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In Defense Of Paterno

Somebody has to do it! Creation Date Friday, 18 November 2011. Hits 1572

In Defense Of Paterno

It's been a rough week and a half for Joe Paterno and the Penn State Football Program. All of this has been brought on by the horrific actions of one man, Jerry Sandusky. We are told that complicating the matter was a cover-up by Paterno and others at Penn State University. Sports talk radio, and many other media outlets, have been quick to toss Paterno to the wolves for his alleged inaction and his roll in the cover-up of the terrible things that happened to innocent children at the hands of their alleged attacker, Sandusky. Notice how I did that? See how this works in today's world? Since there are criminal charges against Sandusky, we say alleged. But Paterno? Not so much. But was this inaction on the part of Paterno or, worse yet, an active cover-up? Let's take a look at what we know so far before we rush to judgement.

According to Grand Jury testimony, in 2002 a graduate assistant testified that he observed "a naked boy, whose age he estimated to be 10 years old, with his hands up against the wall being subjected to anal intercourse by Sandusky". We now know that graduate assistant to be Mike McQueary, currently a coach with the Penn State Football Team. He went on to testify that the next day he "telephoned Paterno, and went to Paterno's home, where he reported what he had seen". Now, armed with this knowledge, what did Paterno do? Many, including Joe himself, are saying not enough. Here are the events that, according to the Grand Jury, happened next.

The next day (Sunday), Joe Paterno called Athletic Director Tim Curley to his home and told him that McQueary had told him that he had observed "Jerry Sandusky in the Lasch Building showers fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy". Now, if Paterno's involvement ended there, he has satisfied his legal requirement by notifying his superior of what he observed. And many in the media are claiming his involvement ended there, but this is not the truth.

From page 8 of the indictment "Schultz testified that he was called to a meeting with Joe Paterno and Tim Curley, in which Paterno reported "disturbing" and "inappropriate" conduct in the shower by Sandusky on a young boy". Now the question is, who is Schultz? We go back to page 7 and find out that Gary Schultz is the Senior Vice President for Finance and Business. That seems like an odd guy for Paterno to report this to, doesn't it? Unless, of course, you skip down to page 10 where we read the following. "Although Schultz oversaw the University Police as part of his position, he never reported the 2002 incident to the University Police or to any other police agency." So what of the notion that Paterno never reported these incidents to the police? Does reporting something to the Chief of Police not count?

But here it gets a bit more interesting. As the indictment states, in 1998 similar charges of sexual misconduct against Sandusky were investigated by University Police. It should be noted that this is the Jurisdictional Police Force for the campus. The 1998 investigation resulted in no criminal charges against Sandusky. Yet in 1999, after 30 plus years of playing for and coaching with Penn State, Sandusky (who by coaching standards was reaching the prime of his career) retired abruptly. Since he was under contract, his retirement had to be negotiated. These negotiations led to Sandusky keeping an office at Penn State, and allowed him to use the facilities for his Second Mile charity. But why did Sandusky retire in 1999, immediately following an investigation in which no charges were filed in 1998? From page 11. "Schultz testified that Sandusky retired when Paterno felt it was time to make a coaching change, and to take advantage of an enhanced retirement benefit under Sandusky's State Pension."

So why did Coach Paterno feel it was time for Sandusky to go? In 1995 they were 9-3, in 96 they were 11-2, in 97 and 98 they were 9-3. So why suddenly, in 1999, does Paterno feel that this coach has to go? In the five years preceding his retirement, Penn State was 50-11. In the five years after they went 32-29. Am I saying that this was all because of the loss of Sandusky? Not at all. I'm just wondering if perhaps his retirement had something to do with it. And more importantly, were there perhaps some non football reasons that Joe Paterno wanted him out of there?

Some are even criticizing this aspect, saying that if Paterno just got rid of him to get rid of his actions, he is wrong there. In fact, Business Insider reports the following.

 

One of the biggest unanswered questions in the Penn State sex abuse scandal is understanding why Jerry Sandusky suddenly resigned his position in 1999 in the prime of his coaching career. But if Joe Paterno and others at Penn State did force Sandusky out because of his associations with children, it is scary to think that they would have also let him go to Virginia without warning that school.

Warning the school of what? That criminal activities were alleged, but they were investigated and no charges were filed? Legally, they cannot report that to the University of Virginia. Is Business Insider unaware of this, or are they just piling on here?

