This week brought new revelations in one of the most shocking scandals to hit a university in some time: the sexual abuse of multiple children, over many years, by former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky. The new information, contained in a report released Thursday by former FBI director Louis Freeh that was commissioned by university trustees, details the lengths to which Penn State officials went to keep Sandusky’s actions from being made public — enabling him to prey on more young people for another 14 years.
From ESPN.com’s article about the report:
“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,” said [Freeh] …. “The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized.”
After an eight-month inquiry, Freeh’s firm produced a 267-page report that concluded that Hall of Fame coach [Joe] Paterno, President Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz “failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade.”
Freeh called the officials’ disregard for child victims “callous and shocking.”
“In order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at the university — Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley — repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse,” the report said.
That adults in positions of responsibility would turn a blind eye to a serial child molester is disgusting enough. That they did so in part to protect the reputation of a football program and its legendary coach adds another disturbing patina to the whole thing — and I say that as someone who is a huge college football fan (albeit not for the Nittany Lions).
The question now, and the one before us today, is what to do about it.
What's the proper penalty for the Penn State sex-abuse cover-up?
Total Voters: 197
Sandusky, of course, was convicted last month of 45 counts of abusing 10 boys over a period of 15 years. The 68-year-old awaits sentencing, which will bring a minimum of 60 years.
Paterno died in January at age 86, two months after being fired due to the scandal. Spanier was also fired and Curley suspended last November. Curley and Schultz are awaiting trial, charged with perjury and failing to report abuse.
So, the justice system is doing its thing with regard to the individuals involved. But is that enough?
Already, there are calls for the NCAA to hand down the “death penalty” to Penn State’s football program — in short, shutting it down for a period of time. The only previous example of this penalty in major-college football was Southern Methodist University in 1986, which was forced to forgo the following season and ultimately went another season without playing football. That two-year hiatus was effectively a generation for the Mustangs: It took them 20 years even to make it back to a bowl game.
Penn State, with its greater tradition and cachet, might not suffer for that long after two years, and a longer ban might be necessary if the point is to make the institution suffer for its overwrought “culture of reverence” for the football program, as Freeh put it.
Should there be more? Should an institution that put its reputation and success in athletics above the lives of many young boys be allowed to continue any athletic programs? Should there be some kind of penalty on the university itself — even though this is not an academic scandal? If so, what might that possibly look like?
That’s this week’s Poll Position question. The nearby poll offers a few possibilities, but this is one where you’ll need more than ever to elaborate in the comments thread. (Just keep it clean — we might all agree Sandusky is a monster, but let’s not get carried away with our language about him. Your mothers, or your children, are more likely than him to read any gratuitous language here.)
– By Kyle Wingfield