Let’s face it. While none of us wanted to really believe it, deep down we knew what the report issued by former FBI Director Louis Freeh was going to say: Penn State’s leaders – including former coach Joe Paterno – knew what convicted sex offender Jerry Sandusky was up to and did virtually nothing to stop it.
So for nearly 15 years Sandusky was permitted to bring young boy after you boy into the fold of a bogus foundation with the real purpose of sexually assaulting them without fear of being stopped.
Paterno, former Penn State President Graham B. Spanier, former Athletic Director Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, a university vice president, are personally responsible for these young victims being victims at all. Basically the Freeh report says the assaults could have been prevented or stopped once there was knowledge of them happening – and it never happened.
According to the Freeh report, “Taking into account the available witness statements and evidence, it is more reasonable to conclude that, in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at Penn State University . . . repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities, the Board of Trustees, Penn State community, and the public at large,” Freeh said.
I for one hesitated to believe that Paterno knew. I wouldn’t know the other men if I met them on High Street in downtown West Chester but Paterno was a household name. His face was everywhere. His name was everywhere. It was this social icon who was about to topple like the statue of Saddam in Baghdad.
No one would have ever thought that Paterno could be guilty of anything horrible other than a pass play rather than a run play. It just never entered our thoughts.
His family meanwhile has defended Joe.
“Joe Paterno wasn’t perfect,” a family statement read. “He made mistakes and he regretted them. He is still the only leader to step forward and say that with the benefit of hindsight he wished he had done more. To think, however, that he would have protected Jerry Sandusky to avoid bad publicity is simply not realistic. If Joe Paterno had understood what Sandusky was, a fear of bad publicity would not have factored into his actions.”
That’s easier to say now that Joe has passed on. But the public will never get to hear from Joe. We will never have the opportunity to severely question him on his thoughts, his motivations, his hesitations, his reasons for doing – or not doing – anything related to this tragedy.
There will never be an opportunity for his victims to look him in the eye and ask him, “Coach, why?”
There is no argument that Paterno did a lot for Penn State University. The money he contributed. The things he did for his players and for the students.
But in the end, the balance sheet will forever tilt to the negative. No amount of money, coaching, football team victories, libraries, speeches and other good deeds can ever make up for even one of Sandusky’s victims.
Paterno, Spanier, Curley and Schultz are all responsible says the Freeh report. Paterno is gone – the other three aren’t and have to live with themselves knowing they did nothing to stop a predator.
Right versus wrong. They all know what they did and what didn’t do. And no civil lawsuit certainly coming down the road can ever fix the damage.
And as for the university? The board of trustees seems like it’s doing what it knows needs to be done. The healing will begin but this damage is permanent.
– Andy Hachadorian