Mike McQueary's Thought Process Explained

Glenn PettyAnalyst INovember 11, 2011

11 Oct 1997: Quarterback Mike McQueary of the Penn State Nittany Lions looks on during a game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pennsylvania. Penn State won the game, 31-27.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Former grad assistant and now assistant coach Mike McQueary will not coach Saturday when the Nebraska Cornhuskers visit Happy Valley due to death threats against him.

Yep, death threats. Welcome to America. 

Now it’s not clear if the deranged idiots who have threatened McQueary’s life are furious with him for not breaking up the horrific incident involving accused pedophile Jerry Sandusky and a still unidentified 10-year-old that he stumbled upon in 2002 or are they the really crazy branch of the scapegoat tree we labeled as idiots yesterday?

We aren’t sure which, but either way if a college football team moves you to threaten someone’s life (or poison your rival’s trees) you need to be institutionalized: mental health facility or prison, your choice.

Now, it’s clear that McQueary should have confronted the naked Sandusky mid-incident and rescued the innocent child from the clutches of a deviant.  Doing so may have spared that child and future victims some pain and suffering.  Or it might not have. 

Only he knows why he didn’t intercede, but let’s take a moment to speculate.  Please note, this is not an attempt to justify what McQueary didn't do.  There are no excuses.  He has to live with the fact that he made one of the worst decisions a adult (and he was an adult) can ever make.  He should have stopped Sandusky and called the police.  But, he didn't, and the question remains, why?

1)    He was shocked, so shocked he simply couldn’t take any action.

2)    As he was a 28-year-old grad assistant who wasn’t yet married or the father of a daughter (as he is now), he wasn’t as immediately incensed as he should have been.

ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 1: Head coach Joe Paterno of the Penn State Nittany Lions talks with offensive assistant coach Mike McQueary during the 2010 Capital One Bowl against the LSU Tigers at the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium on January 1, 2010 in Orlando, Fl
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Sorry, but that’s all we got on that one. Neither is a valid reason, but nothing ever happens for one reason.  Causes of various events in anybody's live are a complicated combination of reasons.  

However, when he went back to his office to contemplate his next move, things for the State College, Pa., native got much more complicated.  While we aren’t justifying what McQueary did next, we speculate these things influenced his ultimate decision not to contact any authority other than Joe Paterno


McQueary was born and raised in Happy Valley, and all he probably ever wanted to do was to play and then coach for Penn State. Half of his life’s dream had come true as he played QB for the Nittany Lions in 1996 and 1997.  He even set a few records.

McQueary was halfway to the second half of the dream, having landed a position as a grad assistant, and then one night when all he wanted to do was put away his new sneakers, he encounters a horrific scene involving another long-time semi-revered Penn State coach.

He was paralyzed.  We surmise he contemplated calling the police, but, no doubt, realized that had he done so and the police arrived when Sandusky’s shower rape was over, it would quickly devolve into “his word against Sandusky’s word” situation. 

The grad assistant's word against the mighty long-term retired defensive coordinator who had founded a charity to help underprivileged kids.

8 Nov 1997: Quarterback Mike McQueary of the Penn State Nittany Lions gets tackled during a game against the Michigan Wolverines at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania. Michigan won the game, 34-10.
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

If McQueary also assumed that it was likely that the State College police officer who answered the call was also drinking the Penn State Kool-Aid, that was not a viable option.

Mike McQueary was probably just a normal guy.  A guy overwhelmed by the aura of Penn State football and perhaps intimidated by the iconic individuals worshiped by the program, the players, the students, the boosters and the alums.  Perhaps he simply didn’t see himself as a hero willing or capable of taking on such a behemoth.

We also believe this to be true:  McQueary was a product of the almighty Penn State football program and he probably didn’t believe in doing anything without the approval of his ultimate superior: the ruler of the kingdom, Joe Paterno.


