Jerry Sandusky, Penn State Scandal: Why, Why, Why?

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Jerry Sandusky, Penn State Scandal: Why, Why, Why?
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Let’s start with the conclusion and work backward.  A few weeks ago, we advocated that Penn State be invited to join the ACC.  We would like to withdraw that invitation and it has nothing to do with what generally is a fine institution and everything to do with the simple fact that Penn State is about to implode.

In short, the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal will cause this venerable university to suffer in every conceivable area of import in ways that will make Maryland’s problems following the death of Len Bias and the banishment of Lefty Driesell look like a walk in the park.

This is the big one.  Within a matter of days, every senior administrator at Penn State should be relieved of their duties.  Historic head coach Joe Paterno, university president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and the senior vice president for business and finance (who evidently oversees the campus police department) Gary Schultz have all resigned, taken administrative leave or been fired.

Frankly, every single administrator from the president down to the water boys who knew about the now-infamous Sandusky shower incident and failed to report it to the campus police, the state police, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Department of Public Welfare or any appropriate county child protective services agency needs to go, too. 

Now.  

All of them. 

Every man or woman with any knowledge of this needs to be purged from the system.  No excuses accepted.  “I told my boss” can’t possibly be an acceptable defense.

That said, we feel sorry for Penn State, its students, parents, scholarship athletes, teachers and administrators.  The world as they know it is crashing down around them all because a few men in powerful positions thought it more important to protect Sandusky than to protect the children or Penn State.

Rob Carr/Getty Images

Perhaps they thought the school couldn’t thrive if Sandusky was arrested and prosecuted.  If that was their strategy, it was tragically flawed.  The first rule of bad news in the public relations world is “Tell it all, and tell it now.”  Yes, booster money would have temporarily slowed and a prize recruit or two may have headed off to a rival’s campus, but the total damage would have been much less than what is now anticipated.

Their unwillingness to stop an alleged sexual predator, who founded a program to serve as recruiting grounds for his victims, is about to devastate the institution they mistakenly believed would protect them if they sugar-coated and then buried what will turn out to be the most devastating and horrific scandal in the history of college sports.

The simple fact that the revered 84-year-old head coach who holds the record for most career wins is at the center of the scandal is even more discouraging.  Disgraced coaches and athletic directors who have fallen victim to the mistakes and escapades of their 19 to 20-something charges must all be somewhat dumbfounded.

Today, we proceeded to read the 23-page grand jury report.  Truth be known, we have a pretty strong stomach and if one were to replace Victims 1 through 8 with consenting adults, we would not have found this diatribe so disconcerting and disgusting.  Messed up, yes, but not gut-wrenchingly foul.  However, the victims were consistently nine- and 10-year-old boys plucked from the organization The Second Mile, a charity Sandusky founded for at-risk youths way back in 1977. 

Appalled, we stopped reading after 16 pages (the beginning of Victim 5).

Now, if you are inclined think the victims are lying, the consistency of the pattern described by each victim speaks volumes about their collective credibility.  If they made these stories up, they each made up a remarkably consistent version of Sandusky’s seductive habits.

If you are inclined to believe the graduate assistant Mike McQueary is exaggerating what he saw, you only need to read the grand jury report.  He could be exaggerating for a variety of reasons, but everything else in the report makes McQueary’s version of the events very convincing.

What’s fascinating is how clear the story seems to emerge if the grand jury report is accurate.  Now, mainstream media has been tiptoeing around some of these issues, but we are going to give it to you straight:  

  • Jerry Sandusky played at Penn State and coached there for 23 years. He also coached high school football.
  • Sandusky is married and has six adopted children.
  • In 1977, Sandusky started “The Second Mile,” a charity dedicated to underprivileged kids in State College, Pa.
  • Sandusky was the subject of a sexual misconduct investigation in 1998 and he retired from PSU in 1999.
  • In 2002, Penn State grad assistant Mike McQueary heard (CONTENT ALERT) “rhythmic, slapping sounds” he believed to be “those of sexual activity.”  He saw “a naked boy,” estimated age of 10, “with his hands up against the wall, be subjected to anal intercourse by a naked Sandusky.”
  • The next day, McQueary reported what he had seen to Paterno.  A day later, Paterno summoned PSU A.D. Tim Curley to his home and told him that McQueary had seen Sandusky “fondling or doing something of sexual nature to a young boy.”

(Note to readers, there is a theme starting here.  McQueary was pretty clear about what he saw and assuming he reported what he said to the grand jury to Paterno, it would seem Joe Pa started the process of watering down the allegations to what PSU officials wrongly believed was an acceptable level.)

