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Unhappy Valley: Penn State After Jerry Joe Grant and Gary

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

It started over the weekend when roads were blocked leading to Beaver Stadium. Then workers put up a fence. Workers shrouded the statue of Joe Paterno and a forklift raised it from the ground and hauled it away. Workers then removed the likenesses of football players and the plaques on the wall behind where the statue stood. The symbolism was as heavy as the 7 foot tall bronze statue of Joe Pa was carried away in a sling.

It was somewhat reminiscent of the statues of dictators being removed after their death or overthrow.  It was like the smashing of idols.  The empty wall a symbol of the emptiness of success without honor. Honor that was lost when Paterno and other leaders of the University and the Athletic Department covered up the crimes of a serial pedophile and now convicted child abuser named Jerry Sandusky.

We knew that the penalties were coming. It was inevitable the day after the crimes came out and the NCAA talked about them. It was doubly so after the release damning evidence of the Freeh Report and the criminal conviction of Jerry Sandusky.

The penalties fell short of the so called NCAA “Death Penalty” but the results may be about the same. The School was fined 61 million dollars. All of its wins going back to the 1998 season were vacated. It had the number of scholarships that it could offer by 20 per year for 4 years and current scholarship holders are being offered the chance to transfer to another school without penalty. It has been banned from bowl appearances for four years and is on a five year NCAA probation in which more penalties can be imposed.

Penn State fans and supporters of Joe Pa are upset. In some ways I don’t blame them. Joe Pa was an icon in Happy Valley. His coaching abilities were legendary. He was hailed as one of the good guys who made sure that his football players completed their education. The success of the athletic program in particular the football program brought in big money to Happy Valley, it helped the University raise fund programs outside the athletic department. It was a great deal for everyone concerned…well maybe not.

The sad thing is that the student athletes most affected by the penalties had nothing to do with either the crimes of Jerry Sandusky or the cover-up that was engineered by the top officials of the University and Joe Paterno beginning in 1998 for sure, but maybe even before that. It was a 14 year cover up of criminal actions that enabled a serial pedophile to commit more crimes against children. The engineers of this cover-up with the exception of Joe Paterno will likely face criminal charges of their own and the University will most likely be hammered by multiple lawsuits by victims and their families.  The pain for university will go on and on because of the collective malfeasance of Penn State officials including Joe Paterno.

I am not an admirer of the NCAA. One can criticize the cash whores of the NCAA leadership that make obscene profits from the marketing and sales of NCAA College Football and I frequently do. One can criticize the NCAA for its hypocrisy for many things, however for once it probably did the right thing.

Had those that covered up the crimes simply been low level administrators this would have still been a terrible scandal. However, the fact that the most powerful men at the university knew about Sandusky’s crimes and did nothing makes makes the cover up of Sandusky’s crimes more heinous and despicable.  President Grant Spanier, Vice President Gary Schultz , Athletic Director Tom Curley and Joe Paterno all knew. They knew details. They all had the power to put an end to the crimes. Had they acted in 1998 or 2001 there would be no penalties. Joe Pa’s statue would still be up. The legend would not only remain untarnished but might have even been enhanced because they would have been on the side of law, morality and simple human decency. Instead they covered up the crimes and in doing so devastated the institution that they supposedly were attempting to protect. Edmund Burke said “When good men do nothingevil triumphs.”

Every day institutions are held liable for crimes committed by their employees, especially when they knew about them and did nothing to stop the perpetrators. For once a premier college football program has been has been held accountable. It is about time. I hope that the NCAA has the moral fortitude to be as severe to other programs should another administration decide to cover up felonies.

This is not pleasant. The action is a watershed event because it is the first time that the NCAA has ever assessed penalties in a scandal not related to recruiting or paying players. The NCAA has finally laid down the law on something that really matters. It will be interesting to see if any other institution elects to cover up the crimes committed by leaders in their athletic programs.

This will not make those that loved Joe Pa and his program feel good. It is a bitter pill to swallow and Happy Valley will never be the same. If I was a Penn State graduate or had a personal connection to that university I might feel just as they do.

