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“Total and Consistent Disregard….” Joe Paterno, Penn State and 14 Years of Criminal Cover Up

“It’s really sad and now the facts are out, there’s no more dodging the issue…” Bobby Bowden 

Louis Freeh stood on the podium at the Westin Hotel in Philadelphia. The former FBI director took no joy in making this report. It was damning. It was precise. It was massive. 430 interviews, 3.5 million e-mails and other documents detailing the cover up of numerous sexual crimes involving Paterno’s long-time Defensive Coordinator at Penn State Jerry Sandusky.  A revered coaching legend and a highly respected university were demonstrated to have knowingly covered up and enabled Sandusky to continue sexually assaulting young boys for 14 years after they were alerted by University Police of accusations of a victim’s mother about an incident involving Sandusky and her son in early May 1998.

Freeh stated:

“Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State.  The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized.   Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley never demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky’s victims until after Sandusky’s arrest.”

The university allowed Sandusky to retire “not as a suspected child predator, but as a valued member of the Penn State football legacy,” and maintain a connection with the athletic program that provided Sandusky the opportunity to continue his crimes against children. In 2001 another report, this time by assistant coach Mike McQueary who reported it to Paterno.  According to the report then University President Grant Spanier, ex-Penn State Vice President Gary Schultz, Athletic Director Tom Curley and Paterno “decided they would report the incident to the Department of Public Welfare; but Paterno had a conversation with Curley, and the men then agreed not to do so.” According to the Freeh Report Curley met with Paterno the next day and wrote: “After giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe yesterday, I am uncomfortable with what we agreed were the next steps.” 

Freeh said at his press conference today: “Their failure to protect the February 9, 2001 child victim, or make attempts to identify him, created a dangerous situation for other unknown, unsuspecting young boys who were lured to the Penn State campus and football games by Sandusky and victimized repeatedly by him.”

The abuse continued. A culture of cover up and fear pervaded the university. The report notes that in the fall of 2000 “A University janitor observed Sandusky sexually assault a young boy in the East Area Locker Building and advised co-workers of what he saw. Also that evening, another janitor saw two pairs of feet in the same shower, and then saw Sandusky and a young boy leaving the locker room holding hands. Fearing that they would be fired for disclosing what they saw, neither janitor reported the incidents to University officials, law enforcement or child protection authorities.”

It took until November 2011 before anything was done and that was when a Grand Jury Report was made public and Sandusky arrested. Spanier, Curley and Paterno were all fired. Paterno died of Lung Cancer on January 22nd 2012, due to his illness investigators were unable to interview him and quite probably avoiding earthly criminal charges. However in response to the revelations that cost him his job he said “It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.” Sandusky was convicted 45 of 48 counts of criminal sexual assault and endangerment on June 22nd 2012.

Some of Paterno’s defenders including Penn State Alum and Pro-Football great Matt Millen have suggested that this was simply a flaw in an otherwise great man. They point to the many positive things that Paterno did and his positive influence in many lives. Those are mitigating factors in what amounted to a long term, 14 year criminal cover-up of the crimes of a sexual predator. Paterno was the most powerful man at Penn State and possibly in Pennsylvania.

This was may have be a “flaw” in Paterno’s character but it was also criminal. It is time to stop denying and admit that there is no more dodging the issue. The actions of Paterno and the other high level Penn State administrators in the cover up demand action. Paterno cannot be prosecuted but he should no longer be defended or his actions in the Sandusky affair. It is now a major part of his legacy taking up nearly a quarter of his 61 year coaching career a time in which he and his supporters actively built a legacy of honesty, integrity and hard work. Buildings, athletic complexes and awards were named in his honor and a massive statue stands at the entrance to the Penn State Football stadium. He was elected to the NCAA Hall of Fame, received numerous honors and accolades and had been nominated for the Presidential Medal of Freedom, a nomination that was withdrawn as a result of the Sandusky scandal.

