My Thoughts on the Scandal at Penn State

I have spent much of the past few days here on Diego Garcia glued to the TV and the internet, trying to keep up with the news coming out of State College. I’m just trying to digest it all. Maybe putting my thoughts in one place will help.

Late on Saturday night (Diego Garcia time) I found out the news that former PSU defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky PSU Athletic Director had been indicted by a Grand Jury with 40 counts of felony child sex abuse, for abusing 8 boys over a 15 year span, and that Tim Curley and VP of Finance were indicted by a Grand Jury with the charges of failure to report abuse (a misdemeanor) and perjury (a felony) by the same Grand Jury for covering up the scandal. I was shocked and horrified.

While I didn’t read the Grand Jury report for myself, I know almost all of what is in it from quotes I’ve read from people who have read it. I’ve read some news articles, but for the most part I’ve been keeping up by reading, a Penn State sports blog/message board. The details that are contained in that report about what Sandusky did are revolting, and still make me sick to think about them. Those poor boys and their families… My heart goes out to them, as do my prayers.

So how did this blow up into a scandal that enveloped pretty much the entire administration of Penn State University? I’ll recap it here, since the national media has done an abominable job of actually doing accurate reporting about this scandal. So what follows is what I know of what’s been going on, presented as accurately as possible.

Here’s what we know from the Grand Jury report. Back in 2002, graduate assistant (and now wide receivers coach) Mike McQueary witnessed Sandusky engaged in an unspeakable act with a 10-year old boy in the showers of Lasch Building (the football building). All parties ran away. McQueary talked to his father that night, seeking advice. The next day McQueary met with Paterno to tell him what happened, though it’s unclear at this point exactly what details McQueary told Paterno, but their Grand Jury testimonies agreed with each other. Paterno testified to the Grand Jury that McQueary was “distraught.” So the day after that (a Sunday), Paterno summoned Curley to his home to relay what McQueary had told him, and to arrange a meeting between McQueary, Curley, and Schultz. Schultz was also the overseer of the University Park Police Department, so Paterno likely thought that this was one better than simply notifying the police. The meeting between McQueary, Curley, and Schultz took place a week and a half later. McQueary testified to the Grand Jury that he went into lurid detail about what he saw; Curley and Schultz denied that, but the Grand Jury found their testimony not credible and charged them both with perjury as a result. Curley and Schultz then told university president Graham Spanier about the incident, but that it was something “inappropriate” that had made an employee feel “uncomfortable.” Curley and Schultz informed Spanier of their decision to ban Sandusky from bringing kids on campus (which Curley later admitted was unenforceable), and to take away his keys from Lasch Building. Spanier must have known that there was more to the story, but did nothing. As near as can be told, the matter was swept under the rug at this point, and no police investigation was ever started. For what it’s worth, Schultz testified that he thought the matter had been referred to Child Protective Services, but it never was.

Now for some backstory. It should also be noted that Sandusky was investigated in 1998 for a similar incident. Police even listened in to a conversation in which the mother of the victim met with Sandusky, and Sandusky even admitted to showering with the boy, but would not promise not to do it again. For reasons that are still unknown, charges were never filed against Sandusky in 1998. Unfortunately we will never be able to get answers from then-Centre County District Attorney Roy Gricar on why he never pressed charges against Sandusky, because Gricar mysteriously disappeared in 2005. His car was found next to the Susquehanna River in Lewisburg, PA, and his laptop computer was recovered from the river, as was his hard drive eventually (data unrecoverable), but no trace of Gricar was ever found. In 2009 investigators announced that they found Google searches stored on Gricar’s home computer shortly before his disappearance for how to destroy a hard drive in water. Then a few months ago his daughter had him legally declared dead. I don’t think we’ll ever know what happened in that bizarre disappearance, but anyway…

Another interesting thing that comes from the 1998 investigation of Sandusky is that shortly after that, Paterno informed Sandusky that he would never be the head coach at Penn State, and basically forced him into retirement in 1999. That was puzzling at the time, because Sandusky was one of the best defensive coordinators in the country, and was just assumed to be the heir-apparent to Paterno. Did Paterno know about the investigation in 1998? He testified to the Grand Jury that he did not know about it at that point. Paterno and Sandusky were very good friends for a long time, as Sandusky worked for Paterno for about 30 years, but their relationship did appear to change around 1998. At Sandusky’s 1999 retirement banquet, the normally loquacious Paterno spoke for only about a minute.

Sandusky also founded a charity organization in the 1970s called The Second Mile, for disadvantaged and at-risk youth. Sandusky and The Second Mile appeared to be doing wonderful, wonderful work for a long time. Sandusky and his wife were also unable to have children of their own, so they adopted eight kids. Sandusky was always around children, and ran youth football camps at Penn State until 2009 (incredibly).

Fast forward to 2008. Administrators at a high school in Clinton County (PA) became aware of Sandusky, who was a volunteer football coach at the school, repeatedly abusing a boy on school grounds (pulling him out of class repeatedly, despite not being the boy’s father). School administrators immediately banned Sandusky from school district property, and notified police of the incidents. That eventually led to the Grand Jury investigation from 2008-2011, which culminated in the indictments handed down last weekend. That a Grand Jury had been convened to investigate Sandusky was known approximately a year ago, though. Yet Sandusky was still allowed on the Penn State campus as recently as last week.

