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The Joe Pa conundrum

Friday, July 27, 2012

Joe Paterno was the epitome of success, both professionally and personally. He coached practically his entire life at Penn State University, produced All-Americans nearly every year and achieved a graduation rate for his football players that led the nation. In addition to that, the Penn State football team was a powerhouse itself, competing for the national championship year after year. Paterno had given much back to the University during his tenure there, including millions of dollars in gifts. Everybody loved and admired Joe Pa for all the things he had done individually and collectively for Penn State and the athletes who gave their all playing football for him.

And then it all changed.

A former player and graduate assistant went public, saying he had seen Jerry Sandusky, an assistant coach for the football team and the main reason why the Penn State defense was so dominating year in and year out, taking a shower and being intimate with a teen-age boy and that he had told Coach Paterno about it. When asked, Paterno said he adhered to university policy and reported it to his supervisor, who happened to be the President of Penn State University. The police were never called and, because they weren't, this was the beginning of the end of Joe Paterno's positive legacy at his beloved university.

A sixth grade civics student knows that every citizen is required to contact the police when they see or know of a law being violated but neither he nor the President of the university did that. And because they didn't, many more teenagers were molested by Jerry Sandusky. He was finally brought to trial a few weeks ago and that legal proceeding resulted in him being convicted of multiple counts of inappropriate sexual contact with minors and was sentenced to a lengthy term in prison. He maintains his innocence and his wife says she still loves him.

Coach Paterno fell ill shortly after this tragedy came to light and passed away. Since the Sandusky conviction, Penn State and other universities and corporations have essentially erased his name. His statue was removed from outside the football stadium and in the final and ultimate blow, the NCAA handed down severe penalties for the Penn State football program, including forfeiting all games they had won since 1998, thereby removing Joe Paterno as the winningest coach in Division one history.

If he had of contacted the police when first told about Sandusky's behavior, none of this would have happened and many young boys would have been saved from having to undergo sexual abuse from a father figure. So why didn't he?

He did what he did for the same reasons that many people in positions of power and responsibility act the way they do. His first objective, some say his ONLY objective, was to protect the football program at all costs. He knew the kind of effect a sordid situation like this would have on recruiting and fan support so he did his best to keep it in-house and, because he did, Sandusky was allowed to continue to have complete access to all University facilities, where many of these crimes took place.

We can all debate about whether the NCAA was too harsh in their penalties because in addition to stripping the school of all its football wins since 1998, they also issued a four-year bowl ban, which means that any football player who goes to Penn State this year as a freshman won't ever get to play in a bowl game. They also reduced the number of football scholarships significantly over the next four years which will make it difficult, if not impossible, for them to be competitive on the football field. Some say the athletes are being punished for the coach's mistakes and that's a valid point.

But that's not a new thing in American life.

I grew up, as many of you did, with the admonition from my folks that you're known by the company you keep. There were several kids I liked in high school that I wasn't allowed to associate with either because of their reputation or the reputation of their parents. In other words, it was the classic guilt by association. If they had a bad reputation, you would get one too simply by being seen with them.

That's the same situation we're seeing with Joe Paterno and the athletes that attend Penn State University. Their reputations have been sullied because of their association with him. And after 60 years of excellence at the highest level, that's all been stripped away because when he was confronted with a situation that demanded he do the right thing, he didn't.

And many kids ultimately suffered the inappropriate behavior of Jerry Sandusky because he didn't.


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Mike there is so much wrong with your column I scarcely know where to begin.

The case came to light when Victim 1's mother called the police under the objections of the principal and guidance counselor at Victim 1's school. Mike McQ did not go public with it as you claim.

Paterno reported it to his immediate superior, the Athletic Director Tim Curley, and then to the university vice president in charge of the Penn State Police, Gary Schultz. Afterward, Curley and Schultz both met with eye witness Mike McQ.

Then you state, "If he had of (sic) contacted the police when first told about Sandusky's behavior, none of this would have happened and many young boys would have been saved from having to undergo sexual abuse." Actually, Paterno did report to the police: Gary Schultz. In addition, it cannot be stated unequivocally that Sandusky would have been convicted. Sandusky was investigated in 1998 after mother of Victim 2 made a complaint to the Department of Public Welfare. Police, DPW, and the Centre County DA all concluded that no crime had been committed. And in fact, Sandusky was acquitted of the rape charge (but convicted on 4 other charges) related to the 2001 incident that McQ witnessed.

