Sandusky case, PSU's response a sad story
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There's a question college football coaches are asked every autumn, even though the answer is never terribly revealing or important: Is this a good time for an off week?
Yesterday, Nov. 5, 2011, was a very good time for the open date at Penn State.
It was so much better than having the 84-year-old living-legend of a head coach marched into a postgame media room for some kind of question that, right here, I can only try to approximate.
"Joe, in light of the lurid details in the grand jury report on Jerry Sandusky, do you expect that you or any allegedly involved chain-of-command university officials up to and including president Graham Spanier can keep your jobs?"
That's the kind of question that can make a coach long for a good ol' quarterback controversy right there.
For most of the 21st century, you pretty much knew that the Joe Paterno Era would end badly. He had taken the football program and with it the entire university to the very apex of decorous national prominence, but long since led both on a stubborn chase to perfect his legacy, a legacy he was absolutely petrified to unleash.
There was no good way out, but there were one million better ways than this, the charging of former defensive coordinator and longtime top Paterno lieutenant Sandusky with child sex abuse, the related perjury charges and looming surrender to authorities of Penn State athletic director Tim Curley and Penn State vice president for finance and business Gary Schultz, and the apparent head-in-the-sand reaction of university president Spanier to more than a decade of unspeakable allegations involving one of the football program's greatest retired generals.
What Paterno knew about the crimes alleged in 23 sickening pages of a grand jury report on Sandusky, covering eight victims as young as 10 and stretching over 13 years, during most of which Sandusky enjoyed full, unfettered access to Penn State's facilities, might be nothing more than the contents of one conversation.
But if 1/100th of the grand jury report holds true, or even 1/100th of the state attorney general's report, few Penn State officials related to the football program, the university police (overseen by Schultz's office) or the president's office will be left standing when the acrid smoke clears from the legal system.
There are 40 counts against Sandusky from attempt to commit indecent assault to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.
"This is a case about a sexual predator who used his position within the university and community to repeatedly prey on young boys," Attorney General Linda Kelly says in the report filed yesterday. "It is also a case about high-ranking university officials who allegedly failed to report the sexual assault of a young boy after information was brought to their attention, and later made false statements to a grand jury that was investigating a series of assaults on young boys."
Paterno was not charged, and his knowledge of the situation appears to have been limited to meeting with a graduate assistant coach who told the grand jury he saw Sandusky committing a sex act with a boy of about 10 in the shower in the Lasch Football Building in March 2002.
According to the grand jury report, the graduate assistant told his father, and they both went to Paterno's home the next day.
Not to the police, interestingly. To a higher authority.
Paterno heard that story, again according to the report, phoned Curley, and met with Curley the next day. Ten days later, Curley and Schultz advised the grad assistant that Sandusky would be banned from the facilities. Curley and Schultz then told Spanier, who later denied to the grand jury that he knew the incident was sexual in nature.
Sandusky, however, was told not to bring children to the Lasch Building, but retained access to the facilities.
The grand jury said it found the grad assistant's testimony to be "extremely credible." It found portions of Curley's testimony and portions of Schultz's testimony "not credible."
Incredibly then, Penn State's collective shrug over the whole thing -- despite Schultz telling the grand jury that he was aware of an investigation of Sandusky's alleged predation four years before the Lasch Building shower story -- essentially meant that no law enforcement entity would interview the graduate assistant until December 2010.
Eight years later.
"The failure of top university officials to act on reports of Sandusky's alleged sexual misconduct, even after it was reported to them in graphic detail by an eyewitness, allowed a predator to walk free for years -- continuing to target new victims," Kelly said. "Equally disturbing is the lack of action and apparent lack of concern among those same officials, and others who received information about this case, who either avoided asking difficult questions or chose to look the other way."
What's alleged to have become of Jerry Sandusky is a pathology, a heartbreaking sickness, heartbreaking tenfold to his alleged victims. But the cover-up, as always, is even more explosive.
These Penn State officials are supposed to be the smart people. They are leading the state university, an institution that, they have long preached, has a well-earned place among the nation's great bastions of intellect and ethics.
It's truly staggering that these professional academics -- including Paterno -- when faced with an allegation so serious and so sanctimoniously mishandled by the Catholic church almost simultaneously, somehow knew only the wrong thing to do.
It's nearly incomprehensible. The anticipated bad ending just got worse.
First Published November 5, 2011 9:43 pm