Sunday, October 27

Spencer Niles: Revealing Penn State’s “Culture Problem”

PSU's culture remains unchanged - among the best at combining athletics and academics 

Spencer Niles

There is clearly a serious “culture problem” at Penn State, but don’t take my word for it, according to a recent report from the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania (Harper, Williams, Jr., & Blackman, 2013), Penn State’s “culture problem” lands them in the questionable company of universities such as Vanderbilt, Notre Dame, Stanford, Duke, and Georgetown.

10 Universities with the Highest Black Male Student-Athlete Graduation Rates

Rank               University                               Graduation Rate
1                      Northwestern                                        83%
2                      Notre Dame                                          81%
3                      Villanova University                              78%
3                      Penn State University                       78%
5                      Vanderbilt University                             74%
6                      Duke University                                     73%
7                      Wake Forest University                         70%
7                      Georgetown University                          70%
9                      Boston College                                      68%
9                      Stanford University                                68%

Moreover, according to the same study, the graduation rate of Black male student-athletes at Penn State is 13% higher than the overall graduation rate for Black male students at PSU.  The travesty! But wait, it gets worse! The graduation rate of Black male student-athletes at Penn State is the highest in the Big Ten.  Throw in all student-athletes at Penn State and the graduation rate becomes an embarrassing 79%- also the highest in the Big Ten.  A very serious culture problem to say the least!

Let’s put this “culture problem” in perspective.  

For comparison sake, let’s pick at random (not) a couple of other universities such as the University of Washington and LSU.   The graduation rate of black male student-athletes at the University of Washington is 59%.  The graduation rate for all student-athletes at UW is 73%- a 14% difference.  The graduation rate for Black male student-athletes at LSU is 41%.  The overall graduation rate for student-athletes at LSU is 54%- a 13% difference.   As you probably know, a past–president of those two universities is current NCAA President, Mark Emmert.  

Here is the real culture problem that the NCAA needs to address: What sort of university culture allows these racial inequities in graduation rates to persist? 

Let’s take another comparison; the graduation rate for Black male student-athletes at Michigan State University is 45%.  The graduation rate for all student-athletes at Michigan State is 68%-- a 23% difference.  Again, a significant racial inequity.  Yet, according to recent posts by MSU President Lou Anna Simon, ‘it will take some time for Penn State to correct its culture problem.’  


Perhaps Dr. Simon should consider the racial difference in graduation rates at Penn State (1%) versus her own university (23%) before she claims that Penn State has a culture problem.  Again, I would ask President Simon: What sort of academic culture tolerates this racial disparity?  President Simon is either ignorant of the facts or disingenuous in her comments.   

Which is it President Simon?  Neither position is defensible for a university president. 

Those espousing the “culture problem” claim may also want to consider the following.  In 2012, the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) recognized the Penn State football program for its Graduation Success Rate (GSR) for the 22nd time in the AFCA's annual Academic Achievement Award survey.  Only Notre Dame has been recognized more frequently (23) for their GSR.  
The AFCA also recognized Penn State for having a graduation rate of 91% using data available in 2012.  According to the website, Penn State received recognition for their graduation rates in 1998-1999, 2001-2003, 2005-2011 as well as 1985-87-88-89-91-92-93=94-95 when PSU was a member of the College Football Association.  In 2002-2005, Penn State’s football program was ranked 7th among 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams for its Graduation Success Rate. 
In short, the culture problem that Penn State seems to have created is that other institutions have trouble equaling the success that PSU has experienced with regarding to blending excellence in academics and athletics.  
As the lead author from the University of Pennsylvania study referenced above noted, “Penn State has one of the most sophisticated athletic academic support systems that I ever seen.”   
So the NCAA can continue to claim that Penn State has a culture problem but their claims do not mesh with the facts.  
Come to think of it, I guess that makes sense.  
The NCAA hasn’t allowed the facts to influence their actions against Penn State so far, why should anyone expect them to really do so now?