The final point I'll take issue with is your indefensible position that Paterno failed to report the information he'd received (he did report it and the head of police and the eye witness met) because he wanted to protect the football program. This opinion is the same one expressed in the Freeh report, which is equally without merit. There is no substantiating evidence of any kind that Joe was orchestrating a cover up to protect the football program. If he wanted to cover it up, why didn't he just tell McQ to be quiet and not tell anyone, and why did he report what McQ told him up the chain of command? Your take on Joe's supposed motive just doesn't make any sense.

I DO agree with your assessment that, not only the players but Penn State students in general are sullied because of what many think is Joe's worst failing. But the fact remains, there is no evidence that the failing was his. Exactly the opposite is true. It is fair to say that Mike McQ and Joe were the only two people to do what they were supposed to do.

If you want to see bodies swinging from a tree limb, then you should consider writing about: the child care professionals at the Second Mile to whose care the children were intrusted, the high school principal and counselor who did not believe Victim 1 and tried to convince his mother to not call the police, and the police and DPW investigators and the DA who did not file charges in 1998. The Freeh report states that law enforcement and child welfare officials were "ill equipped and not sufficiently trained" to adequately recognize and handle adolescent sexual abuse.

So tell me, Mike, why isn't that the headline?

Lastly, I'll remind you of Richard A. Jewell, who stands as a perfect example of what happens to a man when he is tried and convicted by the media rather than by due process.

-- Posted by MEKub on Fri, Jul 27, 2012, at 5:31 PM

And guess whose corrupt FBI administration falsely accused Richard Jewell? None other than Louis Freeh..

-- Posted by psuproud on Fri, Jul 27, 2012, at 8:19 PM

Found an excerpt about Richard Jewell..forgive us if we don't trust the opinions and judgments of Louis Freeh...

Justice Department investigators concluded that FBI agents made "a major error in judgment" by using a ruse in asking Olympic park bomb suspect Richard Jewell to waive his right to a lawyer during questioning. FBI Director Louis Freeh disclosed the finding in an FBI memo dated April 1. Using a ruse to get a suspect to talk is not necessarily improper, Freeh wrote FBI managers. But he said Justice investigators concluded that agents erred seriously when Jewell's "Miranda warnings were deceptively presented as part of the framework of a training video."

-- Posted by psuproud on Fri, Jul 27, 2012, at 8:28 PM

joe reports it to the police, sees nothing being done and thinks, well, i guess I did the bare minumum and nothing is being done. What a cop out.

Joe is correct when he said in hindsight he should have done more.

-- Posted by president obama on Fri, Jul 27, 2012, at 9:03 PM

bigdawg, Not sure what you mean when you say "sees nothing being done." When you make a police report, you don't go back to them later to find out if they are following up. Its their job. You let them do it.

-- Posted by MEKub on Fri, Jul 27, 2012, at 11:13 PM

Joe did follow up with McQueary, who now claims he saw actual sodomy, but who four witnesses claim he only described as 'horseplay' at the time, to ask if McQueary thought enough was being done. McQueary said yes, and continued to interact socially with Sandusky for years. Joe should be forgiven for assuming that when a 28 year-old man tells him a situation that man witnessed has been satisfactorily resolved, especially when that man is being advised by two medical doctors not involved with the University, that it has been resolved.

I would add that the Freeh Report condemns "The Penn State Way," and the NCAA seems intent on forcing Penn State to do things differently. The Penn State Way created a university ranked in the top 25 in the world, putting it in the top one percent. Last year, Penn State was named the top school in the country by corporate recruiters. Its students participate in the thousands in Thon -- the largest student-run philanthropy in the world, and dedicated to raising funds and awareness for the fight against pediatric cancer. The athletes that won't get scholarships at Penn State are less likely to graduate from wherever else they go -- Penn State had the best graduation rate in college football again this year, and is consistently in the top ten. We should give up all that, do things differently because four men, no long with the University, made a critical, tragic error more than a decade ago? Any system with humans involved is subject to misuse and abuse. Did we scrap the Constitution because of the Civil War, or Watergate, or the Great Depression? Talk about throwing the baby out with the bath water. We Are, and I hope we always are, Penn State.

