Penn State, the NCAA, and the covenantal nature of college sports

Been a long time away from the blog, and figured it’s probably high time to get back into it. You may have witnessed the unlikelihood of Northern Illinois play in a BCS game they didn’t deserve to be in and lose to FSU. Or you may have witnessed Louisville play in a BCS game they didn’t deserve to be in and win. But perhaps the college football story, in my opinion of course (we have yet to come to a bi-partisan agreement on a measurement of strangeness), occurred when the governor of Pensylvannia decided to sue the NCAA.

Now I like this lad’s gumption in going after the untouchable NCAA. Those jokers have more power than the Federal government. You can lie to the government, allegedly like Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, and get away with it. “You” is of course, them, and the situation is purely hypothetical-not of you being them, but of them lying, since their lies weren’t proved. But regardless “mis-remembering Roger Clemens and “bashful” Barry Bonds fought the law, but the law did not win. 

The NCAA does not lose when it comes to alleged liars. Recently Texas guard Myck Kabongo’s suspension was reduced to 23 gamesAccording to yahoo sports:

In this case, the penalty was made more severe because Kabongo provided inaccurate information to NCAA investigators when he was interviewed, sources with ties to Texas’ basketball program said. 

So you get why this is such a big deal. The NCAA wins. Period.

While it appears this is more politcially driven than justice driven, his sentiments, or at least those of many go something like this,”The kids are getting penalized for stuff they didn’t do.” Very true. 

But college sports are somewhat covenantal. Now no recruiter will ever tell you that. Honestly no one will. I’ve never heard anyone call it like that before, but I think it is. Kind of. The individual who commits the crime is never the only one who is punished. The school always is. The whole team is, and sometimes long after that person is gone. Sandusky will be in jail for the rest of his life, but his former team Penn St inherits that guilt and punishment even though they didn’t not actually commit ignore/cover-up those crimes. Sandusky, and you could argue Paterno, sinned and broke the law. And as a result, because of the teams’ connection to them, they are guilty and liable to the consquences and punishment of such sin. They broke the law as a representative of the rest of the team and school. Therefore, the guilty individuals will never be the only one’s punished. The NCAA never works that way. They don’t think in terms of guilt individually but, in a somewhat covenantal way.

In Romans 5, Paul reminds us that in Adam, we all sinned. Adam is our “federal head” or covenantal representative. God made a covenant with him, as a representative of all mankind. If Adam had chosen wisely, we would have inherited the benefits of his wise choice. But, like that crazy German dude in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, he chose, “poorly.” As a result, we are declared sinners and subject to the punishment and consequences of sin. 

Just like with Penn State, we normally think of this as unfair. We didn’t do it. We didn’t start the fire, right Billy Joel? I shouldn’t be punished because I wasn’t there. Something someone else did acting as my representative shouldn’t count against my record. 

But then again, think about it. Was there something someone else did acting as my federal representative roughly from 4-6 BC 30 AD or so? Yep. Then he gets the cross because of my actions? If I can’t be punished because of Adam’s sin and my connection to him (we’ve also personally sinned a bunch since then by the way if you’re keeping score at home), then how can I accept the record of a new Federal or covenantal head, Jesus, the New and Better Adam?

Can’t have one without the other. If I take Christ’s record, I have to accept my responsibility in Adam. I can live with that, because it technically isn’t so fair to receive a perfect record without me doing anything but repenting and resting on the finished work of Christ.

That’s good news for Christians. But I have nothing to offer Penn State fans. There has been some sort of covenantal punishment on behalf of a covental head, but there is no Redeemer to step in. There is no new and better Jerry and Joe Pa, who could offer a perfect righteous record in place of those who weren’t there during those dark days. There only redeemer is time.

Given the track record of the NCAA, I wouldn’t put much faith in a governor who thinks-quite after the fact mind you-that the sanctions put upon the school were too harsh even though the school accepted them. Fortunately for Penn State, those sanctions will eventually run out. And after they pay with missed bowl games and recruits and coaches, they will one day live to play another bowl game. That’s where are two stories depart. Time will eventually redeem Penn State, but only someone who entered into time can redeem mankind.

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