I don’t know if there has ever been a college football season where the actual games have continued to take a backseat to all the other issues. And if the sundry expansiopocolypse matters, Miami football scandal, the legitimate debate of paying college athletes all haven’t been enough. They all pale in comparison to the seriousness and depravity that has come to light in Happy Valley.
Now it is announced by Joe Paterno in a press release that he will be retiring.
Everyone comes at these matters with their own history, biases and knowledge. My wife has been working in juvenile justice for over fifteen years. She has been a juvenile court magistrate for nearly ten years. Her fist year as a magistrate she heard “abuse, neglect and dependency cases.” These were emergency hearings on the immediate removal of a child from their home, parent and/or guardian. Those are not taken lightly. They are done when the risk to the safety of a child is so great that there is not time for a regular hearing with procedural standards. The details in these cases created emotions that ranged from rage to hide under the blankets depression. There was not a week that went by where my wife would come home in absolute tears over a particular case that was so horrid. I would listen as she described the matters, and do what I could to comfort her while trying not to lose it myself. My wife is much stronger and less selfish than I. Could never have kept doing that for even a year. Sadly, I have actually heard more disgusting things than what was described in the indictment of Sandusky.
There are two primary parts to the Sandusky-Penn State child molestation scandal. The first are the crimes by Sandusky. Horrific. Disgusting. Repulsive. Tragic. There aren’t words sufficient to describe the revulsion anyone with a shred of decency feels if they actually read the charges and years of preying on young children. Those are being handled by prosecutors and the legal system. It has been investigated, charges have been filed. Sandusky will never truly pay for his crimes, because there is no punishment. No remedy that can ever make whole what he has done to so many.
Then there are the crimes — both legal and moral — by so many in the Penn State administration. That is where everyone has their focus at this time.
Sundusky’s crimes up to a point, are not the fault of Penn State. They did not create the monster inside of him. These actions, sick and depraved, were not spawned by Penn State. They have happened before and will happen again. Where people in power and control over children have taken advantage of them, destroyed lives for their own perverted urges.
Where the powers that be at Penn State bear great responsibility, culpability and shame is in how they acted when confronted with information on Sandusky’s actions. The cover-ups made the volume of the horrific crimes worse. It also makes the level of culpability so much greater. If there had been action taken in 1998 after the police investigation. If the police would have been contacted in 2002. Instead, each time there was a chance to do something, the choice to do nothing became the only option, because to do something would be to admit to doing nothing every other time.
It has been hashed, rehashed and detailed since this weekend on how the people who could have done something instead chose to passively or actively do nothing. Whether it was Tim Curley and Gary Schultz choosing to aggressively not act on the reports of Sandusky’s actions. Instead their response was to try and minimize risk to Penn State by telling him not to bring the kids to the facilities. They didn’t try to cut off his access to the facilities or do anything that might draw attention that there was something amiss. They just wanted to make sure it didn’t happen on the campus and hurt Penn State’s reputation. Or Joe Paterno‘s. They didn’t want to have any damage inflicted on the moral high ground continually claimed and marketed with Penn State and Paterno.
Schultz, by the way, admitted that in 2002 he had some knowledge of the 1998 incident involving Sandusky. Though, he claims not to have ever read the report or knew specific details. Making him one of the biggest villains in this, even as he is mostly a behind the scenes player.
This was apparently approved by Graham Spanier. Their culpability and blame is obvious and all three will pay with their reputations, jobs, and knowing that when the justifiable lawsuits occur that they have cost Penn State more than just millions. They more than anyone else in the Penn State cover-up bear the responsibility for PSU now standing for Pedophile State U.
Joe Paterno was the most powerful figure in Penn State. He is not merely just a football coach there. In March 2002, he had finished back-to-back losing seasons. The calls were for him to finally retire. That he was finally, legitimately, too old. Yet when confronted by Penn State officials — Spanier, Curley, a few Board of Trustees — about retiring or at least planning it, he essentially told them to “bite me.” That was the end of it, and no one had the stones or juice to force him out. This is the man who still maintained total control over his football program and activities. At that point in his career and life, he was confronted with the information of such a heinous act being committed in his football facility, by his own former top assistant.
He didn’t do anything, but pass along the information to his AD. Suddenly, the most powerful man in Penn State, was just another employee passing the responsibility up the chain of command. He never sought more information. There was never any attempt to make sure it was being acted upon. There wasn’t even an attempt by Paterno to confront Sandusky. He did the legal minimum and then compartmentalized things. He didn’t want to know any more. He didn’t want to do any more.
There was a reason that there was no shortage of people saying Paterno needed to retire or be fired over this.