What has transpired since November is something that this time last year no one could have ever contemplated at Penn State. Maybe we could think of it happening somewhere else but not there. Joe Pa would never allow it. So we thought and we were wrong. According to the Freeh Report he not only allowed it but played an active role in the cover up. Paterno’s family and some supporters continue to fight for his legacy. That is their right.  However when those involved in the cover-up go to trial and when the lawsuits are brought, the case for Joe Pa will not be any better. In fact it may be even worse than we know now.

Hopefully as bad as this is that it will make leaders of other large athletic programs around the country take notice. Hopefully it will prevent something like this from ever happening again.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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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.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Sandusky Guilty: What about His Enablers?

Jerry Sandusky being led from the Belmont Courthouse following his conviction (Nabil K. Mark/Associated Press)

Jerry Sandusky was convicted of 45 of 48 counts in a Pennsylvania courtroom regarding the criminal sexual assault and endangerment of children.

I won’t go into the sordid details of the evil perpetrated by this evil man who masked his vile deeds under the guise of his popularity as a football coach and head of a charity supposedly devoted to helping young boys.  In fact his charity, “The Second Mile” was the place that Sandusky poached his victims. It was evil cloaked in goodness.

The fact that the crimes were allowed to go on for years is a shame to the leadership of the University, the leadership and board of the charity and others who heard the allegations but did nothing to stop or report them.

The Grand Jury and the prosecutors are continuing to investigate others, especially the senior leadership of the University who knew. The fact is that these men and women that did nothing except to deny or cover up the crimes of Jerry Sandusky were complicit in his deeds. There is a duty to ensure that they are investigated and brought to trial as the evidence indicates.

Sandusky will go to jail for the rest of his life. He faces up to 450 years in prison. For the victims it is a measure of justice, but all will bear the scars of Sandusky’s actions in their lives. The University that he served and the charity that he founded will certainly be liable for his actions. Those liabilities will probably be enough to destroy the charity and significantly damage Penn State University. His deeds forever tarnished the reputation of Joe Paterno who now due to his death cannot answer for what he may or may not have known concerning Sandusky’s crimes.

Sandusky is a pedophile and a serial child rapist. Those that enabled him to harm children long after his deeds were reported by the first victim in 1997 are criminal accomplices and need to face justice. Sandusky used his prominence, power and veneer of goodness to victimize children. Those that knew about his crimes and did nothing to stop him had legal and an even greater moral responsibility to the victims and their community. This investigation also needs to encompass those in law enforcement who heard and discounted the allegations made children. This did not occur as the Attorney General noted occur “in the dark corners” of society. It happened in the open. It happened with the full knowledge of some in authority and the darkness surrounding the crimes was in large part the fault of all that knew about or suspected Jerry Sandusky’s crimes, and did nothing to stop him.

This is a start and hopefully the Grand Jury and prosecutors will continue to investigate the actions of others involved and if needed bring them to trial. Justice, not vengeance must be the goal, but justice will not be served if those that allowed these crimes to go on for years unabated are not tried and convicted.

Peace

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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Musings at the end of Busy Week, the Penn State Scandal and Barry Bonds Sentence…Padre Steve has a “Gracie Jane” Moment

It has been a very busy and tiring week.  However I am in good spirits and though tired am feeling more in the Christmas spirit.  Ho.  I’m not up to more than that yet but it is a start. When we get back to North Carolina from our next excursion to home in Virginia on Monday it is time for some housecleaning and decorating for Christmas. We have been so busy with Judy’s surgery, recovery, travel and work around the Virginia house the month has gone by fast than I could imagine. I mentioned to a coworker that it hadn’t even felt like theChristmas season  because we were so busy.  Thankfully I have gotten a bit better sleep and have a couple of evening where I could actually stop and rest my brain by doing some reading and writing.  I still have to do the mid-month bills but that will be my arithmetic for the week. However all week I have felt like doing a Gracie Jane type article, finally

