The following article contains accounts of very disturbing behavior by former Penn State University football coach Jerry Sandusky. I have tried to avoid focusing on the more disturbing aspects of what has been written and some of the more horrific details contained in the 23 page grand jury report. That stated; it is impossible to write this story without including some very unsettling details.
“To sin by silence when we should protest makes cowards of men.” — Ella Wheeler Wilcox
So much is going on in the world of football right now. While much is going on in the NFL and with our ‘Hawks, there is a college football story that is uncovering a shameful and disgusting chapter in the history of the great Penn State University. While this blog focuses on and was built to discuss the Seattle Seahawks I don’t see how one can totally avoid the situation at Penn State nor can I think of any good reason to avoid confronting the story. The story unfolding at Penn State uncovers an ugliness that is not easily read nor accepted. And that ugliness would be bad enough if it involved only one or two people and was an isolated event. Sadly, that cannot be said of the Penn State scandal as it involved a number of people over a number of years. The resulting cost is immense and trail of damage caused by inaction; littered with victims. For many reasons both having to do with football while at the same time having more to do with things larger than any game, I believe this story should not pass by our minds lightly.
Jerry Sandusky coached at Penn State for 32 years. For the majority of those years he was the defensive coordinator. Many assumed that at some point he’d replace legendary head coach Joe Paterno when Paterno retired. In 1977 Sandusky started the Second Mile to work with at-risk/disadvantaged youth. Using the Second Mile as a front for what would become a nightmare for so many, a grand jury report states that Sandusky has inappropriate sexual contact with four boys (all met through the Second Mile) from 1994-1998. In 1999, Sandusky resigns from coaching but is given emeritus status and allowed access to the campus and football facilities.
In 2000 two more incidents of Sandusky having inappropriate relations with a minor are reported but the second incident is witnessed by a janitor who reports that he witnessed Sandusky performing oral sex on a minor. A second janitor reports seeing Sandusky and the boy leaving the Lasch Football Building hand in hand. No one reports the incident to campus officials or law enforcement.
In 2002, then graduate assistant (and now wide receiver coach Mike McQueary) witnesses (according to the grand jury report) Sandusky performing intercourse on a ten-year old boy in the locker room shower. McQueary (who was in his mid-twenties at the time) does not move to physically stop the attack on the boy but instead leaves the locker room and contacts among other people, head coach Joe Paterno. Paterno informs Athletic Director Tim Curley. By this time the story has been minimized and by the time it is reported to Senior Vice President of Finance Gary Schultz, the initial report has been reduced to “non-sexual horsing around, adding only that Sandusky might have accidentally grabbed the boy’s genitals while wrestling.”
By now, Jerry Sandusky should have been bounced out of Penn State on his head. He should have been arrested and investigated for any one of the previous reported incidents. Now they have one of their own graduate students reporting the rape of a minor child and the punishment? Shockingly, nothing. Sandusky’s locker room keys are taken and he’s told that he’s no longer allowed to bring kids from the Second mile to campus. And while his charity is notified, no law enforcement investigation is launched.
Sadly, this was not the end of Jerry Sandusky and his pedophilia; far from it. Banned from PSU, he continued to use the Second Mile as a victim farm, and from 2005–2008 continues to use and abuse children under the banner of his charity. It takes until November of 2008 before the Second Mile removes Sandusky from having any association with children as part of the charity. And even then he is not removed from the Second Mile. That day comes when he resigns in 2010.
On November 4, 2011, the grand jury report is released. It is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever read. A day later authorities arrest Sandusky on seven counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and numerous other charges, including aggravated indecent assault, corruption of minors and endangering the welfare of a child. He is freed on $100,000 unsecured bail.
On November 14, 2011, Sandusky conducts and interview via telephone with Bob Costas. In one of the most bizarre and disturbing interviews in the history of sports related scandals, Sandusky denies that he is a pedophile but admits to really liking to be around children. The interview with Costas is nothing short of legal suicide and leaves many wondering why Sandusky’s lawyer would ever allow for such an interview to take place.
As a result of the scandal Joe Paterno is fired along with University President Graham Spanier. In a show of pure classlessness, some PSU students riot in protest. Not for years of cover-up that allowed a pedophilic monster to roam the campus and football locker room of PSU destroying the lives of numerous young boys, but for firing Joe Pa, the sacred cow of college football. The students who took part in the riots should be ashamed. They might also consider reading the grand jury report that is free to anyone who is in the least bit interested in just how disturbing this case is; on every level.
Penn State University will be forever tarnished by this scandal. It is not one that is going to go away and there aren’t enough sanctions in the NCAA (not that this is an NCAA matter per se) that could do anything to begin to address just how deeply troubling this entire episode is for all of those involved. But it is not the number of people involved that is the most disturbing part of this story. Rather it is all of those who should have been involved and who–for whatever reason–decided to walk away, who are forever tarnished. Joe Paterno lost his job as a coach. But as great a coach as Paterno was, when it counted most, he failed to show up as a man. He is quoted as saying that he wishes that he’d done more. We can only assume that by “more” he means that he wished he’d done something more to stop the monster he called his friend. But what Joe wishes he’d done is nothing compared to what Sandusky’s victims wish he’d done. Yes Joe, they wish you’d done more too. In fact, they wish you’d done anything at all that did not look like you were all but taking the entire issue as a minor oops; something easily swept under the carpet.
The larger issue here has come into focus for me because while there the horrifying aspects of this story are many and well documented, there are some instances of bravery to be found. Those who have stepped forward to tell their story. Those, who despite the years that have passed since the abuse, have risked a great deal to let their story be told now; they deserve our respect and our admiration.
There is no greater game than football. There is nothing about the game I don’t love. But there is no greater victory than the one found in doing the right thing in the face of pressure to do otherwise. It is never too late to make the right decision and no amount of time that will pass that wipes clean from the mind or heart the failure to do so when it counts most.
To those who suffered—may you at last find peace.