This post may well be obsolete in a matter of hours given the speed with which the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State scandal is unfolding, but it’s worth taking a moment to think about what is at stake here. Let’s consider the roster of those whose actions or inactions have gotten us to this point: the president of a major state university, the head of that university’s athletic department, its fabled football coach, a graduate student assistant coach and the university’s senior vice president of business affairs. All of these men, in addition to various police detectives who investigated Jerry Sandusky’s conduct as far back as 1996, the district attorney who refused to prosecute (and who mysteriously disappeared one year later) and the officers of Sandusky’s non-profit Second Mile who were made aware of his behavior. Some were labeled as perjurers and violators of the state’s Child Protective Services Law by the grand jury that recently reported on the case; the rest can’t be described as anything other than enablers who gave a pedophile carte blanche to prey on young boys for a period of at least 15 years.
I shed no tears for Joe Paterno. He’s 85 years old, he’s made a good living as a college football coach and his record in molding winning football teams is beyond question. But he stayed too long at the fair, and even if you accept his explanation that his graduate assistant coach, Mike McQueary, described Sandusky’s behavior in the shower as simply “horsing around” with a 10-year-old boy, you have to wonder where Joe’s brains were. Since when is it proper for an adult male to shower with a boy, let alone “horse around”? As an educator, he had a responsibility to know and comprehend that this was deviant conduct, but even by his own account, he just didn’t get it.
As for Mike McQueary, I have mixed emotions. At the time he witnessed Sandusky raping a 10-year-old boy, McQueary was a 28-year-old graduate assistant. Twenty-eight year olds in this country are still adolescent in many respects; the fact that he was cocooned at Penn State only made him more so. I can understand his fleeing the scene in shock, but what I don’t understand is why upon reflection he did not notify the police and more than that, why the two men he turned to for advice, namely his father and Joe Paterno, did not urge him to do so. The moral failure that these three share is enormous. And as for McQueary’s remaining an assistant coach at Penn State, he should at a minimum be suspended until the State Attorney General concludes her investigation. McQueary himself has become an issue, and as such, he can not and should not function as a representative of the university.
This will only get uglier in the days ahead, since I have no doubt whatsoever that more boys and men will come forward as Sandusky’s victims. Perhaps at some point those who think Paterno was made a fall guy will understand that doing the right thing, whether you have a legal obligation or not, is worth more than your job or college football.