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Citizen Dave: The unhealthy state of college athletics
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The Pat Richter statue outside Camp Randall
The Pat Richter statue outside Camp Randall
Credit:Rotblatt Amrany

The Penn State football scandal grows uglier by the day. The most recent reports indicate that the once-revered Coach Joe Paterno secretly negotiated a greedy payoff to retire, just as the Jerry Sandusky investigation started to close in on Paterno's role in covering up Sandusky's behavior.

You start to wonder whether this is just the start, whether college football is entering a phase of investigation and discoveries not unlike that of the Catholic Church. The question is: how many other cases like Jerry Sandusky's are out there?

This question hits very close to home. The University of Wisconsin Athletic Department was rocked by a less serious but eerily similar case involving Assistant Athletic Director John Chadima.

Chadima lost his job earlier this year after it came out that he had made alcohol-fueled sexual advances on male members of the football team's traveling support staff at last year's Rose Bowl. But there's evidence that wasn't a one-time occurrence, and that Chadima's conduct had been going for years. It's hard to accept the conclusion that his superiors and colleagues didn't know about it.

Still, compared to the years of cover-up and denials at Penn State, the UW appears to have reacted somewhat more responsibly.

But the situation isn't without its parallels. It seems clear that UW officials knew about Chadima's problems with alcohol going back to 1998. Then athletic director Pat Richter was made aware of an incident in which Chadima, who was drunk and in the passenger seat, allowed a UW football player to drive his truck while also intoxicated. Richter said at the time that a letter of reprimand would be placed in Chadima's file, but there's no evidence that ever occurred, nor that Chadima was required to get help for his addiction.

So, the question is, what else is out there? About the Chadima incident and other issues here or at other schools?

It's unlikely that this kind of behavior is isolated to a couple of bad actors, because it grows from a system that is sick overall. There's too much money in college sports, too much power put into the hands of athletic directors, too much homage and money paid to coaches.

People get all put out about "Nails Tails" at Camp Randall, but what I find really creepy are the statues of Pat Richter and Barry Alvarez at the entrance to the stadium. I've met both these guys. I like them both. They've created winning programs that millions in the Badger Nation love watching. But statues? While they're still on this side of the turf? Even Abe Lincoln didn't get a statue on campus until after he was dead.

Statues to living football coaches are indicative of a culture that surrounds college athletics -- especially football -- that is very unhealthy. It breeds arrogance and disregard for the rules that mere mortals live by. My guess is this won't end with Joe Paterno or John Chadima.

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