Brand Penn State suffers a blow

Tom Bradley addresses the media after he was named interim head football coach at Penn State during a press conference at Beaver Stadium on Nov. 10, 2011 in State College, Penn.

Kai Ryssdal: Back here, State College, Penn., is still trying to sort out all that happened last night. Joe Paterno was fired; the president of Penn State was allowed to resign. Students rioted, trustees are trying to limit the damage and figure out where they go from here.

Marketplace's Gregory Warner has more from Philadelphia.

Gregory Warner: Joe Paterno and other superstar football coaches are not just coaches.

David Carter: They aren't coaches. They are their own brands, they are basically the university's top business development officer, the top salesperson.

David Carter directs the Sports Business Institute at USC. Penn State football brought in $53 million after expenses, second only to the University of Texas in profits. But Joe Paterno the brand was worth much more. And his football program -- at least until last week -- was scandal-free.

Carter: This pristine brand, run by someone who was respected on a national level, who also won consistently -- those are the kinds of things you can build a fundraising program around. Now going forward, the extent to which that has been compromised will play out over time.

Buzz Bissinger is a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer and the author of "Friday Night Lights," a book about a town and its obsession with high school football. He says as much as Joe Paterno swelled Penn State's coffers, he also overshadowed the school's true worth.

Buzz Bissinger: The fact of the matter is, Penn State is an extremely good school academically. But you go outside of Pennsylvania and you ask people: What do you know about Penn State? Joe Paterno. It sucks from the rest of the school.

Bissinger hopes this scandal might even be an opportunity. Imagine the university becoming more famous for its Nobel laureates than its touchdowns. But rebranding a half-century of Paterno will be a hard. As the man himself once famously said, "It's not the name on the back of the jersey that matters, it's the name on the front."

In Philadelphia, I'm Gregory Warner for Marketplace.

About the author

Gregory Warner is a senior reporter covering the economics and business of healthcare for the entire Marketplace portfolio.
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"pristine brand" ?"rebranding"? Excuse me but it's my impression that Joe Paterno,whatever his transgression may have been, is a human being and the Penn. State is an institution of higher learning. Neither are a market commodity or "brand". As a believer in democracy,I take serious issue with the rhetoric of the marketplace and Madison ave. reducing everything to a consumer product. Will "public" radio please recognize us as CITIZENS and not mere consumers? Thank you.

I find it really sad that Joe Pa's career had to end like this one. Yes, he could've gone to the police...However, when he heard of the scandal he was in his seventies, and he is from a different generation where people never spoke about taboo subjects such as child abuse. The fact that he did approach his superiors goes beyond what most people like JoePa would've done. People who judged right away overlooked that aspect as well as the fact that these allegations were made about a close colleague or someone he possibly considered as a good friend. If someone brought up these allegations about a good friend of mine -- it would be hard for me to believe the accuser because none of my friends would do such a thing...and I feel others would find it hard to believe. I think JoePa may have thought the same thing and that this grad assistant might have some ulterior motives. Again, the fact that JoePa did speak up is great. This is a very complicated issue. Even one of the NPR guests yesterday said that one of the officials who worked on the case thought he overheard Sandusky basically tell one of the mothers of the children from his non-profit what he was deviantly doing and she did nothing. People are too quick to judge and fail to understand that this Sandusky case is a very complicated issue. JoePa should have done more, and yet, his superiors are the ones who should have handled this situation better because they have the power to start an investigation. That is more of their responsibility as I'm sure it is in other places. JoePa made a mistake. However, he is no where near the monster people make him out to be. All this blame makes the blamers feel better and safer about themselves. I will remember JoePa as being a remarkable head coach, citizen, and a man who did speak up on this tragic situation.

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