His legend and his previous good deeds have been forever tarnished by the cover-up. He was a great coach. He had a great career. He built a program that was revered and helped enrich the university. Those are facts, they were good things but when he was confronted with the face of evil under his nose he failed the test. He failed to act to protect the victims of Sandusky’s crimes. Had he done so in 1998 when according the Freeh Report he would be remembered in a different light.

I don’t know his motives, but for the leadership of the University it seems that protecting its image and reputation meant more than protecting the victims of a sexual predator. Paterno said to the Washington Post 9 days before his death regarding him receiving McQueary’s report of Sandusky’s actions in 2001 “to be frank with you I don’t know that it would have done any good, because I never heard of, of, rape and a man. So I just did what I thought was best. I talked to people that I thought would be, if there was a problem, that would be following up on it.”

When Paterno died “I wrote that In the end maybe he was simply out of touch with the real world.” Maybe that his why he did nothing, but the fact that the Penn State leadership changed its mind about reporting the 2001 incident after Schultz talked with Paterno indicates that maybe Paterno was more involved than he admitted before his death.

Paterno once said that “Success without honor is an unseasoned dish; it will satisfy your hunger, but it won’t taste good” It looks like he was right.


Padre Steve+

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The Death of a Tarnished Legend: Joe Paterno dead at 85

Legendary Penn State Football Coach Joe Paterno died this morning of complications of Lung Cancer in State College Pennsylvania.

He was college football’s winningest coach and led his teams to 409 wins. In 46 years at Penn State he built a football program that won two National Championships and came close on a number of other occasions. The program was built around the concept of winning with honor. Paterno said “Success without honor is an unseasoned dish; it will satisfy your hunger, but it won’t taste good”

For years it seemed that Penn State football was just that, a program that stood out among elite teams because of the lack of scandal. But that was before the revelations about former Penn State Assistant Coach and Defensive Coordinator Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse of young boys and the cover up of the scandal by the school. When the news of Sandusky’s arrest upon the release of the Grand Jury report it sent the university and much of the nation into shock and brought forth anger, much directed at Paterno for his apparent inaction when he learned of an 2002 incident in the locker room showers from Mike McQueary then a graduate assistant. The fact that allegations had been made and reported to the police in 1998 and went back to 1994 did not help.

Paterno refused to resign and the University trustees fired him along with the President of the University Graham Spanier.  The firing was done late at night and with a phone call, it should have been done in person but the university which refused to do anything to stop Sandusky was willing to unceremoniously dump Paterno.

From Paterno’s statements it seems that he really had no understanding of the gravity or the significance of the allegations. He said after the allegations came to light that “It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.”  He told the Washington Post in an interview just 9 days before his death that although Mike McQueary was not specific that had he been specific that “to be frank with you I don’t know that it would have done any good, because I never heard of, of, rape and a man. So I just did what I thought was best. I talked to people that I thought would be, if there was a problem, that would be following up on it.”

In the end maybe he was simply out of touch with the real world. Insulated in State College and consumed with football, it was his life. He said in 2004 “There isn’t anything in my life anymore except my family and my football. I think about it all the time.”

He will be remembered as one of the great, of not the greatest coach in the history of college football.  However that accomplishment in now obscured by the allegations against Jerry Sandusky and his inaction during the time. We probably will not know all that he knew or did not know about the incidents involving Sandusky.  On the surface one can imagine that he knew more than has been admitted and I believe that is probably the case.  At the same time he may have just been a man out of time who should have retired years ago.

Despite this he will be remembered fondly and with great respect by many of his players as well as the Penn State community. I would imagine that he died as much from a broken heart and spirit as he did lung cancer.  The fact that he was fired, shunned and blamed for the debacle that has destroyed program that was his life’s work had to be a part of his decline.  I imagine that the disgrace that he felt was more than he could bear.

Rest in peace JoePa, rest in peace.

