(Updated: 12:45 p.m.)
If we make a big deal about a college football program playing dumb when a recruit takes free shoes or tattoos, or his family lives in a house rent free, how can we look the other way when evidence screams that one of the nation’s most powerful universities enabled a pedophile?
How can we sit through something so sick and vile as the testimony in the Jerry Sandusky trial and conclude that this was a one-source scandal worthy of only one individual or entity suffering consequences?
Penn State should not be allowed to play another football game. It put sport, image and fundraising above everything else. That is what every cheater in college athletics does, and because of that it deserves the NCAA’s “death penalty.”
Southern Methodist University, one of the nation’s top academic schools, saw its football program given the death penalty in 1987 because it put athletic success above what so obviously was considered morally acceptable. Isn’t it now clear that Penn State did the exact same thing?
In fact, what the powers Penn State did was worse. Their actions involved not materialistic goods but defenseless victims who will suffer for the rest of their lives.
According to a 267-page report by former FBI director Louis Freeh, the four most powerful men overseeing the university and the football program – president Graham Spanier (since fired), athletic director Tim Curley (on “administrative leave,” under indictment for perjury), vice president Gary Schultz (suddenly retired, also under indictment) and the late coach, Joe Paterno (fired in what would be two months before his death) — knew far more about Sandusky’s sick perversions and abuse than they let on. They knew it far longer than they let on.
And here’s the punctuation, your honor: They “concealed critical facts,” according to Freeh.
There’s a term for that: cover-up.
“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,” Freeh stated.
We don’t need to know anything else.
When this story first broke, Paterno said, “This is not a football scandal and should not be treated as one.”
Many agreed. Many still do, including some misguided alumni and football All-Americans and probably surely those numbskull students who marched on campus, embraced Paterno’s statue on campus and protested his firing without any regard for the victims.
The problem is concluding that because Sandusky’s reprehensible acts did not lead to a competitive advantage, the football program shouldn’t pay. But the cover-up changes that. What the powers at Penn State did was beyond anything any college athletic program has ever done, beyond free clothes or free rent and academic fraud.
To hell with a free Camaro. We’re talking about sweeping allegations of a child sex offender under the rug in order to protect a school’s image, fundraising and recruiting. There is no more extreme example of a lack of institutional control.
Penn State deserves to be hit hard. That may seem unfair to the student-athletes, officials and fans who knew nothing of Sandusky’s acts or the cover-up. But that’s the case with all NCAA sanctions.
This investigation was commissioned by Penn State at a cost of $500,000 per month. So much for Freeh having some anti-Penn State agenda. The report numbers 267 pages, resulting from 430 interviews and 3.5 million emails and documents. Freeh’s staff included former prosecutors, FBI agents, police officers, attorneys and a Navy SEAL.
Freeh said he found “more red flags than you could count, over a long period of time.” He said the leaders at Penn State had a “callous and shocking disregard for child victims.”
He said an “inference could be drawn” that the school was trying to protect the football program, noting, “bad publicity affects a panorama of different events, including the brand of Penn State, the reputation of coaches [and] the ability to do fundraising.”
He said Paterno was not being singled out, but at one point declared: “The facts are the facts. He was an integral part of the act to conceal.”
Emails reveal Paterno was clearly following the school’s internal investigation into allegations of a 1998 assault of a young boy by Sandusky in the Penn State locker room showers, something Paterno publicly denied. The same school leaders “proposed a plan of action” after learning of a 2001 incident reported by an assistant coach, but then decided against informing authorities.
“The most powerful leaders at Penn State … repeatedly concealed critical facts,” Freeh concluded.
The “Tone at the Top” of the school, he said, dissuaded school janitors from coming forward after witnessing incidents: “The janitors were afraid of being fired for reporting a powerful football coach.”
Sandusky will spend the rest of his life in prison. He could’ve been stopped sooner. But Paterno and the powers at Penn State were too concerned about the ramifications, off and on the field. That makes it a football scandal, as well.
By Jeff Schultz