KNOXVILLE (WATE) – The NCAA stopped short of shutting down the Penn State football program on Monday. However, for a University of Tennessee sports media professor who's connected to Penn State, the penalties are not only justified but absolutely necessary.
Dr. Erin Whiteside is a former employee of the Penn State Athletic Department and an alum of the school.
"The NCAA is asking Penn State to address its football culture, its kind of holier than thou football culture. Obviously the $60 million is going to hurt deeply. The loss of scholarships is going to hurt deeply, but what people might see as the biggest change is changing how everyone looks at football there and how everyone reveres football," Whiteside said.
Dr. Whiteside witnessed the culture of Penn State football first hand, as a grad student and an employee of the communications department of Penn State athletics.
"I had absolutely no idea about the (Jerry) Sandusky scandal. I was as shocked as everyone else. What I wasn't shocked about were the reports of the Penn State football culture being so insular," she said, looking back on her years at the university.
Whitehead worked alongside the football program from 2003-2006, and now works as a sports media professor at UT. She sees the sanctions as an opportunity to make needed changes.
"It was a classic good ole boys network and what we saw with that is that it can benefit a select few, but it can be really destructive," she said.
She says it's difficult to associate herself with a school that once meant so much.
"It's not as prideful as it once was, but I think there's potential for Penn State to be a leader in what has become an out of control football culture," Whiteside said.
Many agree, including Whiteside, that Penn State's pride was what hurt it in the past. She hopes these sanctions will prevent other schools from making similar mistakes.
"I think a lot of schools are going to take note in working to ensure the football program doesn't trump everything including basic human decency and morality," Whiteside said.