I was on a panel Wednesday night at the NYU School of Law. (A very far cry from the guy who was accused of not being bright enough to learn a football defensive scheme.) The panelists were professors, lawyers, doctors, philosophers and former athletes. The topic of conversation was college athletics, and the question was: Who’s in charge?

The first topic, of course, was Penn State.

I spoke my piece and found it interesting how a few speakers framed their comments to continue painting a distorted picture of the Sandusky fiasco and its relationship to Penn State. But even more interesting was hearing a renowned university president and an ethics expert put the affair in a different light: that the Penn State scandal was not a unique situation, other than the big names associated with it. They referred to similar problems in the military and the Catholic Church.

It was also clear that incidents like the one at Penn State have awakened educators to the need to determine how these things happen and how they can be prevented.

Obviously, if the panel had come up with an answer last night, we’d all be in a good place today. It’s way too complicated for that. But I did come away with a new appreciation for the hypocrisy that is college athletics.

Some food for thought:

Why do we have curricula that prepare kids to be scientists, doctors, lawyers, mechanics and chefs, but no education aimed specifically at athletes?

Why do we make sports “extracurricular”? By placing athletics outside the realm of normal school and university education, we continue to separate them from everything else. Then we complain when their separate oversight structure doesn’t do its job.

Every kid won’t be mentally gifted enough to do brain surgery, just as every kid won’t be physically gifted enough to shoot a basketball. So why has our society chosen to separate the two?

Wouldn’t it make sense to create curricula that educate our youth about athletics the same way we train and educate them in math, science, language and social studies?

Maybe that would help kids make more informed and realistic decisions about what to pursue in life. Instead of turning on the television to watch their heroes, or playing video games that picture them, or looking them up on the Internet, youngsters could learn about . Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Warrick Dunn, a few of the men who have been successful in--and out--of sports.

What’s wrong with helping kids understand the successes and failures of athletes? Sounds like education to me. It also might help take sports off the pedestal that so many have placed it on. If sports are treated as commonplace, there’s a chance we will someday reach a point where we still enjoy them but keep them in proper perspective.

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