Earlier this month, news spread that Jerry Sandusky, former defensive coordinator for the Penn State football team, was arrested for sexually assaulting young boys from his charity, The Second Mile. Although he denies the charges, there is credible evidence against him.
Sandusky’s actions were immoral, inhumane, and downright sickening. However, also shockingly, he was witnessed in 2002 by Mike McQueary — a graduate assistant at the time — molesting a child in the Penn State locker room, and nothing major was ever done about it. Sandusky lost his keys and was prohibited from bringing children onto campus. Really? That’s all they did? There is no denying that this method of “punishment” was insufficient based on Sandusky’s alleged actions, so the question remains: why wasn’t more done?
The media would have us believe that from the moment McQueary told Head Coach Joe Paterno about the incident, a massive cover-up ensued from Paterno on up through the school’s administration. This would be easy to accept if you knew nothing of politics or Paterno in general. For years, Paterno has been seen in the media as a symbol of Penn State and of high morals alike. I was at a Penn State football game once where a player did a flip into the end zone to score a touchdown. Paterno suspended him to teach him some humility. Do you really think a man who wouldn’t let a player show off on the field would let an assistant coach get away with rape?
Moral argument aside, we must look at what actually happened once McQueary saw Sandusky. In any business, there are protocols, and a football team is no different. Why didn’t McQueary go to the police right away? It makes sense that he would go to his superior first, perhaps for guidance or because he didn’t feel as though he had the authority to turn Sandusky, an idolized coach, into the police. Paterno likely had a similar experience. Should he have gone to the police? Probably.
However, he did what McQueary did: he went to his superiors. Maybe there was some procedure already in place for incidents like these, and the university could proceed accordingly. Nevertheless, Paterno told Tim Curley, the athletic director, and it went up from there. We have to remember that Paterno did what he was supposed to do. Put yourself in his shoes. Curley probably assured him that the situation would be looked into, and Paterno probably believed him. Imagine in elementary school when you saw someone get bullied on the playground. You probably went to your teacher, told them what happened, and trusted that the situation would be looked into. So why was Paterno fired?
First of all, recall that Paterno sent in his resignation shortly before he was officially fired, because he always said that he would retire once he started distracting from the program. However, it is unfair that Paterno takes all the blame in the media’s eyes as though he tried to cover up the scandal in order to preserve Penn State’s name. If we are saying that the police should have been notified immediately, then the blame would fall on McQueary. However, knowing that the situation is more complex, the real perpetrators are Curley and Gary Shultz, former Penn State vice president for finance and business, who did not push the investigation far enough in 2002 and ultimately delivered the insufficient punishment to Sandusky.
For the media, Paterno was easy to love for his coaching tenure, and a good story is made out of his fall from grace. There are many people at Penn State who should take the blame for this scandal taking 9 years to come out, but it is unfair to point to one because it makes a good story. The media may take this route, but there is much more to the situation than is being described in news stories — especially regarding the victims and their families. Shouldn’t their redemption be a better story? Sure, some people at Penn State lost their jobs, but these victims have had their lives changed by a disgusting old man.
In hindsight, more should have been done. McQueary could have told the police, Paterno also could have told the police, but they believed that having the university compile enough evidence to start an investigation would be the best course of action. Is this wrong or immoral? No. It just means that the real blame should be placed on Curley, Schultz, and the rest of the administration who actually did nothing. We know that the media is biased, but please look at the whole story before losing all respect for a great coach and a great person.