I am just sickened by the sex abuse scandal at Penn State. I'm also very angry. When all the investigations play themselves out, I believe we all will be aghast at how many individuals were aware of Jerry Sandusky's pedophilia tendencies and didn't do anything about it. What we are reading now and experiencing in the media is only the tip of the very sad iceberg.
Sandusky is a sick man. We all know that now. I believe Joe Paterno was also aware of his long-time assistant's problem, certainly when he was informed by his grad assistant, Mike McQuery in 2002, and possibly before in 1999 when Sandusky "retired" and allegations of sexual abuse of young boys were beginning to surface.
When this story broke, I started thinking like I thought Joe Paterno would have thought when McQuery told him about the abuse incident in 2002. As soon as McQuery left Paterno's home, I would think Paterno would have gotten on the phone, called Sandusky, and told him they had to talk. When Sandusky would have arrived for the meeting, I would think Joe would have said, "What in the hell is going on here?" If Sandusky would have come clean with Paterno, I would think Joe would have said, "I'll accompany you to the police station. But that's where we're going right now." But this scenario never happened.
Sandusky was on Paterno's staff for 23 years. You get to know a person quite well if they've been with you for 23 years. Heck, Sandusky had been mentioned as the heir apparent to Paterno's job when Joe retired. Obviously, that didn't happen, and Sandusky retired in 1999. But he still had privileges on the Penn State campus, particularly within the football offices.
How much did Paterno know about Sandusky's attachment to young boys? Sandusky ran several youth football camps on Penn State satellite campuses in addition to University Park. He had the perfect cover for his pedophilia tendencies. The grand jury testimony incriminated Sandusky not only with the youth, but with Penn State athletes as well. How sickening is that, when you think about it?
Joe Paterno has contacted a prominent criminal defense lawyer in preparation for any civil lawsuits that will probably start being filed immediately by some of the victim's families. I think the lawsuits may begin even before Sandusky's trial begins. I wouldn't be surprised if Sandusky cops to a plea deal so that all the sordid details don't come out in open court. Because if the case goes to trial, we will be told that there are going to be a lot of leaders in high positions who passed on the opportunity to stop Sandusky by going to the police. I also believe Sandusky's trial will open the door to prosecution of as-yet-unnamed administrative leaders in the Penn State chain-of-command who didn't do the right thing here.
What a terrible way for Joe Paterno to exit his career at Penn State. How terribly embarrassing to him, his family, and his legacy. For a man who is, by nature, a very caring and sincere person. A man who has donated millions of dollars to his university to enhance educational opportunities. A hero, not only in the state of Pennsylvania, but nationwide.
But in the end, are we going to discover that Joe Paterno got swallowed up by the monster he created in Penn State football? Did covering up for a long-time friend supercede his feelings of justice for the youth that Sandusky abused? Did protecting the integrity of his program become Joe's primary concern?
Yes, Joe informed his superiors when he was told about Sandusky's actions in the Penn State locker room showers with a young boy back in 2002. Administratively, he did what he was supposed to do. But legally and morally, Joe dropped the ball here. His program would have taken a momentary public relations hit in 2002 if Sandusky was brought to justice. And if Joe Pa was the actual guy who turned Sandusky in to the authorities, his stature would have been heightened even more in the public eye as someone who always does the right thing, even if it means turning in an old friend and darkening the glow around his pristine program.
Now, it only will get worse for everyone involved. This case has escalated to international status. And the ironic thing about all of this is that none of it has anything to do with NCAA violations. None of it involves breaking NCAA rules. There will be no sanctions taken against the football program. Scholarships will not be lost. There will be no bowl banishment. There will be no probation period.
No, the only thing at stake here is the legacy of a good man who happened to coach football for a long time, the legacy of a pristine athletic program whose image will forever be tarnished, and the consequences to be paid by countless individuals who will be pulled into this sordid affair when testimony begins at a highly-publicized criminal trial. Will Joe Paterno be able to weather this storm, or will it send him to his grave?
Steve Brennan, a former educator and college basketball coach, has Masters degrees in Educational Administration and Sport Psychology, and a Doctorate in Performance and Health Psychology. He is the author of several books, including Six Psychological Factors for Success and The Recruiters Bible (3rd Edition). He is President of Peak Performance Consultants, and the President and CEO of the Center for Performance Enhancement Research and Education (CPERE). Steve is the developer of the Success Factors Scales, both Corporate and Athletics Editions. http://www.peakperformanceconsult.com and http://thebestcollegerecruiter.com/