Friday, July 13, 2012


It would have been so much easier in the old days.

The investigative report on Penn State athletics, so massive and so damning, would have landed on someone's desk with a giant thud. You would have realized that just by the trees felled for its contents.

Now we have to settle for a pdf file from the Internet. But once we open it ... sigh.

It's such a big story, it's difficult to wrap one's arms around it. After all, this was Penn State, where things supposedly were done differently. Yes, the Nittany Lions had their problems, but their eyes were always on the bigger picture. But it turned out that Penn State was just another big football program, an institution worried about itself over everything else. And I do mean everything else.

What I don't get is ... why?

In 1998, the first public evidence of Jerry Sandusky's abuses apparently came to light in the Penn State athletic department. Sandusky was a trusted assistant to legendary coach Joe Paterno for several years. I could understand it if Sandusky was eased out the door quietly in order to avoid embarrassment for all concerned. It would have been horrible and probably illegal, but I have seen first-hand horrible personal conduct go unpunished in organizations. Indeed, Sandusky did leave the team's coaching staff in 1999.

But he went off to work for a children's charity he had created called The Second Mile. These are smart men at Penn State, as otherwise they wouldn't be there. Can you think of a worse place for Sandusky than that? Not only did they not discreetly order that he get some help ... NOW ... and make sure he did, but they literally and figuratively gave him the keys to the athletic department kingdom.

Then in 2002, a Penn State graduate assistant, Mike McQueary, walked in on an incident between Sandusky and a young boy in the shower. McQueary reported the incident to Paterno in an action, in that atmosphere, comes across as heroic. From there, Paterno at best passed the story along and appeared to do almost nothing about it. Certainly Sandusky's status didn't change. Shouldn't alarm bells have gone off somewhere?

And, what happened after that? Sandusky was presumably visible in State College in the nine years after that. He was in a suite during home football games. What were Paterno and other administrators thinking when they saw him? That Sandusky had "solved" his problem? That they had protected a friend and saved the university embarrassment?

In other words, why?

The story finally broke, as it often does. The friend is in jail, and the university is beyond embarrassed. Penn State will be feeling the effects of this for years. The pending civil cases from the victims are coming, and the damages are going to be massive. Today's report can be exhibit A for all of those cases.

Meanwhile, a saint has turned into a sinner. I once talked to a Penn State athletic department employee about working with Paterno. His answer, way back when, was that he had heard so many good things about Paterno, he thought JoePa was too good for true. But, dealing with Paterno was even better than he expected, he said. Guess his initial reaction was correct.

Paterno did say when the story broke that he should have done more, something that applies to everyone involved. Too late now, gentlemen. The ones who remain will have to ponder "why?" every time they think about the sad story, as will the victims for the rest of their lives.

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