It was chaos once the news of the indictments broke on Saturday. Shortly after the news broke, PSU president Spanier issued a statement offering his “unconditional support” for Curley and Schultz, praising their honesty and integrity, and saying he was confident they would be “completely exonerated” on the charges of perjury and failure to report abuse. There was not one mention of sympathy for the victims. This mind-blowingly dumb statement poured gasoline on the raging inferno of a PR disaster on Penn State’s hands. As a result of his asinine, heartless statement, and because of his role in the cover-up (being intentionally ignorant of what actually happened and not taking it to police), I sent an email to President Spanier with the subject line “please resign,” and I calmly laid out my case for why I thought he was no longer fit to lead our great university.

From the moment the scandal broke, however, the media has been howling for the blood of Joe Paterno, and only Joe Paterno. They claim that he didn’t do enough to stop Sandusky by following up on the investigation or reporting it to the cops. But let’s review the facts here. Paterno received an eyewitness report of an incident (again, we don’t know how detailed) from someone who worked for him. Not being an eyewitness, Paterno decided to run it up the administrative chain of command (which, by the way, is what Pennsylvania state law requires in these situations), and arranged the meeting with McQueary, Curley, and Schultz. At this point, Paterno thought he’d alerted the proper authorities, who would conduct an investigation. Unfortunately, those administrators covered it up and did nothing. We DO NOT KNOW yet whether or not Paterno followed up with Curley and/or Schultz, but from what’s coming out of the Paterno camp, Schultz assured him that an investigation was happening. Schultz even said he thought that CPS had been brought in. If he told that to Paterno, what more is Paterno supposed to do? To wit, the Pennsylvania Attorney General praised Paterno in this case, saying he’s been very cooperative and that he did what he was supposed to do. That’s not been enough for his detractors, though.

The media coverage has been one-sided against Paterno, to the point that the media has hardly mentioned Sandusky, Curley, or Schultz in the past few days, the only people to have actually been indicted with crimes. There’s virtually no outrage about McQueary failing the victims by not calling the cops right away. There’s virually no outrage about Curley and Schultz failing the victims by covering up this scandal and not reporting it to police like they were legally mandated to do. The reporting has been abysmally inaccurate too, which is why I’m linking to this article yet again. The media is outraged at his heinous moral failures, yet he’s pretty far down the list of people to blame for this:

1. Sandusky
2. Curley and Schultz
3. Spanier (and anyone else in authority who knew enough to know something bad happened)
4. McQueary
5. Paterno

I understand that there’s probably more Paterno could’ve done, but we don’t even have all the facts in yet to make that judgment. That doesn’t matter to the media jackals.

On Sunday night, Curley asked to be placed on administrative leave so that he could focus on his criminal defense, and Schultz, who was only serving in his post on an interim basis after retiring from it a couple years earlier, resigned entirely. Meanwhile, there was total silence from the normally very talkative Spanier for days. Penn State University was leaderless.

On Tuesday afternoon, Paterno was scheduled to have his usual weekly press conference about the upcoming football game this weekend. Penn State made an announcement on Monday night that Paterno would not be taking any questions about the scandal, but only questions about Nebraska. Umm, what? Good luck getting the hordes of media from around the nation to abide by that request. So then about 30-60 minutes before the press conference is about to start, a Penn State spokesman announced that the press conference was cancelled due to legal concerns and would not be rescheduled. PSU just could not keep itself from pouring more and more gasoline onto the PR inferno, it was unbelievable. It was then reported that Paterno wanted to hold the press conference, that he had a statement ready about the scandal, and that he was prepared to answer questions about it. Therefore, it was the PSU administration who cancelled the press conference. Unbelievable. Then the Paterno family was reported to be trying to arrange an off-campus press conference at which Joe could speak. It was difficult to keep up with all the news developments coming out of Happy Valley.

On Wednesday morning, Paterno came out with a statement to announce his retirement at the end of the season:

“I am absolutely devastated by the developments in this case. I grieve for the children and their families, and I pray for their comfort and relief. I have come to work every day for the last 61 years with one clear goal in mind: To serve the best interests of this university and the young men who have been entrusted to my care.

I have the same goal today. That’s why I have decided to announce my retirement effective at the end of this season. At this moment the Board of Trustees should not spend a single minute discussing my status. They have far more important matters to address. I want to make this as easy for them as I possibly can. This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.

My goals now are to keep my commitments to my players and staff and finish the season with dignity and determination. And then I will spend the rest of my life doing everything I can to help this University.”

Paterno’s statement showed the grace, dignity, integrity, and class for which he has been known throughout his 61-year coaching career at Penn State. He was the one of the only people in this situation to do the right thing (though maybe not enough), yet was being mercilessly and relentlessly pilloried. So he decided to fall on his sword. Shortly thereafter Paterno met with the team to tell him of his retirement, and both he and the team broke down in tears. Unfortunately the rest of the PSU administration doesn’t have even half of the class or integrity
that Paterno has.