Schultz has already retired once. Curley was probably closing on reaching a point where he would/could retire. Spanier is likely finished, but as a university president he’s made money to do quite well after this. Paterno was likely going to retire after this season. None of them really have to deal with the fall-out in terms of their careers. Reputation, sure.
The one person that probably loses the most is Mike McQueary. He is only in his 3os. He had a solid reputation as a recruiter. Reasonably was considered a good young coach. Now, he will be toxic. He had his own boss try to toss him under the bus. He is very directly tied to this scandal. He had the least amount of power, some of the most dramatic and important testimony in the grand jury hearing, and failed to act directly when confronted with Sandusky’s heinous crime.
I’m sure many of you have very strong feelings about the culpability, blame and responsibility of the parties. To me McQueary still strikes me as the least culpable.
McQueary was the 28-year old graduate assistant who heard the noises in the shower at Penn State’s facilities. He is the one who looked in there to see the anal rape of an apparent 10-year old boy by Sandusky. He didn’t stop it. He didn’t say anything. He was freaked out by it and just got the hell out of there. He went to his dad to tell him what happened, and they agreed to go to Joe Paterno first rather than the police.
Paterno apparently didn’t tell him that he should report it either. Instead Paterno passed it along to AD Curley. Curley sat on that info for more than a week before — along with Schultz — speaking with McQueary. All the while, presumably, Sandusky was coming and going from the football facility and his office as if nothing had happened. And that continued, with McQueary being told little was happening but Sandusky having a few voluntary restrictions placed on him.
McQueary like the rest of the people with knowledge remained silent from that point on, until the Pennsylvania Attorney General begins an investigation into Sandusky. When McQueary is called to testify before the grand jury, he offers the graphic testimony we now know. It is in stark contrast to the vague statements from Paterno, Curley, Schultz and Spanier on the nature of Sandusky’s actions.
It was McQueary’s testimony that led to the perjury charges against Curley and Schultz. It was McQueary who Joe Paterno even tried to throw under the bus over the weekend when he issued his first statement trying to protect his own claims of ignorance of what happened.
“As my grand jury testimony stated, I was informed in 2002 by an assistant coach that he had witnessed an incident in the shower of our locker room facility. It was obvious that the witness was distraught over what he saw, but he at no time related to me the very specific actions contained in the Grand Jury report. Regardless, it was clear that the witness saw something inappropriate involving Mr. Sandusky. As Coach Sandusky was retired from our coaching staff at that time, I referred the matter to university administrators.”
I know a lot of people believe they would have acted better than McQueary. That they wouldn’t have just run from the sight of Sandusky with the boy in a shower. He wasn’t just some player at that point. He was a 28-year old man. That if it had been his kid or someone he actually knew, he wouldn’t have just run. They are all very good points, and I can’t dispute them.
I just don’t know for certain that I would have, at age 28 in the situation. When we are confronted with something so horrific. So wrong. Something that not only doesn’t compute, but goes against everything you ever thought or believed. Especially involving someone who was one of your coaches as a player. A figure revered locally. Like the temp janitor before McQueary — he just got the hell out.
[My closest analogy was witnessing two roommates nakedly disentangling from sexual activity while in college. It was completely unexpected for me. One of the guys had been a roommate for 2 years. I had no clue. Never saw that coming and the only thought at that moment was, "Get out, now!" Followed quickly by, "Booze! Lots of it!"
I joke about it, it was a consensual activity, and it is a funny story. But the fact is that it confused the hell out of me at first. That my first instinct was flight. Questioning my own unawareness: How did I not know?]
Should McQueary have called the police right away? I bet everyone wishes he had now. Again, I don’t know what I would have done in that situation. His family lived in Happy Valley. He went and talked to them. The very next morning, he went and talked to the Happy Valley equivalent of god.
He told Joe Paterno about it. The man who has always stressed doing things the right way. The man who was his boss. The man who’s moral compass is supposed to point the way.
What did McQueary see him do? Nothing, but pass word up the ladder. He saw the people in power at Penn State do nothing. He saw his school. His employer do nothing. Actually worse than nothing. They covered it up. He saw that if he came forward to the police he had no certainty that anything would happen. Gary Schultz’s job duties included oversight of the university police. Where do you go? Who would you trust?
Additionally, it could cost McQueary his career before it ever started. Who would stand with him? The coaching profession has a code of silence that is insane. If you are an assistant, you are expected to cover for your boss. You are there to take the bullet. If you don’t you are the bad guy, and you can forget about another chance because you become the untrustworthy one.
There’s a reason we have to have laws to protect and even reward whistleblowers. They risk much from a personal and economic standpoint, that makes it far easier to turn away.
More than Joe Paterno or any other figure in this mess, I would love to read an interview with McQueary. He stayed quiet all this time, yet he was also the most direct and honest in his grand jury testimony.