Indicting Penn State

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Jerry Sandusky, the former defensive coordinator of Penn State’s football program, was convicted on 45 counts of sexual abuse of children in June. Sandusky used his position of authority, the trappings of big-time college football, and the facilities and respected name of Penn State, to prey upon young boys. But as we now know, the sordid story doesn’t end there.

Sandusky’s crimes went on for more than a decade. And Penn State’s administration, athletics department and football program did nothing about it until Sandusky was indicted last fall. In fact, what many suspected at the time is now beyond dispute: Former football coach Joe Paterno, former president Graham Spanier, former athletics director Tim Curley and others served as enablers for Sandusky and his monstrous crimes. As late as 2007, Sandusky had full access to football facilities and even kept an office as a “coach emeritus.” That’s 13 years after Sandusky’s first known attack and nine years after the first Sandusky attack the Penn State hierarchy was made aware of.

As the Freeh report concludes, by granting Sandusky continued access to the football program, Paterno and others “empowered Sandusky to attract potential victims to the campus…Indeed that continued access provided Sandusky with the very currency that enabled him to attract his victims.”

In short, people in positions of respected authority allowed a predator to roam and hunt and destroy. If you think this language is too strong, read the information in Freeh’s report—but only if you are ready to glimpse the most depraved and cowardly side of man.

That brings us to the legacy of Joe Paterno, who was fired last fall as the scandal unfolded and died just a few months later, succumbing to cancer. We have heard much about how Paterno donated millions, built libraries and student centers, and selflessly gave to the university he loved. Students and alumni marched in support of the sainted coach. But the hard truth is that Paterno covered up a heinous crime and allowed Sandusky to destroy the lives of young boys. In his press conference, Freeh concluded that Paterno and the Penn State hierarchy “showed no concern” for the victims, displayed a “total disregard for the safety and welfare of the victims” and “repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities.”

Rather than protecting the innocent—the report scathingly concludes that Paterno and other higher-ups “failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade”—the goal was to protect the football program. For those who know Paterno’s many good works by heart, this is hard to hear. Indeed, it is hard to see heroes fall. But those who hold themselves to a higher standard—those who allow others to elevate them onto pedestals—must be held to that higher standard.

Paterno did many, many good things in his half-century of coaching. But one bad thing—especially something this appalling—can sweep away all the good. This truth applies to anyone: the good husband who has but one indiscretion and ruins a family; the good teacher who loses control for just a moment and ruins her career; the good surgeon or CEO who cuts a corner and ruins someone’s life. This truth—this frailty of reputation—hangs over all of us.

Soon, the NCAA will weigh in on the Sandusky-Paterno scandal. There are reports that the NCAA is investigating Penn State for a “lack of institutional control” (LOIC)—code for the most serious violations of the spirit and letter of NCAA rules. The punishment could be devastating for the football program, including the NCAA equivalent of the death penalty.

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  • Flynn McMahon

    The statue should go. After this how could anybody on the campus walk by it without a total feeling of revulsion. And this is coming from someone who has a lifelong love of football but I'm beginning to wonder if the whole thing shouldn't be torn down; i.e. the program at PSU and maybe beyond.

  • amused

    Looks like tuition may be going up at Penn State ….wayyyyyy up , since the lawsuits coming are estimated to be 100 million . And it serves them right .
    Just goes to show that "book knowledge " has got nothing at all to do with common sense , for how utterly foolish to even think this would never come to light . And such an egregious thing to cover up .
    But you see it everyday , in all aspects of society , Wall Street , Libor Scandal , Wells Fargo's loss in a discriminatory loaning process , lol…politics and/or corruption. Trouble is , no one EVER learns .
    Paterno as great a coach as he was , in the long run , didn't have the cahones to do the right thing .And this will be his final defining factor .

  • bubbaland1

    Don't worry the NCAA will not give PSU's football program the death penalty, because for the people of Happy Valley, and the admin of PSU, football is more important than the welfare of children. Football gives many people who cannot find meaning in their lives something of value. On a larger level, the report is an indictment of the football culture that pervades American colleges and universities. In the college town where I live, the "leaders" of our university would rather build an alumni center for football related activities instead of a science museum. After all, football games generate more money and a science museum would.