Anyway a few “Gracie Jane” thoughts…

What is up with Jerry Sandusky, his lawyers and the knuckleheads that ran the Penn State Football program and Athletic department?  I could never have imagined what is continuing the be revealed and the banality with which such evil was tolerated and covered up for years.  Nor can I imagine a more loathsome defense team and their arrogant yet inept handing of the case. I can understand trying to defend your guy but these guys are second rate yokels.  This is no O.J. Dream Team and they are rapidly securing their place in legal and moral infamy with their defense strategy.  Johnny Cochran would never had let Sandusky continue to hang himself and speaking of hanging himself I was aghast at the comments of former Penn State Senior Vice President Gary Schultz to the Grand Jury that after allegedly being told about the sexual contact between Jerry Sandusky and a young boy in a shower in 2002 that “I had the impression that Sandusky wrestled the boy in the shower and grabbed his genitals.”

He went on to say that “Not all inappropriate conduct is criminal” and that “I don’t know if it’s criminal.” I don’t know about you but if anyone even hinted to me that they were reporting such an act my next call would be to the appropriate police authorities and child protective services offices.  The only thing Schultz and the University did was to tell Sandusky to not bring the kids on campus.  The fact that he knew about a 1998 incident where the police were involved and had a copy of their 95 page report Schultz refused to report the incident to police saying that “The allegations came across as not that serious. We had no indication that a crime occurred.”  However he was were told by both Paterno and the witness former Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary and Paterno even contacted Schultz on a Sunday. Not exactly SOP for something “not serious.”

Schultz and former Athletic Director Tim Curley are being charged by prosecutors with lying to the Grand Jury. Their lawyers maintain their innocence but the more that we learn the worse the situation looks. Yes they are innocent until proven guilty and a jury will decide that when they and Sandusky go to trial.

I know that I’m starting to sound like Boston Legal’s parody of Nancy Grace “Gracie Jane” but all of these guys look guiltier every day and their sleazy lawyers look like lowbrow hacks.  You can be sure that Jerry Seinfeld and Kosmo Kramer’s lawyer Jackie Chiles would run these guys out of his office.

Enough said about those guys but what about Barry Bonds. The prosecution threw everything that they could imagine at the former Giants slugger and only got a “guilty” count on a single charge of “obstruction of justice” for misleading Grand Jurors in 2003.  Today Bonds was sentenced to 30 days home confinement, a $4000 fine, 250 hours community service and 2 years probation. Now many believe that Bonds used steroids and he may have. That being said I cannot imagine spending millions of dollars to investigate and prosecute Bonds and only come out with this verdict and sentence.

The prosecutors could have given up this case at several points when their charges were thrown out and evidence deemed inadmissible.  But they continued and got their verdict but at what cost? The lead prosecutor called the sentence “a slap on the wrist” and the fine “laughable.” But really why would any of us want to spend even more taxpayer money keeping Bonds in prison when our country is in so much debt? I think that Judge Susan Illston got the sentence right and if it prosecutors believe that it was a “slap on the wrist” they have nobody but themselves to blame.

When I took a Military Law course back in college our instructor made a comment told us that he felt that if we didn’t feel that evidence would support a guilty verdict at a General Courts Martial that we should probably resist preferring charges in an Article 15 Non-Judicial Punishment proceeding. This is basically a misdemeanor proceeding handled by the unit commander that is  is not considered a criminal conviction at which a defendant can request trial by Court Martial instead of accepting the commander’s judgement.  As a company commander and Brigade Personnel Officer I worked with some excellent prosecutors.  The prosecutors in the Bonds case got embarrassed and deserved this.  They wasted millions of dollars of our tax money to try to convict a man of cheating in baseball by using steroids.

Bonds supporters will support him and his detractors will continue to criticize him for “cheating.”  People will make up their minds and Baseball will have to come to terms with how it will handle the records and legacies all of those that played during the Steroid Era.

Anyway my Gracie Jane moment is over for the night.

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….

Peace

Padre Steve+

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