The now infamous Jerry Sandusky scandal has continued to infiltrate the Penn State campus and football program this Monday morning. Sandusky is alleged to have sexually assaulted at least 8 young boys, and many of them on the campus of Penn State University. Sandusky currently faces 40 counts of sex crimes against young boys. Sandusky was an assistant at Penn State under Joe Paterno for 30 years, all of which were on the defensive side of the football, and he produced 10 All-American linebackers during his tenure.
The story with Sandusky begins in 1977 when he created “The Second Mile,” a program devoted to providing support to troubled youth. However, in the mid-90s this program became a source for Sandusky’s victims, and over a 15 year period ending around 2008, Sandusky assaulted 8 boys. There was an investigation in 1998 about an alleged incident with Sandusky and a young boy, and former Penn State Senior Vice President Gary Schultz reported it to the Child Protection Agency. The major incident concerning the Penn State administration occurred in 2002, when Sandusky was spotted inside the football training facility sexually assaulting a young boy. The issue was reported by a Penn State assistant immediately to Joe Paterno. Mike McQueary, now the Wide Receivers coach at Penn State and the Head of Recruiting, is believed to be the assistant who immediately reported this incident to head coach Joe Paterno. Paterno immediately contacted Tim Curley regarding the incident, as was his responsibility on the matter. Curley and Schultz then restricted Sandusky from bringing children on to the campus of Penn State, a restriction Curley later disclosed was unenforceable. Curley never contacted the police or any other law enforcement on this matter, and so Sandusky’s behavior was allowed to continue.
In a Grand Jury trial, Curley and Schultz produced non-credible testimony. Both are charged with perjury, and also are guilty of covering up a child abuse sex scandal. Mike McQueary was the whistle-blower on this matter, his testimony was very credible, and he appears to be the hero in bringing all of this to light and pursuing justice in the best, most efficient manner. Joe Paterno did what was expected of him by university policy and legal obligation. He reported the actions of a former employee to Athletic Director Tim Curley, and expected further action to be taken.
So what can we make of the whole situation? Tim Curley and Gary Schultz are facing potential jail time for their actions, and had they not stepped down from their positions last night, they would have been fired anyway. Curley and Schultz now face charges of perjury and attempts to cover up a child-abuse sex scandal. University President Graham Spanier has no direct connection to the scandal based upon the evidence available, but his official statement on the matter leaves him extremely vulnerable. Spanier gave his “unconditional support” to both Curley and Schultz, and by doing so opens himself up to a complete destruction of his professional reputation. If Curley and Schultz both go to prison, Spanier will have the “unconditional support” of two criminals. He can never take that statement back. Therefore, although Curley and Schultz are in the most trouble, Spanier unnecessarily put himself in that position as well by making the statement. In addition, Spanier embarrassed the university and Penn State alumni and students everywhere by proclaiming his “unconditional support” of two employees that may have compromised the entire mission of the university.
Joe Paterno is the most uncertain figure in all aspects of this situation. Sandusky was a former employee when these allegations were made in 2002, but still had access to the Penn State football training facility. In 1998, Sandusky was alleged to have committed an assault in the football facility while he was an employee. He left the program in 1999. Was Paterno clean in the 2002 incident, and did he do everything that he should have? To the letter of the law, he did. He reported the incident to the Athletic Director as soon as it was brought to his attention. That is the responsibility of the head coach. In addition, it is important to note that Sandusky was a former employee at the time of this incident. Joe reported an incident that occurred in his program’s football facility, as was his duty. If Sandusky was still employed by the program, Paterno would have taken further action, such as dismissing Sandusky from the program.
However, what Paterno could have done further would have been to restrict Sandusky from any access to the football training facility. Sandusky, a coach at Penn State for 30 years, still had access to the facility, as do many people who are not directly associated with the program on a day-to-day basis. Joe testifies that he did not have specific knowledge of exactly what type of incident occurred between Sandusky and the young boy, and while Joe could have restricted total access to the facility, he believes that he has maintained his innocence because he reported the incident to the administrators in the athletic department.
A counter-argument is that Joe Paterno should have followed up with the investigation, and did not. This is where more information is needed the most. How often did Paterno see Sandusky at the facility after his report to the AD? Was Sandusky there during regular hours, or was it after hours as Sandusky had done in the past? Granted, Paterno could have done more to look into the situation, but he was also 74 years old at the time. Was his age a factor in the role he could take to investigate the situation? We don’t know. But age isn’t an excuse in a situation of this gravity. If nothing else, it is evidence that Paterno can not handle all the demands (football and non-football) of a college football program at his age. And for this reason he probably should no longer be the Penn State Head Football Coach.
Guilt or innocence, knowledge or ignorance by Paterno are questions that may not be answered for a long time, if ever. But no coach should be in the dark completely about events of this gravity occurring inside his own football facility. No accusations are being made against Paterno here. But when incidents happen time after time, and he is made aware of something occurring inside his fooball facility, that coach needs to be held to a higher standard. He has a responsibiliy to find exactly what is happening, and then remove the offenders from any contact with the program. And if Joe Paterno can not reach this standard, then, with all due respect, he is unfit to hold the head coaching position at Penn State.
Clearly, this is just the tip of the iceberg in what will be a difficult hurdle for Penn State to overcome. Bob Long Sports will continue to be a leader in this story, and more will be reported after Joe Paterno’s press conference on Tuesday afternoon.