-- Posted by Mountaindog on Sat, Jul 28, 2012, at 5:50 AM

well, I bet if that was Joes child and he went to the cops,then saw the guy still on campus hanging out im guessing he would have done more.

If it were my kid I would be following up, are you kidding me?

-- Posted by president obama on Sat, Jul 28, 2012, at 7:44 PM

Bigdawg -- so that is the moral standard now? Everyone of us who sees or hears of someone in distress should respond as though it is our relative who is involved? Do you do that? When you see a homeless person on the street, do you invite him home for a meal, buy him a new suit, take him to a doctor for treatment, help him get a job? I bet you would if that were your brother! Sorry, as wonderful as it would be if we all treated each other the way we treat our loved ones, the world doesn't work that way.

-- Posted by Mountaindog on Sat, Jul 28, 2012, at 8:03 PM

nope, i guess you are right, no matter what the situation is just report it to the police and go about your day. See a little boy getting raped in the shower, report it to the cops and never speak of it again. See the guy who did it still hanging around little kids and the charity for children? do nothing since you have already reported it. Heck, Jerry should have sued after he was let go as a coach for wronful termination. the police knew and no charges were filed so why get rid of him?

If that was any kid. everyone who knew about it and still saw the guy hanging around little kids should feel like they have a very low moral standard.

I dont blame Joe, or Penn State alone for what happened. Part of the problem is the power, real or not, that we as a society give a football coach.

-- Posted by president obama on Sun, Jul 29, 2012, at 6:40 AM

"nope, i guess you are right, no matter what the situation is just report it to the police and go about your day. See a little boy getting raped in the shower, report it to the cops and never speak of it again."

Bigdawg - I believe you are factually incorrect. Nobody has said Joe Paterno witnessed anything. As a matter of fact what was said to Joe Paterno is speculative. What we do know is an eyewitness told Joe Paterno something and Joe Paterno informed the President of the University and the Athletic Director and the Vice President in charge of Campus Police.

This story isn't over yet as the prior administration has yet to defend themselves.

It is a tragedy and no one is condoning what Sandusky did. I do believe that due process has broken down and this is starting to feel like a lynch mob.

-- Posted by wmarsh on Sun, Jul 29, 2012, at 12:18 PM

nor did i say he witnessed anything. its a lynch mob because this was going on for years, alot of people seemed to know about it and nothing was done. It would have been nice if joe had formed the lynch mob years ago but he apperently reported what had happened and buried his head in the sand. an independent investigator filed a report and everyone has a problem with what he said. wow, what a suprise

the peen state brand was more important then protecting little children

-- Posted by president obama on Sun, Jul 29, 2012, at 2:20 PM

The culture of athletics and how society glamorizes it is at the heart of the problem. Before I am bashed as anti athletics let me say in high school I was a three sport letterman, went to undergrad college on an athletic scholarship, coached and still am a fan. The everything for sports creeps into even McCook. Parents send their kids to summer camps for sports but few send them to academic camps. The Gazette published about a page and a half of little kids sports the day the PSU punishment was announced. Just a thought.

-- Posted by dennis on Sun, Jul 29, 2012, at 4:25 PM

JOE and others at Penn State failed at every level of common adult deciency to keep at risk kids away from a child molester/ pervert period.

In my opinion only a Sandusky like thinking molester could be only ones to publicly try to defend Joe P. and all others exposed in the fbi investigation. Scary thought anyone in Nebraska could say anything to defend Joe P and his cover up attempt but as alway scum rises to the top and was exposed in the end but to late for the victims that Joe allowed Sandusky to continue his shower parties...

-- Posted by Cornwhisperer on Mon, Jul 30, 2012, at 11:37 AM

In my way of thinking,

- the top was defending the top--at the kids expense--glory greater than what's right--the people in power 'buy' what they want

--if you aide and abet a thief you are considered to be as bad as the thief and are treated the same

I think all these top dogs should be thrown in the slammer along with Sandisky. throw away the key--who needs this type of man teaching our young people--be it sports, math, the arts--there are a lot of morally straight healthy people out there--who don't have such corrupted thinking--AMERICA WAKE UP!!!!!

-- Posted by Sara on Fri, Aug 3, 2012, at 7:10 AM


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Mike Hendricks
Mike at Night