Kind of Red

November 11, 2011

Lie Down with (Nittany) Lions

Filed under: Uncategorized — The Painted One @ 1:28 pm

Joe Paterno, Joe Pa, Nittany Lions, Penn State, Penn State scandal

Editor’s Note: The post below details the harrowing allegations circling former Penn State defensive football coach Jerry Sandusky.  It includes unsettling details regarding the allegations, and may be unsuitable for some readers.

Late Wednesday evening representatives from Pennsylvania State University announced the university fired Joesph Vincent Paterno, the coach with the most wins in Division I college football, whom many affectionately referred to as “Joe Paterno,” or simply “Joe Pa.”   It ended his nearly half a century tenure with the school, saddened legions of loyal supporters sensing the inevitable and enraged other loyal supporters believing Penn State should allow Joe Paterno to leave on his own terms.  Undoubtedly, Penn State had little choice other than to distance itself from Coach Paterno in response to growing (and alarming) questions regarding his involvement and failure to adequately report hideous accounts of a sickening pattern of child abuse allegedly performed by a member of his coaching staff.  

Earlier in the week, reports emerged revealing that the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office released a  Grand Jury Presentation, which offered damning details of horrific incidents of repeated sexual abuse perpetrated by former Penn State football defensive coach Gerald A.  Sandusky.  In short, the report alleges Sandusky, while a defensive coach at Penn State and years following his retirement in 1999 used his charitable organization, “initially devoted to troubled young boys,”  as a guise to provide him access to vulnerable young boys that he might appease his own deviant sexual appetites.  His nefarious plot, as outlined in the report, is described in harrowing detail.  It  lists repeated instances of Sandusky lavishing gifts upon young men from the program, gaining their trust through said gifts and other means, only to ultimately begin a sexual relationship with each.  The boys ranged in age from eight to thirteen a the time in which Sandusky allegedly began his vile interactions with them. Dozens of adults came into knowledge of said pattern of behavior, and each did little to stop it, or made extensive efforts to conceal it from the public.   The pattern of behavior sadly bears striking resemblance to other sexual abuse scandals.

Joe Paterno, Joe Pa, Penn State, Penn State Football, Sandusky scandal

Joe Paterno early in his coaching carrer

For those unaware, Joseph Vincent Paterno is a former college football coach, who remained at the helm of the vaulted Penn State Nittany Lions from 1966 until Wednesday evening.  He presently holds the record for most victories in Division I college football, and presided over five undefeated teams that won major Bowl games (including national championships in 1982 and 1986) during the course of his career.  He came to Penn State as an assistant football coach shortly after graduating from Brown University in 1950.  He moved up in the ranks, until he eventually became the head coach of the football team in 1966.  He soon became a bastion of academic integrity and upstanding character, as he championed academic excellence and morality over athletic prowess.  He deemed it “the grand experiment,” and it paid huge dividends as his teams enjoyed continued success during his tenure.  Over the years he became emblematic of college football in general and Pennsylvania State University particularly.   Many fondly referred to him as the “Pope of Happy Valley.”  His experiment was challenged when many of his players had encounters with the law, but none have challenged his experiment more than this.  The scandal at the university will forever tarnish his legacy in ironic fashion considering his fabled title.   He is not alone.

The emerging scandal at Penn State has also implicated two other university administrators, Athletic Director Timothy Curley, and Gary Schultz, the University’s Senior Vice President for Business and Finance, as they were charged with perjury and failure to report suspected child abuse.  Penn State also announced it has recently fired the University President, Graham Spanier.  According to the grand jury report, both were keenly aware of Sandusky’s suspicious behavior and did not notify the proper authorities.  Also, according to the grand jury report, others were aware as well. 

More specifically, on March 1, 2002, a Penn State graduate assistant named Michael McQuery entered the football locker room on Lasch Football Stadium on the University Park Campus around 9:30pm on a Friday evening before Spring Break.  As a he entered the locker room, he was surprised to find the lights and showers on, and further surprised to hear what he described as “rhythmic slapping sounds” he believed to be sexual in nature.  McQuery looked into the showers and saw a naked boy (whose age he estimated to be roughly ten years old) with his hands up against the wall being subjected to anal intercourse by Sandusky.  McQuery “immediately left” the locker room without intervening, and waited until the next day to report the incident to Joe Paterno.  The report made its way to then Athletic Director Timothy Curley and then Vice President for Business and Finance Gary Schultz.  Little happened thereafter.   In 1998, a parent reported her eleven year old son’s recounting of Sandusky showering with him after inviting him to the Penn State football facilities to University Police.  A police detective heard Sandusky apologize to the mother of the eleven year old, saying, “I was wrong. I wish I could get forgiveness.  I know I won’t get it from you.  I wish I was dead.”   Sandusky also admitted to showering with the boy to the detective.  No charges were pressed.  In the fall of 2000, two jaintors individually witnessed Sandusky engaging in sexual behavior with young boys on two separate occasions.  They both reported it to their superiors, yet little happened thereafter.  According to reports, the former district attorney in Centre County, Ray Gricar, who chose not to prosecute Sandusky when allegations surfaced in 1998 strangely disappeared in 2005.  In a more disconcerting development new allegations have emerged that Sandusky “pimped out” young boys to wealthy donors