  • “Approximately, one and a half weeks later, McQueary met with Curley and senior VP Gary Shultz and reported he had witnessed “Sandusky having anal sex with a boy.”
  • Two weeks later, McQueary was informed by the A.D. that Sandusky’s keys were taken and that The Second Mile was notified.
  • McQueary was never questioned by university police or any other official organization prior to speaking to the grand jury.
  • The report says “The Grand Jury finds the graduate assistant’s testimony to be extremely credible.”
  • A.D. Curley testified that McQueary reported “inappropriate conduct” and he denied that McQueary reported anal sex and termed the conduct as “horsing around.”
  • Curley informed PSU president Spanier of the information he received from McQueary (at least, Curley’s version of that info) and the subsequent action he took.  Curley was not specific about the language he used to inform Spanier.
  • Schultz testified that he attended a meeting with Paterno and Curley where Joe Pa reported “disturbing” and “inappropriate behavior” by Sandusky.
  • Schultz was “very unsure” about what MeQueary had actually reported and that he had the “impression that Sandusky might have inappropriately grabbed the young boy’s genitals while wrestling.”
  • Schultz agreed to banning Sandusky from brining children into Penn State facilities and confirmed he never reported the incident to the campus police agency or any other police agency.
  • Spanier testified he was made aware that Sandusky was “horsing around” with a child in the locker room, but that he did not know the incident was sexual in nature nor the name of the graduate assistant (McQueary) who witnessed the incident.
  • In an odd twist on Page 11, it says McQueary and Curley testified that Sandusky himself was not banned from PSU facilities (just banned from bringing in minors) and Curley admitted the child ban was unenforceable.
  • The report says, “The Grand Jury finds that portions of the testimony of Tim Curley and Gary Schultz are not credible."

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

As you will see, it seems terribly clear what happened here.  Only the blinded PSU loyalists who are clamoring about Joe Pa being a scapegoat remain willing to argue the facts.  

Immediately after Curley was informed of the allegations, he began (for reasons we can’t imagine) to start watering down McQueary’s allegations.  Perhaps he accepted Paterno’s watered-down version of the story in spite of the very specific report given him by McQueary.  It appears McQueary’s version of the events have been consistent while Paterno, Curely, Schultz and even President Spanier have done their best to minimize Sandusky’s atrocity.

The burning question is why did these presumably competent professional administrators risk their careers and the reputation of the institution they loved and served to protect Jerry Sandusky?

Is loyalty within the football community at Penn State so intense that the insiders will overlook sexual misconduct of one of their brethren?  Has the “this is our house, we’re a family and what goes on here stays here and we will resolve it internally” mantra run amok?

Perhaps the answer is ego.  Is the world of upper-crust administration of world-class universities and their uber-successful football programs so elitist, egotistical and segregated from the real world that, like Richard Nixon and legions of powerful wrong-thinking wrong-doers, they simply believed the rules didn’t apply to them?  Is human nature the ultimate entrapment for people in power?

What made these people think Penn State would suffer significant harm from the arrest and prosecution of Jerry Sandusky?  Had they simply called the police, Nittany Lion Nation would have suffered a black-eye that would have healed in two weeks.  Now, the university will suffer wounds that will take years to heal—if they ever do.

How could they choose to protect Sandusky over protecting their institution (an institution none of them would ever deliberately hurt in any way)?  However, they did choose to protect their former coach to their own demise.  It seems unlikely they planned a cover-up via a carefully orchestrated conspiracy, but each time a PSU official minimized and watered down the events of that March night, the ultimate cover-up grew larger and more damaging. In the end, the level of that damage to this prestigious university is almost impossible to predict. 

Were they lulled into believing the institution was so big and so powerful it could protect Sandusky and themselves?  Did they forget it’s not Penn State’s job to protect them, but it’s simply their job to competently represent and ultimately protect Penn State?

It will take some time to sort out all these answers and some may never be known, but one reading of the grand jury report makes it clear that everybody with knowledge of what Jerry Sandusky (allegedly) did on that fateful night in March in the Lasch Football Building in Happy Valley needs to step down and they need to do it now.

Call it “fire, ready, aim” or call it “guilty until proven innocent,” but the evidence presented to date, and the 40 counts of sexual abuse against Sandusky, are so disturbing and so consistent it seems wildly improbable that a Herman Cain-style unbelievable denial or the Duke lacrosse “It didn’t really happen” scenario are likely outcomes for this sordid mess.

Sally Jenkins in The Washington Post wrote yesterday that we shouldn’t blame Paterno.  Jenkins is wrong.  Her initial point is alarmingly true when she points out that pedophiles are hard to recognize, but her conclusion about Joe Pa is totally wrong.

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

According to Jenkins:

Try to forgive Joe Paterno: When he looked at Jerry Sandusky, he didn’t see a dirty old man in a raincoat. He saw a friend, a close colleague, and a churchy do-gooder. He saw a nice guy. You’d have seen the same thing. Think not? You think you can see a clear-cut difference between an alleged child molester and a youth coach?

Jenkins points out that the rest of the administration at Penn State failed Paterno, and we don’t disagree.  We also don’t disagree that anyone (and in many cases everyone) can be fooled by sly predators like Sandusky. But in the end, Paterno was largely to blame—not for his inability to recognize that his friend and colleague was a sexual predator and child molester, but for not launching an investigation when another employee reported witnessing a very specific inappropriate and illegal act against a child. 

We have all been fooled by criminals, but when a credible source reports a crime, you have to take the appropriate action or more than just the victim suffers. Joe Paterno is the most powerful (and popular) man in Happy Valley.  Sometimes, the leader of the realm has to make hard choices.  This was one of those times and the winningest coach in college football was the right man for this difficult job.  Instead, Joe Pa, who was a spritely 75 at the time, apparently prioritized his loyalty to Sandusky ahead of his loyalty to Penn State and the victim(s) of Sandusky’s alleged crime(s).

For a man with a stellar reputation who has assembled a remarkable career, Paterno has made few missteps. He has made thousands of good decisions that have had a positive impact on thousands of lives.  Now it's a shame the end of his career and his legacy will be linked to such a heinous crime and the series of horrible decisions made in the aftermath of its reporting. 

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