After reading the Pennsylvania grand jury’s presentation, the first thought is not that Jerry Sandusky needs to go to prison if the allegations are true – it’s that he should be tied to the bumper of a Chevy and pushed off a cliff. I say that not as a father of two but as any human being with a shred of decency, morality and a soul.
“Victim 2” (of eight listed in the document) was estimated to be 10 when he was seen in the locker room showers at Penn State being subjected to sexual intercourse by Sandusky, then 58, in 2002.
“Victim 4” was 12 or 13 in 1996 or 1997 when he was “repeatedly subjected to Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse and Indecent Assault at the hands of Sandusky.”
“Victim 5” was 8 or 10 and attended as many as 15 football games with Sandusky who said he felt uncomfortable about constantly being approached by Sandusky in the showers, and one time pushed Sandusky’s hand away after being touched inappropriately.
“Victim 6” relayed similar accusations to his mother. After hearing this, she confronted Sandusky, after which he responded, “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.”
And others share that sentiment.
But the matter of debate now is culpability. That is where the inferno regarding Joe Paterno comes in, and I’m not ready to make that leap yet.
Two Penn State officials who are charged with covering up allegations against the team’s former defensive coordinator are already out. Athletic director Tim Curley asked to be placed on administrative leave and Gary Schultz, vice president for finance and business, is crawling back into retirement. If what has been alleged in the grand jury’s “finding of fact and recommendations” are true – that a graduate assistant made the allegations regarding “Victim 2” and Curley and Schultz didn’t even report it to university police – they should be tied to the same Chevy as Sandusky.
There is the question of what university president Graham Spanier knew. Spanier denies that the “Victim 2” incident in 2002 was reported to him as “an incident that was sexual in nature” and that Curley termed the conduct as “horsing around.” He also said he wasn’t aware of a 1998 investigation into incidents involving Sandusky and children in the football showers.
The debate on Paterno isn’t legal but moral. Charges have not been brought against him. He immediately reported allegations of the 2002 incident to Curley and Schultz after he was informed by the graduate assistant. (It’s worth noting that Sandusky had retired after the 1999 season but held “emeritus” status on campus, affording him perks that included an office in the Lasch athletics building and unlimited access to football facilities.)
Should Paterno have done more? No question. He should have followed up with school officials on the graduate assistant’s claims. He should have checked on any investigation with law enforcement. But did he fail to do so because Sandusky was a long-time friend, or did he simply mess up?
Many have already called for Paterno’s resignation. I want to hear more from the man first. Actually, I want to hear anything from him.
The statement Paterno released Sunday isn’t nearly enough, even if it touched on the correct themes. An excerpt: “ The fact that someone we thought we knew might have harmed young people to this extent is deeply troubling.”
Paterno long has been held up in college athletics as the standard for doing things the correct way. Nobody ever has questioned his moral compass. But when the charges against Sandusky were released, many figured the compass had turned 180 degrees.
Suddenly, it’s as if he’s the personification of evil. That’s a little too much too quick.
There are questions Paterno must answer – and preferably before the Nittany Lions play on Saturday against Nebraska. He needs to stand in a room and not hide behind an emailed statement carefully crafted by an attorney. He needs to expound on what he knew and when he knew it. He needs to give details. He needs to show regret and remorse for not doing more. He needs to be convincing.
Jerry Sandusky may be a monster. But monsters have enablers.
The stated mission at Penn State is “Success With Honor.” This is a time when Paterno needs to assure everybody he met not so much his legal obligations as his moral ones.
Would he have dropped the matter so quickly if the alleged victim was somebody he knew — his child, his grandchild, the son of a close friend? Then, would he have done more?
Even if the Pennsylvania attorney general does not bring charges against Paterno, this has the potential to tarnish his legacy. It’s not about football or win totals. It’s about what’s right. He owes an explanation to the public. He certainly owes it to the victims.
By Jeff Schultz