Joe Paterno, Joe Pa, Jerry Sandusky, Gerald A. Sandusky, Penn State

Joe Paterno and Gerald "Jerry" Sandusky earlier in their respective coahing careers

Time and time again, those with the power to stop these tragic crimes opted to not to protect the children harmed.  This is despite the fact that Sandusky repeatedly, unabashedly, engaged in sexual contact with young boys in his home, in their respective schools, on Penn State’s campus and various other locations; at least three adults witnessed said acts, reported them and little seemed to happen thereafter.  Others learned of these despicable acts and remained silent (in a public sense) for years.  Consequently,  Sandusky retired in 1999 without any public reprimand, without any criminal sanctions and was given an office on Penn State’s facility after university administrators had at least some knowledge of his inappropriate contact with children.   As the public outcry bemoaning the failure Joe Paterno to reached a fever pitch, the revered coach reluctantly relented, and indicated he planned to retire at season’s end.  In so doing, he said  “I wish I had done more.”  The university finally came to its senses and released him of his responsibilities on Wednesday. 

Like so many others who find themselves transfixed in compromising situations, Paterno waited unti he got exposed to attempt to do what is right.  His failure to respond adequately to these events prior to this exposure, coupled with his stated desire to coach games after the allegations surrounding Sandusky surfaced to the public represent a callous disregard for the gravity of the horrendous acts that transpisred under Paterno’s watch.    The outpouring of support for Joe Paterno from members of the student body demonstrate a fundamental lack of concern for the gravity of these allegations and further represent a culture of willful blindness at Penn State University. 

It would seem that the rules applied differently to Joe Paterno.   He was lauded for his coaching greatness, yet failed to win a championship in the past twenty-five years, celebrated for his character development despite numerous players encountering struggles with the law.  In what might prove to be the ultimate test of his character, he chose to protect himself, his legacy, his friend  and the institution that gave him power rather than protect innocent children.  It would then make perfect sense then that one of Paterno’s disciples,  Michael McQuery, could witness the violent sexual assault of a child, elect not to intervene, report the incident later, and then proceed publicly as though nothing happened.  In light of such a culture, one can fully understand how university officials could effectively cover up this scandal for years.  Evil persisted on Penn State’s campus (and throughout Happy Valley for that matter) because the professed good people did little, if anything to stop it. 

Joe Paterno, Joe Pa, Nittany Lions, Penn State Football

Joe Paterno leads the Nittany Lions onto the field for the season opener against University of South Florida Sept. 3, 2005. Paterno became the 21st member of the Penn State Football family to be enshrined into the Hall, joining four former coaches and 16 players, seven of whom he coached -- John Cappelletti, Keith Dorney, Jack Ham, Ted Kwalick, Lydell Mitchell, Dennis Onkotz and Mike Reid. Former Nittany Lion coaches Dick Harlow (1915-17), Hugo Bezdek (1918-29), Bob Higgins (1930-48) and Rip Engle (1950-65) also are members of the Hall of Fame.

There have been, and will be, formal statements frm Penn State and Joe Paterno uttering contrition.  The University will distance itself, at least for now, from all those who have become toxic over the course of the past few weeks.   Nevertheless, the institution and its corresponding community’s actions will speak louder.  Beginning this Saturday, Penn State will continue playing football in the same facility where several boys were violated by one of Penn State’s own.  Others involved in the scandal, to varying degrees, will remain involved in the football program.  This should not be.  Presumably we will be made to forget this tragic incident in the days to come. 

Nevertheless, we should not forget, lest these things happen again.  We must also seek to find answers to some of the sinister questions left with all of this.  Why would Joe Paterno initially say the allegations “shocked” him, despite him having prior knowledge of the alleged incidents and offering testimony in prior investigations?  Why did Joe Paterno await for the allegations to become public before he expressed remorse for his involvement and lack thereof?  Why did McQueary say nothing publicly about the incident he witnessed over seven years ago?  Would McQueary have been more prone to intervene in the incident he witnessed had he observed Sandusky raping a young girl?  Why did district attorney Ray Gricar refuse to prosecute this case when he first learned of it in 1998, and why did he turn up missing six years ago?  Why did the Athletic Director, University Senior Vice President for Business and Finance, etal refuse to report the allegations to the proper authorities?  Why was Sandusky allowed to retire gracefully with little more than a presumptive private scolding?   Why did the general public ignore warning signs and initial reports of inappropriate conduct on the part of Sandusky?  How could an academic institution, which prides itself on achieving success honorably, fall so short of its own lofty standards merely to protect the reputation and legacy of its football program?  Why did so many people do so little to stop this continued abuse?  How many more victims are awaiting justice?  How many more took advantage of them?  Why is the NCAA so quiet during this scandal?  Why have there been no public discussions of cancelling Saturday’s game or penalizing the Penn State program?  Why is the program attempting the complete the season rather than devote its complete attention to this matter?  Is it truly more harmful in the eyes of the NCAA for institutions to lie about players recieving “impermissible benefits” or fail to monitor  players recieving gifts in exchange for their own memorablia than it is for institutions to cover up sex abuse of children that happens on its campus?

Surely, this scandal at Penn State is more reflective of broader patterns of abuse of children by adults and communities who refuse to protect said children.  We have witnessed this in communities of faith, both in the Protestant Church and Catholic Church, politics, the entertainment industry. These patterns will continue so long as good people stand idly by.  Sadly, it appears as though we have a long way to go to convince them of that.


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