Brent Musburger, regarded by many as the voice of college football, was the guest on Pardon The Interruption's Five Good Minutes yesterday to talk about the situation at Penn State. Despite his status as the top play by play man in the sport, Musburger has never been one to be shy when it comes to offering his opinion. The same is true regarding the happenings at Penn State. Musburger presented a strong opinion against the NCAA taking action, keeping the focus on the victims, and thoughts on Joe Paterno's legacy.
While Musburger strongly condemned Jerry Sandusky and provided thoughtful commentary on the rush to get back to talking football, it was his comments on Joe Paterno that drew a strong reaction, again showing the volatiity remaining in this story. First the audio and quotes from Musburger after the jump, followed by some added perspective on his interview with Tony Kornheiser and Kevin Blackistone.
"This is a horrendous story involving Jerry Sandusky who has been found guilty and probably will die in prison, and that's certainly is as it should be. But this is a criminal investigation that has gone on. It has nothing to do with the NCAA and I believe that due process should have been followed by the NCAA and they should have looked into the matter of the coverup even further.
"When they (the NCAA) start investigating criminal activity, that is a very slippery slope for them."
"They talked about culture, there's only one way you're going to change the culture in big time college football – take down the scoreboards."
"I think it was basically a PR move… this is not a football story, this is a story about a pedophile who happened to be a football coach."
"To me it is about those victims being taken care of, it's about talking about child abuse. It's not about talking about a coach's victories, it's not about talking about off tackle plays. I think the NCAA did us a horrendous disservice by pushing football back to the front and the victims to the back. Go take a look at the sports pages today and see what the stories are all about."
"If I thought for a moment the NCAA penalties were going to stop child abuse across the country, I'd say go for it. I know better than that."
"I can only speak from my heart about how I feel for him. I liked him, I enjoyed his company very much. I think he did so many good things throughout his career, I loved being around his former athletes listening to the stories. He apparently made one horrendous, horrendous decision but I don't think that can eliminate all the good that I feel that Joe Paterno did throughout his entire career at Penn State. I can only speak for myself, not for anybody else."
Musburger's appearance, and its reaction, is fascinating. College football's most recognizable voice speaking out against the NCAA in such a forceful way should not be taken lightly, nor should Musburger's willingness to take such a strong stand.
But what about those Paterno comments? There were certainly voices criticizing him as a Paterno apologist because of that very last statement. This is where the challenges for the media come into play Ben spoke of yesterday.
It's quite easy to take a soundbyte of Brent Musburger saying he can't eliminate all the good Joe Paterno did and throw him to the wolves as a Paterno defender and an out of touch apologist. The comment is not a "defense" of Paterno necessarily, but rather an honest statement on not completely erasing Paterno's contributions. To much of the public though, Paterno's name is still too toxic to consider even that.
If one listens to Musburger's entire interview, the Paterno comment tells nowhere near the whole story.
Brent's perspective on the NCAA's swift action, leaving behind due process and creating an enormous precedent, is valuable commentary whether you agree with him or not. Musburger is also one of the strongest advocates of keeping the focus on the victims and on the crime of child abuse instead of making this about football or Joe Paterno. In fact, he did one of the best jobs I can remember in this entire story in actually keeping what's truly important at the forefront instead of Penn State football or how other programs will benefit from poaching their players. This isn't someone that's trying to feign outrage and reach for an extreme position to get his name out there.
Brent Musburger's Five Good Minutes on PTI was some of the best and most honest commentary on Penn State emerging from the sports world because it took note of the complexities of the story and what was truly important. Musburger didn't shy from sharing his true opinion, whether it meant being critical of the NCAA, speaking of Jerry Sandusky dying in jail, or even his perspective on Joe Paterno. Hopefully his final words on Paterno don't narrowly define him, because many others in the media and elsewhere can learn from the balance of his thoughtful, influential commentary.