  • g_jochnowitz

    Caring about one's team has led colleges to admit students simply because they are good athletes. Enthusiasm over sports has led to soccer riots. It is a pleasure to watch skillful athletes, but getting worked up over a team makes little sense. Being too involved in something that's not really important causes corruption and violence.

  • Schlomotion

    Within approximately three days, the editors will attempt to link the Sandusky-Paterno ped.ophilia train up to the British Muslim ped.ophilia caboose. Most likely this will be done on the Glazov Show, where the more prurient and perverse theories get boiled down. It's like watching whales try to mate in public. There's no hiding the foreplay.

  • 2012

    Whether it be Bishops, or football coaches, or people in other occupations…it happens more often than people realize. We humans will often look away when confronted with evidence that someone we know and respect is guilty of such a heinous crime. If we don’t know the accused, we will believe they are guilty even if the evidence clears them, but if we do know them and we like them we will believe them innocent even when confronted with evidence. Much could be said about why we do this (mostly the hideous nature of the crime), but still it would be great if the media would at least acknowledge this behavior instead of trying to convince people that it is only a problem with the catholic church.

  • Ghostwriter

    I'd never heard of Joe Paterno before this erupted. It's sad that he looked the other way while his assistant raped young boys. What a sad thing to happen. This scandal has all the elements of Greek tragedy. A good man destroyed by his flaws. My only comfort for the Paterno family is that he isn't around to suffer through this. That one foolish,stupid act has undone any sort of good he did.

  • radicalconservative

    Ok armchair heroes armed with hindsight, before you pass judgment on JoPa I remind you that to ruin another man's life based on hearsay from another party is a grave sin if it turns out you were wrong. Paterno was NOT a witness to any pedophilia events, he reported the accusation to the University, and was likely talked into believing his friend was either innocent or had need of psychological help and would be "fixed". Do you really believe the man supports the raping of boys?! Stop and get off your high moral horses and accept the complexity of that difficult situation that he faced.

  • Mike Villano

    You gotta love the language they guys come up with.
    "A Lack of Institutional Control"
    Sandusky was buggering young boys while everyone knew but pretended it wasn't happening and they call it a lack of institutional control??
    The same term could be applied to anything from grade inflation to too many students enrolling in remedial math and English classes.

  • BS77

    Melt down the statue……what a travesty!!!

  • BS77

    What a bunch of gobbledeegook……….iPhone…..what the heck are you talking about?

  • radicalconservative

    Leave the statue. Louis Freeh is making a sensationalized assumption about Paterno's beliefs and actions. Until he can prove that Paterno knew that Sandusky was buggering boys, I will give the man the benefit of the doubt. Why do we blame innocent people more than the perpetrators? Do we need a scapegoat? Like stupid liberals? "Blame Bush! Blame the Jews! " Now it's conservatives who blame Paterno! The blame rests with Sandusky. If Paterno knowingly allowed Sandusky to bugger boys, and you can prove THAT, then tear down the statue.

  • Horace

    Sandusky was doing what the University wanted him to do. The policy of the University is to promote sodomy every chance it gets, especially among its newest young students. It supports numerous gay organizations, steering as many impressionable young kids entering Penn State (like most other big American universities) into the hands of the amoral gay, lesbian bisexual and transgendered(eventual mutilation involved here) power groups on the campus. It calls anyone who objects to this destruction of young people "bigots". I guess Sandusky wasn't a bigot. Joe Paterno didn't see enough wrong with what he was doing to stop it. Just like the higher ups. Go figure.

  • Jaladhi

    Joe Paterno's statue has to go from campus if the university wants salvage any of its honor or dignity that's is left. Actually there no honor and dignity in this university when it's President and the "the" coach Joe Paterno protected this pedophile criminal instead of the defenseless young boys. How low can they sink – what would have been their reaction if their own children wer abused by some pedophile?? Criminal charges should be filed against the president and two other top officials to serve the justice. These guys are so corrupt and disgusting that they should not be allowed to roam free in public. They can walk all they want inside the prison system. Disgusting culture of Penn State football!!