The Penn State Board of Trustees fired Joe Paterno, the football team’s head coach since 1966, over the phone Wednesday evening in the aftermath of the sex scandal that has rocked College Station and the country.
President Graham Spanier was also removed from his position on a surreal evening that had thousands of Penn State students gathering in the streets and Paterno being interviewed, with his weeping wife, on his doorstep.
These decisions had to be made. They should have been made days ago. And now that they have, the real story begins. It’s Mike McQueary versus Jerry Sandusky and Jerry Sandusky’s attorney, who will do everything in his power to make his accusations look like fabrication.
Sandusky, a former defensive coordinator under Paterno at Penn State, was arrested late last week on molestation charges. What he allegedly did is well-documented and incredibly troubling. McQueary has said he saw Sandusky assaulting a boy in a school shower in 2002, and seven other cases of assault have been made known. McQueary, then a grad student and now the receivers coach at Penn State, is the only witness; another person witnessed the abuse, a school janitor, but he now “has dementia and is not competent to testify”, according to the New York Times. It’s a 28-year-old’s word against Sandusky’s.
He may have the ability to put Sandusky behind bars, but that McQueary hasn’t been fired is disturbing. CBSSports‘ Gregg Doyel, who brilliantly covered Paterno’s firing and the aftermath last night, has two theories as to why he remains:
Penn State is afraid to fire McQueary because that would leave the school vulnerable to a lawsuit under whistleblower laws, which protect employees like McQueary after reporting illegal activity at the workplace. Whether McQueary would be eligible for such protection, that’s not for me to say. But that’s one theory why he remains on the sideline, and Joe Paterno does not.
The Pennsylvania attorney general’s office doesn’t want to lose McQueary as a cooperative witness, should the AG decide to pursue legal charges against Paterno for not doing enough in 2002, and the AG’s office has asked the school not to alienate McQueary by firing him. That’s my belief, that the attorney general wants to leave the door cracked — just barely cracked, but cracked nonetheless — toward charges against Paterno.”
McQueary will be on the sidelines during Saturday’s home game against Nebraska, Penn State’s final home game of the season. Just as Paterno should have kept all of this from happening by taking McQueary’s 2002 accusations to the police, McQueary could have done the same thing. The least he can do now is speak up now and attempt to put Sandusky where he belongs. And it appears he will.
“It’s not that he’s not willing,” John J. McQueary, his father, said about his son’s public silence in the aforementioned New York Times‘ piece. “I think it’s eating him up not to be able to tell his side, but he’s under investigation by the grand jury. He’ll make it. He’s a tough kid.” McQueary better testify, tell everything he knows, and succeed in giving Sandusky his just desserts.
There is so much to this entire story that it is difficult to grasp. The findings in the grand jury’s investigation are sickening. Then there’s the 2005 disappearance of Ray Gricar, the district attorney who decided against prosecuting Sandusky in 1998. He is still missing. He dealt with many criminals, and any one of them could have had a hand in his disappearance. Or he could be at fault. Even still, it is suspicious. Was he about to fess up? Did Sandusky keep him from talking?
He may or may not have had a hand in Gricar’s disappearance. What matters now is how he can be put behind bars for what he did do. Because of his actions and the university’s inaction, Penn State will rightfully be under a cloud for many years to come. It may never restore its reputation, and it certainly won’t if McQueary is on staff longterm; his being allowed to coach Saturday is ridiculous in itself.
For now, though, McQueary holds the keys to the car. He can do what he should have done years ago and ruin Sandusky. The aftermath of the allegations has been an incredible sequence of events–turning this into one of the biggest scandals in sports history–but the firing of Paterno and Spanier is only an introduction for what is to come. Let’s hope the conclusion to this horror story is as satisfying as possible. Maybe then Sandusky’s many victims can stop living a nightmare.