locker room and knowing that none of the higher up officials took any action to stop it. The FSU campus is a very up-beat and positive place and had this happened, it would drastically affect it. Doing the war-chant just would not feel the same again. It would feel tainted in someway. If this happened, I would like to see a full restart of the football program by bringing in a new coaching staff. It would definitely help the feel on campus if you knew that the people that you were rooting for were actually good people. Also this incident would make me a little angry because then I would have had mindlessly cheered for people who did nothing to stop an atrocity. I think eventually the fans would start cheering again and the feel would be restored but the name FSU would be forever maimed. It would have affect my decision in applying to Florida State if this had happened here too.

  19. It takes a lot to turn a loyal football fan against their team. Tallahassee is one of the most spirited cities I have ever been in especially around game days. The whole town gets into the Seminole spirit. The fans are loyal ones. I have a feeling that if the Penn State scandal happened here at FSU a similar reaction would have taken place. I have no doubt that the event would stir up commotion and discussion for awhile, but after the scandal died down I think that loyal fans would remain loyal and students looking to come to FSU wouldn’t change their decision. Football is such a huge part of college and especially with such a successful team, it would take a lot to turn fans against them. I think the student body would be crushed by the scandal but we are a school of pride and I think we would come together to get past it. But I would like to think that if such a thing happened here that it would be reported immediately. I’m proud that our school wasn’t part of such a thing.

  20. I find this post to be an odd coincidence. If I hadn’t chose to attend Florida State, Penn State was my next decision. I had always wanted to attend a school that was very “rah rah”. I wanted a college that thrived on the energy from the football team; a college that radiated with spirit and enthusiasm. If what happened to Penn State had happened at Florida State, I could not see myself thinking negatively about the school. I have a handful of friends that endured the Sandusky tragedy, and when it was brought up they were merely disappointed that people thought poorly of their school rather than looking at it as a whole and a quality institution. Although Florida State is known for its top-notch football program and die-hard fans, it is not the only thing this school has to offer. There are people that come here for a specific major, great academics, etc. I could not see the mood on campus changing at all. If anything, a story such as the Sandusky scandal would bring the students together. The students of Florida State would want to prove that they were not a part of this debacle, and it was sprung on them out of the blue just as it was to the students at Penn State. Yes, it would change others’ views on the university and application rated would plummet, but to those who are loyal fans and students they energy would illuminate and build the school back up to what it was.

  21. What happened at Penn State was awful. Thinking of it happening anywhere else, especially my school, is terrible. If the things that happened at Penn State happened at Florida State it would have tarnished the name of a college dynasty. The name Bobby Bowden would be tainted which would be a shame. Joe Paterno’s name is still one of the biggest names in college football history but unfortunately now his legend is overshadowed by the acts of child abuse in the Penn State locker room. Florida State would definitely not be where they are today without what Bobby Bowden done in his illustrious career. If the same scandal happened here, the team would lose a lot of recruits in all sports, the number of applications would decrease, and we would be out of postseason football for a few years. Penn State struggles with recruiting when it used to be one of the best, and some of their star players transferred after the allegations were released. Florida State would’ve for sure lost some star power if the allegations hit us. A few of the players that have helped win big games this season would be playing at a different school right now and we would not be sitting at a perfect record with the National Championship in clear vision.

  22. What happened at Penn State is a disappointment in how people handle terrible situations. The scary thing is that a scandal like that could happen at any school and I’d pray that it wouldn’t become as corrupted and have justice ignored just for the sake of football. Football at Florida State is something students and alumni are passionate about. It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t care about football or at least any sport on campus. For heaven’s sake we have a giant stained glass of Bobby Bowden in the staduim, if that doesn’t show school spirit- and maybe a bit of obsession- I don’t know what does. It’s tradgic to think that something as aweful as child rape would be covered up for something so shallow as team loyalty. Corruption of justice just breaks my heart. Sadly I think that if something like that were to happen between one of the coaches and players or whoever, I feel like it would be covered up. That decision, even though made to protect the football program, would make the situation even worse.

    • I don’t know how the students would react. I would hope that they would be angry at the football program and side with justice, but I can’t honestly say that I believe that that would happen.

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