Questions in the Penn State Scandal

November 10, 2011

- See all 763 of my articles

This is our third article on the topic of Jerry Sandusky’s arrest and the subsequent impact on Penn State.  That’s a lot of virtual ink for our little publication to give to one story.  However, nearly every writer on the staff is a pretty big sports fan, and this is one of the biggest sports-related stories in recent years – it warrants considerable coverage.  You might even see 1-2 more stories today, as I sent a couple of emails late last night soliciting articles responding to the breaking events.

Last night, heads began to roll, as Joe Paterno was fired after 46 years as head coach at Penn State and university president Graham Spanier was also fired.  I doubt these will be the only people fired. 

Here are some questions about the scandal.  These are presented as they pop into my head, and are not intended to be in order of importance.

What are the rioters thinking?

I understand the mindset of sports fans.  I’m a huge sports fan myself.  I spend much more time thinking about how to abolish the designated hitter than I do comparing the tax plans of Ron Paul and Herman Cain.

However, when the same news story involves kids getting raped and a coach getting fired, the coach is not the victim.  Focus on the kids.

What did Graham Spanier know?

Spanier insists that he knows nothing.  But if he really knew nothing, would he have been fired?  If he was fired without just cause, he’d have a great case for a wrongful termination lawsuit.  I can’t imaging that the trustees would be dumb enough to walk into a lawsuit.  (However, I’ve been wrong about that sort of thing before – sometimes state officials really ARE that dumb).

Interestingly, Spanier is president of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS).  If he is removed from this role, will this cause any changes to the BCS?

What did McQueary Tell Paterno?

There’s a discrepancy here.  McQueary says that he told Paterno the details of the shower encounter between Jerry Sandusky and the young boy.  When Paterno spoke with Athletic Director Tim Curley, he says that McQueary told him that Sandusky was fondling the boy or doing something of a sexual nature.

Was Paterno downplaying Sandusky’s activities?  Is McQueary lying?  Is Paterno lying?  Was there a misunderstanding?

However, the point becomes a bit moot when you consider that McQueary then met with Curley and VP Schultz (in charge of the campus police).  Regardless of what Paterno told Curley, McQueary had the opportunity to give his full story to Curley during that meeting.

Why didn’t McQueary stop the assault?

That’s a great question.  The only thing I can say in his defense is that perhaps he was in shock and temporarily lost the ability to make good decisions.

Why didn’t anyone go to the cops?

Another great question.  I heard Mike and Mike on ESPN raise a good point on this issue.  VP Schultz was in charge of the campus police.  Perhaps McQueary and Paterno saw his involvement as police involvement.

It would have been better, of course, to go to the police.

Why did Sandusky have access to university facilities?

Finally, an easy question.  He negotiated a status of coach emeritus, which gave him access to the facilities.

Why did Sandusky retire?

Sandusky stepped down in 1999 shortly after Paterno told him he would not become head coach at Penn State.  The official reason for Paterno’s proclamation was that Sandusky was spending too much time with his charity, and would thus would not be able to devote sufficient time to a head coaching role.

Is is possible that Paterno’s real reason was that he knew what Sandusky was doing and didn’t want to put a pedophile in the head coaching role.  (Isn’t it also interesting that the sitting head coach is making decisions on the future coach instead of the Athletic Director?)

Is it possible that Sandusky’s frustration at losing his shot at the head coaching job served as a trigger to his criminal activities?

Did Sandusky create The Second Mile charity just to troll for victims?

That’s a scary thought, isn’t it?

Where’s the grand jury report?

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Martin Kelly
    Nov 10, 2011 @ 10:01:35

    I am disappointed in the firing of Joe Pa. It just seems a pitiful way for such a career to end. I really do not know what else they wanted him to do. He followed procedure, reported the allegations up the chain of command and provided the original witness to the authorities.

    I actually do understan McQuery. Here is an athlete walking into a crimal activity involving a coach emeritus. He obviously knew who Sandusky was and what he had done as a coach at the university. If you walked in on a superstar in your profession, would you intervene or run for help? McQuery chose to run to Joe Pa, an even more iconic figure in his world, and report the incident.

    Now if Sandursky is actually guilty and the others lied, I have very little simpathy. Otherwise, we have several people’s careers ruined based on a somthing that happened 10 years ago. If those same people got promoted with these acusations know, then the President of the university is ultimately responsible.


  2. kosmo
    Nov 10, 2011 @ 14:02:35

    McQueary was actually a graduate assistant. 28 years old at the time, I think.

    Still a valid point that Sandusky had much more stature than McQueary, but we’re not talking about an 18 year old kid fresh off the bus from Podunk.


  3. zarberg
    Nov 10, 2011 @ 17:17:44

    Doesn’t matter what Spanier knew or didn’t know, he was one of the people in charge and Penn is in full CYA/save face mode.

    As for why didn’t the AD make any decisions back in ’99, I’ve heard it said that Paterno more or less WAS the AD from early 90’s on, just wanted to hold on to his title/job of head coach because that’s where his real love was.

    In the end, this was certainly a case of one guy screwing up, but there were at least a few higher than him that knew of his screw ups and at the least looked the other way.


  4. Evan
    Nov 14, 2011 @ 12:41:32

    I agree with many of the points made, above. A few observations:

    – regarding McQueary’s inaction at witnessing the crime, I’ve always said that it is very easy for us to say what we would do in a particular situation, but until you find yourself actually in the “heat of the battle,” so to speak, you just don’t know how you’d react. That doesn’t make his inaction right, but I can at least understand it. I’ve tried to imagine a similar situation for myself, substituting in a person I respect greatly for Sandusky, and trying to think how stunned I’d be if I walked in on something like that.

    – I agree that this was a horrible way to fire Paterno. Did he get to tell his side to the Board? Since 2 days earlier the Board said they were doing an investigation before rushing to judgment, this really smells of caving in to public opinion.

    – the media coverage of this has been HORRIBLE. I’ve never seen so many assumptions and guesses passed off as facts. Example: “Paterno did nothing to follow up after reporting the accusation to the Athletic Director.” That may turn out to be true when we learn more, but as of right now, there is no fact that has been released that states that. We don’t know what he did or didn’t do after passing it on to the AD. The Grand Jury presentation is drafted to support the indictment, not to be an all-inclusive list of facts.

    – it’s also a shame to see people not just jump on Paterno for his (alleged) inaction, but to now try to demonize him completely, and tear down all that he has done. People are complicated – nobody is a complete saint or a complete demon. I think Paterno, like everyone else, is a flawed person, who did tremendous good in his life for countless people, but who (if all this turns out to be true) made a horrible mistake, or even a decision with bad motives.

    – let’s wait on the pitchforks for everyone until we have all the facts. Again, a grand jury presentation is drafted to support an indictment. Not only is it one-sided, but it isn’t intended to paint an entire picture- just the picture that supports the charges. So it won’t say “Defendant Jones did X,Y, and Z, but, well, he also did mitigating fact A.”

    I haven’t mentioned the victims here, because I hope that goes without saying that we all think this is horrific, if true. An SI article commented on how all writers seems to be racing to prove that they’re more against child molestation than the next guy. We ALL think that child molestation is one of the most heinous deeds there is, and our hearts our broken for the victims.


  5. kosmo
    Nov 14, 2011 @ 22:22:13

    That’s a great point that the grand jury report is not intended to contain all the facts – there is no opportunity for any of the accused people to present their case at this point.

    I think we’re going to find out a lot more in the coming months.


Leave a Reply