Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky: Let's Not Forget Who the Real Victims Are
We love college football and all the attendant fanfare that comes along with game day: tailgating, rivalries, and the inevitable heartbreaks/celebrations of rabid fans who sometimes seem to take the game more seriously than the players and coaches. That's the good side of college football.
Then there's the ugly underbelly. One that can sometimes make an incestuous relationship seem downright mild by comparison. From the cash-driven conference realignment fiasco (purported to reflect ESPN's "ownership" of college football), to the increasing scandals and violations dogging such storied programs as Miami, Ohio State and now Penn State, college football has become less about football and more about sex, money and power!
In fact, I recently heard it said that, because of the power exerted by college athletics over entire universities, simply because of the amount of funding they add to the pot, college as a whole has now become more about "parking for the faculty, sex for the students and athletics for the alumni."
So what do we know?
We know that Jerry Sandusky, a 34-year assistant coach and long-time friend of Joe Paterno's at Penn State, is facing serious allegations of sexually molesting eight under-aged boys over a 15-year period (1994-2009).
As news of the scandal spreads, more allegations are coming out of the woodwork, and there are currently 20 young men who have reportedly leveled allegations of sexual molestation against the beleaguered Sandusky.
Should Joe Paterno be prosecuted for covering up information he possessed?
We know that a 1998 investigation into Sandusky allegedly bathing naked with two under-aged boys was being conducted by the police and Centre County, Pa., and that the DA prosecuting the case, Ray Gricar, inexplicably decided against prosecution.
We know that Gricar went missing in 2005 and that his computer hard drive inexplicably turned up in the Susquehanna River, too badly damaged by water to be read.
We know that in 2002, Mike McQueary, a graduate assistant in the athletic department at Penn State, reportedly informed Joe Paterno about a child molestation act he witnessed being carried out by Sandusky in the football locker room showers.
We know that Paterno immediately communicated this information to his boss, AD, Tim Curley. We know that Paterno never followed up on what Curley's investigation into the incident turned up, and that if he did, it didn't deter him from allowing Sandusky to remain involved with and connected to the program.
Mystifyingly enough, though, we also know that Sandusky retired from coaching in 1999, a year after the initial police investigation against his predatory behavior, began.
We know that the university knew that a serious crime had allegedly been committed on university property by a man that was no longer on the staff of the football program, and that this crime involved deviate unwanted sexual behavior with minors.
We know this because the university banned him from bringing under-aged boys on campus, yet the university never involved the police or legal authorities.
Finally, we know that Sandusky has apparently built an incredibly convenient outlet for the expression of his deviant sexual predation, by establishing a foundation called Second Mile Foundation, which, ostensibly is set up to help needy kids.
Amazingly, his actions have not only betrayed the trust of these kids and their families, but have mitigated any kind of assistance he might have rendered, by creating lifelong agony for these hapless kids.
What Sandusky, Paterno, and the university leadership might have forgotten or overlooked, is the fact that ultimately the truth catches up with you because "there's no such thing as a secret."
So, what are my thoughts on what we know?
If proven true, these allegations are a heinous crime of unmitigated proportions, and Sandusky should be prosecuted and made to pay to the fullest extent allowed by the law. But it isn't just Sandusky. Joe Paterno is said to be a bastion of character, credibility and honor. But something doesn't quite smell right.
If Joe Paterno knew that Sandusky was engaged in some sort of deviant behavior with minors (even if he didn't know the details or the extent), he is culpable.
While he may have fulfilled his legal responsibility by informing his AD, he has, and always has had a moral and human obligation to the kids whose families trust him, his coaches, and his program to be honorable and conduct themselves with integrity. In this regard, he failed!
There has been a massive groundswell of support amongst the Penn State student community for Joe Paterno. Why? Is winning so important that we are willing to look beyond Paterno's handling of such a heinous crime?
What about the victims and their families? How are they supposed to view this unwavering support for Paterno, and indeed the support of the university president for his AD, Tim Curley and Vice President, Gary Schultz?
College football has lost its innocence. It is no longer primarily a game played by amateur student-athletes in exchange for a college education.
It's become a sordid, money-driven, business that allows those in power to rule with an iron-fist, and to sweep under the rug anything that they think might taint the reputation or staunch the cash flow of their institution.
Money has seemingly become more important than the lives of innocent children. We balk at reports of child abuse and the child sex trade in places like Cambodia, but we celebrate the perpetrators and protectors of those who commit similar crimes in our "civilized" society, simply because of their power and influence and their ability to add dollars to the coffers of the college.
In the midst of all the hue and cry though, let's not forget who the real victims are.
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