We now know more details about the tragic chain of events that took place at Penn State during Jerry Sandusky’s grotesque reign of terror. An independent report (PDF) by Freeh Sporkin & Sulivan, LLC provides a fairly detailed timeline of events and spares nothing as it quotes in-house communications that point fingers directly at who knew what and when.
The attempt to quietly shuffle the Sandusky affair under the rug is obvious to even the most casual observer. It’s sickening to read how the preservation of the University’s reputation trumped the welfare of more than one innocent young victim and paved the way for the abuses of several more.
What happened on Penn State property and by one of its treasured employees should never happen anywhere ever. And yes, people should absolutely pay.
Senior Leadership Held the Truth
Who should be held responsible for the reprehensible atrocities that have left an entire community in shambles in their wake? Obviously, Jerry Sandusky is at the top of that list. Former President Graham Spanier, former Athletic Director Tim Curley and former Vice President Gary Schultz are central to the cover-up.
Yes, iconic and legendary coach Joseph V. Paterno is also to blame.
The report makes clear that as far back as 1998, Spanier, Schultz and Curley were aware that Sandusky was engaging in inappropriate behavior on Penn State property – putting it mildly. They had an opportunity to take care of the situation then and there.
Instead, they held their tongues until Penn State Police determined that nothing illegal had occurred. Then, they breathed a collective sigh of relief and pretended the entire thing didn’t happen. Never mind that Schultz’s own personal notes include the comments “Is this the opening of Pandora’s box? Other children?” (Page 48)
Even then, Schultz had an idea something was very wrong. Did he inform the Board of Directors? No.
In fact, University Police Chief Thomas Harmon failed to make a crime log entry of the investigation. According to the report, he relayed to Schultz “I can justify that decision because of the lack of clear evidence of a crime.” (Page 48) That log entry would have been public record. Someone might have taken notice and the whole affair might have been nipped in the bud then.
Coach Paterno was brought into the loop, but the coach didn’t do anything either. Well, that’s not quite true. He did inform Sandusky that he would not be the next head coach of Penn State football. That’s about it.
As the incident silently slipped through the cracks of the system, those who were in position to push the issue into the light and protect innocent young men instead wiped their brows and smiled brightly in the afterglow of a spotless reputation successfully defended.
Did they show Sandusky the door? No, they didn’t. Instead, they offered him a promotion to Assistant Athletic Director. Sandusky refused the job and ultimately opted for retirement.
Did they hand him a standard retirement package and send him on his way with a “don’t ever come back” warning? No. Instead, they gave him a sweetheart of a deal that included emeritus status (never before seen at Penn State for someone so low on the academic ladder) and $168,000 in cold, hard cash. (Page 59)
Why? Was their desire to promote the “nothing to see here” mantra at Penn State so strong that they felt the need to treat a true villain as a hero? Apparently so.
It goes much farther though.
As accusations started to mount in 2001 when graduate assistant Mike McQueary witnessed Sandusky in the shower with a young boy, leadership jumped once more into defense mode. Rather than rushing right out to the police, Attorney General or Department of Public Welfare, they downplayed the severity of the report and sought outside counsel.
Schultz testified to a grand jury that the “allegations came across as not that serious”.
Not that serious? Even if he was telling the truth that he believed the incident in the shower to be nothing more than “horseplay”, that’s serious. When the people in question are a 50-something man and a boy of 11 or 12, it’s damn serious.
What’s more, as things started to heat up, internal emails between Schultz, Spanier and Curley became more cryptic. Names were no longer used; only initials. Organizations were indicated simply by the word “organization” or “the other”. It doesn’t take an FBI cryptanalyst to figure out that these guys were well aware of bad things going on.
Yet, they didn’t go to authorities. They didn’t come clean to anyone.
Perhaps the most damning piece of evidence was a communication between Curley, Schultz and Spanier in February of 2001 (page 74). In that communication, Curley noted that he’d talked with Joe Paterno about contacting the board of Sandusky’s charity Second Mile as well as the Department of Public Welfare and that Paterno had convinced Curley to handle the matter with Sandusky directly.
This wasn’t just a case of failing to contact proper authority. It was a case of actively avoiding do so.