So now at this point, all we can wonder is what Joe knew when. Did McQueary report sodomy of a child (as the indictment suggests) to Joe Paterno, or was it simply "fondling" or "doing something of a sexual nature" as Paterno testified. According to the indictment, the Grand Jury finds McQueary's testimony to be "extremely credible". However, recent events could call that judgement into speculation.

Mike recently sent an email to a friend stating that he "did have discussions with police and with the official at the university in charge of police", and that he stopped the sexual assault that was taking place. However, State College police have no record of such discussions, and the University Police released the following statement.

 

"Right now, we have no record of any police report filed by Mike McQueary," said Lisa Powers, spokesperson for the university, in an email sent to ABC News today. "This is the first we have heard of it."

 

So, is McQueary lying? More importantly, if he is, what is his motivation? Let's assume that he is telling the truth about what he saw. Why lie now about reporting it to the police? Clearly, this would be an attempt to save face. If McQueary saw a rape of a child, did nothing to stop it, and didn't report it to the police, that would look pretty bad, wouldn't it? Who would want to face a world that has that opinion of you. But if Mike is lying about what actions he took then, what would he have lied about at that time? Let's face it, if Mike reported then that he saw a child being raped, walked out, called his dad, then went home for a good night sleep before calling Paterno, wouldn't that look bad then? Remember, he can't lie in real time. He couldn't falsely claim to have reported it to the police then, because people would soon see that he hadn't. And he couldn't claim to have stopped it if he didn't, because an investigation would reveal otherwise. So assuming he is lying now to save face as it appears, what would he have lied about then? Isn't it possible that McQueary downplayed the story to the three men who under oath testified that he simply told them of "horseplay", "groping", or "sexually inappropriate behavior"?

In fairness to all parties involved, all we can do at this time is speculate. Let's do so in a reasonable manner, shall we?

  1. If this is really an example of Paterno shutting down an investigation into his friend in 2002 after he had already dismissed him as a head coach, then why wouldn't Joe have shut down the 1998 investigation when he was still one of his coaches?
  2. If Paterno cares nothing for the rules and the law, and thinks instead that he and his team are above them, than how does Penn State remain one of only seventeen Division I schools (in a field of 120) with no major violations? In the last decade, nearly half of Division I schools committed major violations. In 4 decades under Paterno, not 1 for Penn State.
  3. If Paterno was so loyal to Sandusky, then why wasn't he still coaching there?
  4. Once Sandusky was not charged following the 1998 investigation, what should Paterno have done? Personally cuffed him up and locked him in his basement?

All of this having been said, even Joe said he should have done more. So we have the right to attack him now, don't we? Perhaps we do. But in much the same way, didn't Paterno have the right to simply report the incident to his superior and then the head of the Campus Police and go about his business? Even if Joe was told that it was rape, yes. He acted in compliance with the laws of Pennsylvania. But we are talking morals here. It is easy to make the moral case that Joe should have done more. He could have pushed the issue. If the campus police didn't act, he could have gone to the State College Police. Perhaps he could have even gotten the FBI involved. Depending on what he knew and when, these are just some of the things he could have done. But morally, what about us? Shouldn't we give the man the benefit of the doubt? If 61 years of doing things the right way and playing by the rules in a sport where the rules are trampled on by an average of nearly 6 schools a year gets you nothing, then why bother? Am I saying Joe should get a free pass? Absolutely not. What I am saying is that he should get the benefit of the doubt. In an era where houses are purchased for parents of athletes, and Heisman quality quarterbacks are bought and sold on a regular basis, shouldn't playing by the rules at least get you that?

I am a fan of the Miami Hurricanes, not Penn State. I am not personally a fan of Joe Paterno, even though I do respect him and I feel that he is being wrongfully treated by the media. Furthermore, I am a guy that has volunteered my time in the past to busting pedophiles on the internet. I am very aware of how the (do I have to say it again) alleged actions of Jerry Sandusky affect the lives of the victims, and I feel greatly for their pain and suffering. I know that nothing can set things right for them, and that they will always bear the scars that he inflicted on them, and I sincerely hope that they get the very least we can give them now, and that is justice. I understand the rage that people feel, but I feel that some of it is being misdirected. When the final story is told in the trial of Sandusky, if it turns out that Paterno did cover for Sandusky I will join in that rage. But I will hold my judgement on the man until the facts are in. Sorry, Joe. Apparently that is all that 60+ years of doing the right thing gets you in this world.

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