When the reports of sexual abuse at Penn State surfaced in 2011, Joe Paterno acted as we all did: outraged, indignant and shocked. He played the part perfectly. He claimed he did not realize what Mike McQueary meant when he told him that he saw Jerry Sandusky raping a 10-year old boy in the team’s locker room. Everyone completely believed him. After all, he was their JoePa. He was the very embodiment of Penn State. He was growing old and fragile in health. He definitely would have done something if he knew the extent of the scandal.
This is what we were led to believe. However, much like Joe Paterno’s entire career, this too was a complete fabrication. Paterno not only knew what was going on, he actively covered it up. The comprehensive 267 page Freeh Report, compiled by former FBI director Louis Freeh is an indictment of Paterno.
It concluded that contrary to what Paterno testified in front of a grand jury, he was not only aware of the 1998 investigation into Sandusky but also actively followed it. Yet, for reasons that will never be known, he didn’t do anything to stop the child rapist sitting in the office across the hall. Paterno could have done anything to stop this monster. He could have notified the authorities, banned him from the Penn State facilities, or monitored Sandusky and made sure he was never with a child. But he did nothing. He was too busy strategizing before the big games against Ohio State and Michigan.
Paterno had his own goals to accomplish. The record for most wins of an NCAA football coach wasn’t going to break itself, and regardless of the costs, Paterno was going to break it. A massive child sex abuse scandal wasn’t going to help Paterno break the record.
In 2001, Graham Spanier, the former president of Penn State, Gary Schultz, former vice president of Penn State and Tim Curley, former athletic director of Penn State, wanted to inform the authorities of Sandusky, but after a meeting with Paterno on Feb. 26, they all changed their minds.
No one did anything. They continued to allow Sandusky to have access to the showers, where he raped more boys until November 2011. Sure they could have stopped it, but that would have brought negative press.
The Freeh report states, “It is more reasonable to conclude that in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at Penn State University – Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley – repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities, the Board of Trustees, Penn State community, and the public at large. Although concern to treat the child abuser humanely was expressly stated, no such sentiments were ever expressed by them for Sandusky’s victims.”
Though Penn State claims to pride itself on a culture of integrity and honor, university officials were more concerned with their football program than protecting children. If Paterno had the courage to act, he could have prevented Sandusky from ruining so many lives.
This culture envelopes the entire Penn State community. They don’t want to believe that the man they idolized is not who they thought he was. They are afraid of the truth because it invalidates everything that they have believed in their entire lives. They refuse to believe Paterno knew about Sandusky. He was just old and confused. Despite the avalanche of evidence, Penn State sycophants will continue to defend their beloved JoePa.
Maybe we as a society contributed to this tragedy. We treated Paterno as a saint, a god. We regarded him with an unhealthy adoration. This man deserves no fame, no honor and no adoration.
The plaque that resided behind the statue of Joe Paterno, which has subsequently been torn down, described Paterno as “an educator of men and a humanitarian.”
I can add one more to that list: fraud.