We also surmise that McQueary at some point between that horrible moment in 2002 and his testimony before the Grand Jury, was concerned that any thing he did or said would end his career at Penn State. 

Knowing how psychotic football programs are about loyalty, his exposing Paterno and Sandusky may well have gotten him blackballed in all of major college football.

So, we speculate the McQueary simply put himself first and made the safe play.  In a world rocked the last decade by scandals ranging from Enron to Wall Street, it should be abundantly clear that a significant portion of the population subscribes to a simple philosophy of “me first.” 

STATE COLLEGE, PA - SEPTEMBER 12:  Assistant coach Mike McQueary of the Penn State Nittany Lions walks the sidelines against  the Syracuse Orangemen during the second half at Beaver Stadium  September 12, 2009 in State College, Pennsylvania. Penn State wo
Chris Gardner/Getty Images

Like many other Americans, McQueary put himself, his family and his career in front of everything else...even an innocent child.

He blew it, it’s that simple. 

So, McQueary decided to sleep on it and simply inform his boss the next day. 

(And then there’s McQueary’s dad, who just raced past Cam Newton’s old man into the Worst Fatherly Advice Hall of Fame…but that's a story for another day.)

So that brings us to Paterno, and Scott H. Greenfield’s Simple Justice blog eloquently overviews it all like this:

A young man saw something no young man should ever have to see.  He told an old man, a legend even then, who passed him along to his technical superior because he was no more clear on what to do than anyone else. 

And the superior engaged in allopathic triage, making the symptoms disappear without curing the disease, all in the hope that this would never be known.  Primary was the protection of the Penn State football program.


Which brings us to a conclusion with the help of long-time TodaysACCHeadlines.com reader C. Gigs. Now, Gigs is a very bright fellow who usually engages us with pro-Big (L)East musings, but yesterday he dropped a bit of succinct brilliance on us:    

We have, in my opinion, a cultural and societal fear of damaging the reputations of those we hold in high esteem while neglecting the protection of the innocent, weak and vulnerable which borders on pathological.  We culturally laud Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, yet we learned little from it.  Boo Radley is still in the attic.

And that may be exactly why the homegrown boy who grew up in the shadow of Beaver Stadium to play quarterback for and then coach for one of the (then) most esteemed football programs in the country simply couldn’t bring himself to notify the authorities in 2002 or on any of 3,505 days since the original debacle allegedly occurred.

And that is a disaster in itself…Has anybody seen Boo?

(Writer's note added on Monday: It was clear from a few of the comments below that readers thought I was trying to justify McQueary's actions. I was not. He is the poster child for moral bankruptcy, and as a parent and a normal human being, I'm appalled and furious that he would not stop the rape of a child perhaps even knowing it would lead to even more abuse of other children. That said, he didn't.  So the point of this article was to examine the environment he was in and to try to figure out how he would make such a horrible decision.  In the end, I expected the readers to draw what evidently wasn't such an obvious conclusion: Big time college football at PSU became a monster -- a monster capable of corrupting people in terrible ways.  Fans who make death threats and Mike McQueary and everybody at PSU who knew about the 1998 and the 2002 incidents are among those twisted by the influence, power and money of modern college football.)


    Reggie Bush: Barkley More NFL-Ready Than I Was

    Penn State Football logo
    Penn State Football

    Reggie Bush: Barkley More NFL-Ready Than I Was

    Kyle Newport
    via Bleacher Report

    Report: Former No. 1 QB Transferring from ASU

    College Football logo
    College Football

    Report: Former No. 1 QB Transferring from ASU

    Joseph Zucker
    via Bleacher Report

    Georgia Lands Former Irish Starting DE Hayes

    College Football logo
    College Football

    Georgia Lands Former Irish Starting DE Hayes

    via 247sports

    NFL OC Slams Lamar: 'When He Throws, He Hopes'

    College Football logo
    College Football

    NFL OC Slams Lamar: 'When He Throws, He Hopes'

    Tim Daniels
    via Bleacher Report