If there are any Penn State apologists left in the world, they need only read this report to see just how depraved Sandusky was and how determined Spanier, Schultz, Curley and even Paterno were to protect the reputation of the university from the potential fallout of going public.
Should the University Go Down For all of This?
For the crimes committed on Penn State property (and other places), someone needs to pay. Without question and without hesitation, someone needs to be held accountable for failing to put this monster in his rightful place as soon as the first indication of trouble arose.
However, should Penn State University be held accountable now?
That depends on just how much stock you put in approving the report word-for-word. If you believe that the investigation was truly independent and that “no one is above scrutiny” – as the report states – then the report makes it abundantly clear (multiple times) that the Board of Trustees was kept out of the loop entirely.
Several times within the first 100 pages of the report, it is indicated that the Four Horsemen of the Penn State Apocalypse willfully avoided even mentioning the trouble brewing despite several opportunities to come clean to the Board.
If that’s true, then the Board of Trustees is largely without fault. When they learned of the extent to which these men went to downplay and hide the entire sordid affair, they sent them all packing and distanced themselves from them immediately. They canned the lot, including Paterno who was beloved by virtually everyone.
Of course, you could take another route and choose to believe that the investigation was put together solely for the purpose of pointing the finger at these four men and absolving the university of any wrongdoing at all. It’s not entirely without merit, though there would need to be some form of evidence to support that argument before it could be validated.
There’s plenty of evidence toward the guilt of these four men and it’s well documented in this report.
So, they should all pay to one degree or another.
Sandusky will spend the rest of his life behind bars. He’s been convicted on 45 of 48 counts against 10 boys. The minimum penalty alone will keep him imprisoned until the Reaper comes calling. The maximum would send a message, but ultimately have the same effect.
He’ll never see the light of day without the presence of barbed wire and armed guards.
The rest of the lot will also face the legal system. From Spanier, Curley and Schultz to Chief of Police Harmon, all face charges for failing to report a crime and covering up the atrocities that occurred under their watch.
None of them are with Penn State any longer.
Paterno passed away from lung cancer in January 2012. Though he will not face trial for his part in the affair, his legacy is forever tarnished and his family will have to deal with the shame he left behind.
The rest will have their day in court. Verdicts will be handed out. Penalties will be levied. Count on it.
Is any of that enough to erase the pain and suffering of these young men? Absolutely not. Not even close.
The problem is, nothing can ever do that. No amount of litigation, condemnation, or public scorn can possibly give these boys (many now men) their innocence back. No settlements, sanctions or terms can possibly make it right. Ever.
Those things can make us feel as though something was done about the problem. They can satisfy some primal need for vengeance; our incessant desire for retribution. They can’t make it right.
Penn State will face lawsuits and rightfully so. The victims will get money as the only tangible compensation for their suffering and the school will review and revise it’s protocol for reporting suspected wrongdoing.
What will the NCAA do? Sanctions will likely be handed down, but just how tough they are is anyone’s guess. Probably they will lose scholarships and be put on some kind of probation. That’s just a guess.
The question is: just how much responsibility should the university shoulder? Just how much punishment should be doled out to the institution itself, beyond what is done to Spanier, Schultz, Curley and others?
If this report is accurate and even remotely full in its findings, then any further punishment is almost pointless.
Who does it effect? Those ultimately responsible?
No. The players on the football team now, had no dealings with Jerry Sandusky and probably had no idea that anything ever went on. There’s no reason to believe that the student body had any inkling of what transpired or any ability to stop it. The remainder of the staff – if they knew anything at all – has reasonable absolution in the fact that it was “being handled” by people in position of authority.
Any further punishment on the university itself serves no purpose other than to make the rest of us feel better.
That’s not for me to decide, but it should be asked. The Freeh report is damning to many. It crushes what’s left of Joe Paterno’s reputation and adamantly vilifies Spanier, Schultz and Curley. It brings to light details that had previously only been assumed or debated.
Yet, its a question that needs to be answered. Should Penn State pay a price beyond that which will include dollar signs? Will that help?
Regardless, the Freeh report does show one thing: self preservation was the rule of the day at Penn State. It won’t be any longer.