Padre Steve+

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Say it Ain’t so Joe… Joe Paterno Fired in Heinous Sexual Abuse Scandal involving Coach Jerry Sandusky

Joe Paterno (Getty Images)

“Success without honor is an unseasoned dish; it will satisfy your hunger, but it won’t taste good”

“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….With the benefit of hindsight I wish I had done more.” Joe Paterno

I was genuinely shocked when I heard at the allegations that rocked State College Pennsylvania Sunday.  Long time Penn State Defensive Coordinator, Coach Jerry Sandusky was arrested on multiple child sexual abuse charges.  The arrest came years after the first accusations which date back to 1994 but were most egregiously displayed when a graduate assistant told Paterno of Sandusky raping a child in the shower.  The charges are heinous involving the forcible sodomy of at least nine young boys by Sandusky.  One of the victim’s mothers even reported the crime against her son to the local police in 1998 and the police heard on a tapped phone Sandusky tell the woman “I understand. I was wrong. I wish I could get forgiveness. I know I won’t get it from you. I wish I were dead.”

Paterno may have followed the letter of the law by telling the Athletic Director about the incident, but his failure to do more while not technically criminal made him complicit in the rape of more victims bySandusky.  However one has to wonder why not a soul acted to stopSanduskyin the act when they observed the rapes being committed or reported any of the incidents to the police.  I can’t figure out what any of them were thinking.

The inaction of McQueary, Paterno, Athletic Director Tim Curley and University Vice President Gary Schultz to take action when they had credible evidence of a friend and former colleague committing sexual assault against children in their own department’s showers.  This fact alone is shocking as no one went running to stop the act when they saw it or followed up after reporting it to their immediate superior.  No one took the initiative to immediately call the police, any police.   Instead knowing thatSanduskyconducted in such a manner they allowed themselves to be associated with him and his charity nine years until he was arrested.  Curley and Schultz have been charged in regard to their involvement in the cover up.

While they followed the letter of Pennsylvania’s ambiguous sexual assault reporting law they sacrificed their personal honor and everything that Coach Paterno and the institution had publicly espoused throughout his career.  They risked the lives of more children at the hands of a serial sexual abuser who had nearly unlimited access to children through his well thought of charity.  It was inexcusable and unconscionable dereliction of duty.

What happened to move a bureaucracy to protect a criminal rather than do anything to stop him?  What led a coach who had the motto “to serve the best interests of this university and the young men who have been entrusted to my care” to pass the buck and not follow up.  Hat happened to a coach who said “Success without honor is an unseasoned dish; it will satisfy your hunger, but it won’t taste good” to surrender his honor by not ensuring that the charges were fully investigated?

I sincerely cannot imagine the process of bureaucratic indifference that allowed a serial child rapist to remain a well respected public citizen.  I cannot imagine a leader as Joe Paterno to not act in real time to stop this from happening.  But he did.  For a few hours it seemed that despite this he would be allowed to remain as head coach by announcing that he would retire at the end of the season and then going off to run a practice as if football was all that mattered. It was as if he did not understand how serious this was.  But just a few minutes ago it was announced that the University Board of Trustees had fired the legendary coach along with University President Graham Spanier.  It had to be done. Paterno should have resigned immediately upon the announcement of the Grand Jury investigation.

But why did it take so long? The Grand Jury had this for three years and it didn’t come out until after he passed Grambling State University Coach Eddie Robinson with 409 wins.

Joe Paterno and those around him could have prevented this nearly a decade ago. But for whatever reason a man that many saw as an icon of integrity had that legacy destroyed in a nearly cataclysmic fashion.  Now there are students protesting the firing and police are gathering in riot gear. I think that says a lot about our values.  To some saving a football icon is more important than what the legend allowed to happen on his watch. It seems that to some football matters more than honor or morality.

Say it ain’t so Joe, say it ain’t so….


Padre Steve+


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