Penn State Head Football Coach Joe Paterno heads to practice on Tuesday
It is nearly impossible to imagine a more disheartening, disgusting and disastrous college football scandal than that involving Penn State University and the alleged sexual abuse committed by its former defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, on numerous defenseless children under his care.
Although the legal process in this disturbing case is only just beginning, a choking, putrid smoke is pouring out of Happy Valley. And where there is smoke, there is sure to be fire.
Of course, the key players in this scandal, from university president Graham Spanier to head football coach Joe Paterno to athletic director Tim Curley, have denied responsibility, just like they apparently denied the reports when faced with them years ago. And while legal obligations may or may not have been met, it's the apparent disregard of one's moral obligations that stinks the most.
According to reports, Sandusky still has an office in the Penn State football team building and had free access to the department's facilities as recently as last week. He also continued to bring children to two Penn State satellite campuses as recently as 2008.
Obviously, there were plenty of people with knowledge of Sandusky's 1998 naked shower with a young boy in the Penn State athletic facilities, his alleged 2002 sexual assault of a young boy in a football locker room shower and, perhaps, his abhorrent behavior in other, undisclosed situations, yet no one contacted the authorities. Ever.
As a result, here are five critical steps Penn State should take right now in order to make a meaningful statement regarding what an institute of higher education should stand for and to demonstrate to the victims that they will never be marginalized nor forgotten:
1. Fire anyone who appears to have had any knowledge of Sandusky's alleged deviant behavior, as they did not meet the moral standards that should be expected of a Penn State employee.
2. Cooperate openly and completely with the ongoing criminal investigation.
3. Donate a significant portion of the proceeds from its remaining home football game this season— Saturday against Nebraska—to a fund set up to benefit the Sandusky's victims.
4. Provide free mental health care for each victim and his immediate family members.
5. Establish a "zero tolerance" policy for questionable behavior involving a school employee and a minor. Even the appearance of impropriety should be grounds for immediate dismissal.