Wednesday night the Penn State Board of Trustees met. Throughout the day it had been rumored that President Spanier was on his way out, and that was confirmed after the BoT meeting. They took action on Paterno too. Apparently about 10pm the BoT sent a messenger to Paterno’s house to deliver a piece of paper. The paper asked Paterno to call a phone number. He did, and two members of the BoT answered, one of whom said that he was “relieved of his duties” effective immediately. So Paterno, a coach of 61 years for Penn State (almost half of the 125 years that Penn State has existed!), and who did more for the university than anyone else in its history, was fired not in person. He wasn’t even fired with a phone call. He was fired by a note asking him to call them. What an utter disgrace. Yet another horribly botched situation by PSU administration. It upsets me how poorly they handled this. Here’s Paterno’s statement following his dismissal:

“I am disappointed with the Board of Trustees’ decision, but I have to accept it.

A tragedy occurred, and we all have to have patience to let the legal process proceed. I appreciate the outpouring of support but want to emphasize that everyone should remain calm and please respect the university, its property and all that we value.

I have been incredibly blessed to spend my entire career working with people I love. I am grateful beyond words to all of the coaches, players and staff who have been a part of this program. And to all of our fans and supporters, my family and I will be forever in your debt.”

While I understand the BoT’s decision to fire him immediately instead of allowing him to finish this season, I think it was the wrong decision. (And while I think it was a wrong decision, rioting was not the right response on the part of the students.) Part of that was the BoT’s admission that they still don’t have all the facts (they’re in a shoot first, ask questions later sort of mood). In essence, they caved to the media mob instead of waiting for the facts about what JoePa knew and did. Another part of that is based on who remains still employed at Penn State: Tim Curley and Mike McQueary (recall that Gary Schultz resigned on Sunday). If Paterno was canned for “not doing enough,” then how come McQueary is still employed? He was the eyewitness and had a far greater responsibility to call police than Paterno did. And Curley? He was the one whose legal responsibility it was to report this, but instead he covered it up, and is now indicted with charges of perjury and failure to report abuse. But they still have their jobs. How is that just??? If “not doing enough” is now the standard to fire employees, then the BoT better fire every other employee who knew anything about the Sandusky scandal, or who knew enough to know that something was going on. That’s going to be a lot of people, including janitors, and, as I believe will be revealed in the coming days and weeks, members of the Board of Trustees as well.

Believe me, there is a lot of rot in the administration of Penn State that needs to be excised. Paterno probably needed to go after the season, if not sooner. But Paterno should not be the scapegoat in this scandal, when he’s one of the only people who did something right in it. I am upset by the injustice of firing Paterno while several other people remain on the university’s payroll. The blame needs to be first on Sandusky for his unspeakable actions in violating at least eight boys, and second on Curley & Schultz who were told what happened and did absolutely nothing. That’s who our anger should be directed at.

This is the ugliest scandal in the history of American universities, and it has made me embarrassed to be a Penn State student. It’s shaken me. And I’m angry for what Sandusky has done to those boys, at the cops for not pursuing the matter further in 1998, and at the PSU administration for covering it up in 2002. There’s lots of blame to go around, that’s for sure. As ugly as it is, this is only going to get uglier as more victims of Sandusky’s come forward, and as the trials start. Also, more revelations are going to come out about who at Penn State knew what when — in other words, who else was party to the cover up. Penn State does need to clean house, absolutely. It’s just embarrassing how horrendously Penn State has handled this scandal since news broke. Every single step of the way, administrators have been throwing gas on the fire and making the wrong decisions (except their decision to fire Spanier, that was a good one).

The media’s behavior in this scandal has been utterly disgraceful too. How do these reporters sleep at night, writing such blatant inaccuracies repeatedly to aid their crusade to take down Joe Paterno? Shame on them all. I remain convinced that the main reason they targeted JoePa was because he’s the face of the university, and because he’s been preaching integrity for his entire 61-year tenure. It had to be that, because it surely wasn’t because he was anywhere close to the person who was most to blame. The media love to see people who preach morals and integrity fall from grace, and love to destroy them and bring them down to the muck. They take joy in that. These reporters should be embarrassed of themselves and of their conduct. They shouldn’t even enjoy the privilege of being called reporters and journalists. It’s astounding that the media wonders why they’re despised so much. It was incredible to me how much ESPN was clueless about why PSU students hate them so much — do they really not know? Yes, Paterno wishes he would’ve done more in hindsight, and he’s the only person involved to have expressed such a sentiment. That’s also telling. But seriously, let’s focus instead on the true villains and victims of this scandal.

We will stand strong and united through this scandal. We Are. Penn State. And as our Alma Mater says, “May no act of ours bring shame.” And as Paterno taught for decades, let us continue to have “Success With Honor.” Let us restore our repuation for that. And most importantly, let us pray that Jesus Christ will bring healing to this situation for all involved, especially the victims and their families.

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