  1. WOW sooooo glad we're spending so much money to monitor and change this lousy culture!

  2. Freeh Report Recommendation 5.4 was Academic Support for Athletes.

    PSU marked it as "complete" the day the Freeh Report was issued (July 12, 2012)

    How much did we pay George Mitchell to pat us on the back for something we had been doing well for decades

    1. Let's be grateful for George Mitchell's pats on the back.

      He is in an awkward position of being hired for a purpose that makes no sense. I think he should be more forceful in criticizing Freeh, but I understand why he would be reluctant to do so..

    2. Makes one wonder why a smart man like George M would put himself into this awkward position in the first place. I am sure no one forced him and I'm sure he didn't need the job. Political favor? Easy Money? I agree he should be more forceful - wonder why he's not?

  3. Maybe the monitor is there to figure out why it succeeds at Penn State and not, that would make sense.

  4. Can Dr. Niles have this commentary/ analysis picked up by media who are following Emmert's troubling performance as NCAA head?

  5. Mr. Niles, I understand why you would defend PSU since you were a distinguished professor there until taking over as President of W & M this summer. I believe when 'culture problem' is referenced it denotes PSU and its' football program in particular, not all athletic programs. JoePa and his coaches protected their dear dear football program by not telling authorities about Sandusky's abuse. In particular the one boy that he was told about. I don't care if he went up his chain of command, he had a responsibility as a coach, father and grandfather to go to the police. Not the men he supposedly told.

    1. Tom Corbett is/was the police as the highest law enforcement official in PA. He was the PA Attorney General for 3 terms, a total of 11 years beginning in 1995. He had a steady stream of formal Sandusky pedophile complaints rolling into the Attorney General's office starting in at least 1995. Corbett handed those complaints to his DA, Ray Gricar in 1997. As you may know Gricar would not, or could not act on the complaints to prosecute. He then mysteriously disappears. Now, all of this is law enforcement that precedes Joe Pa by quite a bit. Joe Pa did not witness anything, so how can he call the police? Joe may, or may not have known that the Attorney General, Corbett, was supposed to be investigating Sandusky. So if we assume Joe knew about an investigation, I believe he felt the issue was supposed to be in the correct authority's hands. Wouldn't you agree? But as we're learning, Tom Corbett knew of, and had Sandusky complaints way before his false announcement on television stating that 2009 was his earliest knowledge or responsibility to arrest Sandusky. How can that be, when Corbett gave a Sandusky file to DA Ray Gricar in or before 1997?

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. I agree with saramjk (below) - but I'll go a step farther.

      There is NOT ONE shred of evidence that PSU failed to report the 2001 incident to the proper authorities.

      The proper authority in a child abuse case is the Department of Public Welfare. Two PSU officials recall a report was made to Centre County Children and Youth Services, which is a part of DPW.

      No one has yet to disprove those claims nor produce credible evidence to disprove the claims.

  6. I have a simple question: You make the comment "JoePa and his coaches protected their dear dear football program by not telling authorities about Sandusky's abuse".
    In what way do you envision that telling the authorities about Sandusky's abuse would have harmed the PSU football program? I can't imagine how reporting suspicious behavior by a retired employee would be perceived as a negative on his former employer. Frankly, in a rational world, it wouldn’t.
    I’m curious if you understand that there has never been one shred of evidence to suggest that the administrators at PSU or Joe Paterno ever had any concerns about protecting the reputation of the football program or PSU. There isn’t one communication between them (meeting notes, e-mails, etc.) that even remotely suggests that.
    That you regurgitate that line as a “fact” shows how little real information you have about this case. Sadly, you are most definitely in the majority on this. Most people love a good lynching and don’t like to be bothered with little details like facts and information especially if it spoils their fun.

    1. Well said! It's clear these people like 9d93f1.......... infiltrate these blogs to put out their tired, unproven statements as a desperate spam-like attempt to resurrect the initial false narrative. Get over it, spammers! The Governor of PA is a Mafioso thug that procured Louis Freeh in a botched attempt to cover Attorney General corruption pertaining to the Sandusky issue, period! Now we can only hope that Kane and Moulton are not susceptible to being bought or intimidated by Corbett's Mafioso brethren.