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Friday, November 11, 2011

Thoughts on the Penn State-Joe Paterno abuse scandal

My thoughts concerning the recent contraversy over the firing of Penn State University head coach Joe Paterno are as follows.

Before I begin I just want to state up front that I am a huge fan of the university's football program. I have lost count as to how many times I made the trek to Happy Valley to watch the Nittany Lions play and cheer them on to victory. The number of players I got to see in action at the collegiate level before turning professional reads like a laundry list of the best athletes in the business and I still have the Penn state logo on a refrigerator magnet in my home despite not having lived in that area for many years. If we are indeed tribal creatures by instinct, then my blood runs Blue and White.

For those of you unfamiliar with recent events as they unfolded at the university, I would ask you to take a look at the image of the person above. He is a monster by the name of Jerry Sandusky who stands accused of at least 40 criminal charges involving the sexual abuse of minors. I realize that he hasn't been convicted of anything as of yet and I am all for due process, but the sheer amount of accusations trickling in against him is quite damning and I expect he will either be found guilty or attempt to plea bargain during the legal process. Sandusky however, has not worked as an assistant coach/defensive coordinator for the Nittany Lions since 1999 when he retired after 30 with a program that experienced two national championships ('82 and '86) during that time.

When it comes to head coach Joe Paterno, this is basically what we know happened 12 years ago at the football team's complex at the university.

"...a graduate assistant saw Sandusky sexually assault a naked boy, estimated to be about 10 years old, in the locker room of the Lasch Football Building on campus. The grad student and his father reported what he saw to Paterno, who immediately told [Athletic director, Tim] Curley, prosecutors said.

Curley and [Penn State vice president for finance and business' Gary] Schultz met with the graduate assistant about a week and a half later... Nothing happened.

"Despite a powerful eyewitness statement about the sexual assault of a child, this incident was not reported to any law enforcement or child protective agency, as required by Pennsylvania law," [Attorney General, Linda] Kelly said.

There's no indication that anyone at school attempted to find the boy, or follow up with the witness, she said.

Curley denied that the assistant had reported anything of a sexual nature, calling it "merely 'horsing around,'" the 23-page grand jury report said."

On the face of it anyway, it would seem that Paterno and Curley were aware that what took place constituted more than 'horsing around'. After all, who bothers to reports mere horseplay to a high-ranking univesity official? Yet Paterno was faced with one of four possible outcomes when presented with the information that he received.

  1. He could have engaged in lying and deceit to prevent the discovery of evidence and ultimately the truth. Nobody is alleging this of Paterno though.

  2. Instead of engaging in an active campaign to cover up the scandal, he could have received the information from the student assistant, nodded thoughtfully and then have done absolutely nothing about it and kept the informnation to himself. We know that this wasn't the case

  3. We know that Paterno decided to at least do something, in this case he 'immediately' informed the atheletic director. This constitutes 'passing the buck' and is a far cry from option #4

  4. All concerned should have directly notified prosecutors/the police. This would have been the best of all possible outcomes available to the victims and Paterno, but we know that Paterno, Curley, the graduate assistant, named Mike McQuery, and McQuery's father did not notify them.

Upon going with the third option, Paterno threw away the opportunity to be remembered as a coach who helped raise millions of dollars over the years for education and charitable groups. I also doubt that he will be remembered for having an admirable rate of student-atheletes graduating.

I don't want to hang this all on Paterno though. It now appears that there was a police investigation concerning Sandusky in 1998, however charges were never filed and the District Attorney involved with the case mysteriously fell off the face of the earth in 2005.

Furthermore, McQuery was 28 years old at the time he witnessed the abuse he reported. I doubt a man that age really needs to go to his dad first rather than campus police. After Paterno reported the incident to Curley and the interview took place between AD Curley and Vice President Gary Schultz with McQuery, (Schultz is the head of the university department that is charge of oversight of the campus police) apparently the decision was made to handle things internally and there is no record that Paterno was involved in making this decision.

Additionally, if Paterno is fired for not doing enough, why is McQuery allowed to remain in his current position as an assistant coach for not doing enough as well? It seems that the shoddy logic of this type of reasoning is becoming apparent and McQuery will not be on the sidelines this weeked in the game against Nebraska.

One thing we cannot discuss on this blog is that nasty scandal the shook the football program at Penn State five years ago.

Or one that occurred ten years ago.

Or twenty, twenty-five or even forty-five years ago.

That is because these incidents do not exist, a rare feat in today's age in top level college sports programs.

But all of that is swept aside now and the only thing that Joe Paterno will likely be remembered for is not doing enough to report the matter. I'll give Vox Day the last say on this. My heart goes out to the victims and I'm so devastated that I'm sickened to my stomach over this and I thought his analysis was spot on....

"I think it is totally irrelevant that Paterno didn't go to the campus police because I see no reason to believe they would have investigated the manner any more seriously, or been less inclined to cover up the matter, than the Penn State administration. They report to the administration after all, and more importantly, they already knew about Sandusky...

Moreover, consider the way police forces around the country cover up most of the crime, including rape, that occurs on college campuses. Still, if Paterno shouldn't have gone to the Penn State police, he absolutely should have gone public and spoken to the media after it became clear that the university administration intended to sweep Sandusky under the carpet as they and the police had done previously. Paterno should have threatened to resign then, but failing that, he should have resigned immediately once the media storm began. In fact, I have some serious questions about this story erupting so soon after Paterno broke the all-time coaching wins record, as it appears someone with links to Penn State was waiting until that happened before going public about Sandusky. There will be more nasty revelations coming, that is almost guaranteed."

(Above image: the cover of Jerry Sandusky's book Touched: The Jerry Sandusky Story published in 2001)

1 comment:

GentleSkeptic said...

Pretty well-said, JD. My personal feeling is that this is an indictment of the dager lurking in the excesses of hero-worship culture, be it in Hollywood, college football, or church.

I thought this guy addressed it very well.