Joe Paterno is the winningest coach in Division I football of all time, and he is regularly praised for his “old school” ways as a coach, as if he was some sort of relic from the way things used to be before all was corrupt and nasty about college football. And, to be sure, there is a lot that is corrupt and nasty about college football, as this blog has detailed on numerous occasions      . However, we ought not to assume that simply being old school and ‘traditional’ is a good thing either. Some traditions are bad, and it would appear as if after decades of being a squeaky clean coach that Joe Paterno is facing a scandal that could destroy his reputation just as it appears to have harmed the lives of many young men.
[Warning: The following paragraphs contain material of an extremely unpleasant nature. Do not read if you are squeamish or easily offended.]
Jerry Sandusky was the former defensive coordinator for Penn State, responsible in part for the ferocious defenses that have led Penn State to success for the last few decades, until his retirement in 1999. At one time he was thought to be a successor to Joe Paterno as the head coach. Now he is free on $100,000 bail on multiple charges of sodomizing young boys, including an incident at Penn State University’s football locker room that has also ensnared a couple of Penn State administrators in perjury charges for covering up Sandusky’s tracks and letting him abuse more young men around the ages of 10, 11, and 12 .
Penn State’s “old school” culture seems to have fostered an atmosphere where a known sexual predator was, even after his retirement, given free reign to use Penn State’s facilities to abuse young men. How so? Let us recount the ways. Jerry Sandusky was the defensive coordinator of Penn State until 1999. He founded a not-for-profit group called “Second Mile” in 1977 that was dedicated to helping troubled boys . It would appear, as horrifying as it is, that the group may have had a much darker ulterior purpose of procuring vulnerable young men for Sandusky’s pederasty.
In 1998, Penn State University investigated Sandusky for “incidents involving children in the showers” at Penn State, though they did not report the incident to the police. Possibly by coincidence, and possibly not, Sandusky resigned the next year to devote his attention to his not-for-profit, forfeiting his chance to succeed Joe Paterno as head coach at Penn State. Nonetheless, he still appears to have had free reign of the campus as an “old school” guy.
In 2002, a graduate assistant who just happened to be checking out the locker rooms one Friday night expecting them to be empty, heard the sounds of activity and witnessed Sandusky anally raping a boy of about ten years of age. He immediately called his father, who then advised him (sensibly) to talk to his boss. The next day (a Saturday), the graduate student did so, and Joe Paterno relayed the report that the graduate student had seen Sandusky fondling or doing things of a sexual nature with a young boy to his boss, the Athletic Director of Penn State, and a week and a half later the Athletic Director, Tim Curley, and Penn State’s Vice President of Finance and Business, Gary Schultz, who also oversees the campus police department. After hearing the incident, which at least Schultz admits gave the impression of improper touching, at least, on Sandusky’s part, not the University police nor outside police were notified. Instead, Curley told Sandusky that he was banned thereafter from bringing children on campus, a slap on the wrist, and a “punishment” that was approved by Penn State’s president, Graham Spanier. That’s it.
Of course, in 2009, seven years later, an incident involving Sandusky’s “Second Mile” group, and Sandusky attempting to use gifts and money to attract a young boy to him, finally a full investigation was done and an ongoing and deeply unpleasant  grand jury investigation is ongoing, looking for additional victims and ensnaring the two Penn State administrators for enabling Sandusky’s crimes without reporting them as is Pennsylvania law (and the law just about everywhere else too).
The case is horribly sickening, and one knows scarcely where to begin. First, of all, we can say that these claims will be tried out in a court of law, rather than merely the court of public opinion. To the extent these crimes are proven beyond a reasonable doubt, they will be convicted. The fact that these alleged crimes include covering up on the part of university authorities to protect “one of their own” and leading to a witnessed sexual predator being given plenty of years to continue to abuse young men is completely unacceptable. It’s not just the crime that is horrifying, but the cover up.
Even Joe Paterno, who at least is not being tried in criminal court, does not look blameless. He is going to have to answer why he did not think it appropriate to inform police himself, being in charge of Penn State’s football program and given an eyewitness account from a (highly vulnerable) graduate assistant. He may have good answers to the difficult questions he is about to face, but he ought to be aware that protecting the lives of children is more important than protecting the reputation of an old buddy. The fact that people in positions of social authority cannot seem to recognize this basic truth is deeply disturbing.
Penn State is 8-1 and one of the best teams in the 12-team Big 10 this year in football, but none of that really matters, because instead it has become a sanctuary for a sexual predator who made himself out to be a trusted member of the local community all while using a not-for-profit (it would appear) to gain him access to vulnerable young men so that he could sodomize them. If he ends up being found guilty of these charges, it’s a shame that biblical law will not be enforced upon him. But he will have to face his Maker, who does not look kindly at all on those who take advantage of His little ones and abuse their authority to satisfy their own sinful lusts. At least ultimate judgment is in the hands of one who is just, and whose justice does not sleep forever.