Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Shame of Penn State Football

Penn State and Jerry Sandusky, Jerry Sandusky and Penn State, like a bad marriage – inevitably and seemingly linked together forever. Friday, Mike McQueary, then a graduate assistant, testified for more than two hours at the hearing that determined Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley and former Penn State Vice President Gary Schultz will face perjury charges in the case that centers on the two administrators’ failure to report allegations that Sandusky, Penn State’s former assistant football coach, raped a ten-year old boy in 2002.

"I would have said that Jerry was in there in very close proximity to a boy with his arms wrapped around him. I said I heard slapping sounds. I described it was extremely sexual and that some kind of intercourse was going on," McQueary, now a Penn State football coach on paid administrative leave, testified on Friday, referring to the locker room shower incident.

“I really didn’t know what to do,” McQueary said on the stand.
The heart of the matter remains – Did Penn State University and their Athletic Department participate in covering up the reprehensible allegations McQueary testified took place in Penn State’s football locker room in 2002?

McQueary contacted Penn State Football Coach Joe Paterno (now fired) the day after the incident and explained what he saw.

"I said, `Coach, I need to come to your house and talk to you about something,' " McQueary testified. "I went over to his house, sat at his kitchen table and told him I had seen Jerry ... it was extremely sexual in nature."

"I went to Coach Paterno because I knew he would handle it the right way, what I thought was the right way."

What did Paterno have to say (this from Paterno’s grand jury testimony that led to the charges against Sandusky moving forward)?

"He had seen a person, not an older, but a mature person who was fondling or whatever you might call it," Paterno's testimony reads.

Paterno told the grand jury he called Tim Curley, "I said, hey, we've got a problem, and I explained the problem to him. I have a tremendous amount of confidence in Mr. Curley, and I thought he would look into it," Paterno continued.

What did Tim Curley have to say? (Here is where, at least in part, why the perjury charges against him are moving forward, as part of his original grand jury testimony.)

Curley said "absolutely not" when asked if Mike McQueary reported having witnessed anal sex in the showers at the Lasch Football Building.

Covering up a child sex abuse scandal is wrong. If in fact, as McQueary testified, he told Penn State administrators in 2002 and Penn State administrators failed to report the Sandusky allegations to the police, what Sandusky did after 2002 might have been prevented if the police knew what Sandusky had done then.

On Wednesday, December 5, one of Penn State’s biggest nightmares came true. Additional charges were filed against Sandusky, indicting him on allegations that he sexually molested a young man, who in 2004 was ten years old, referred to in grand jury testimony as “victim number nine.”

Victim number nine (now 18) claims Sandusky took him to Penn State football games and gave him gifts and money in 2004. Victim number nine claimed Sandusky raped him in the basement of the Sandusky home in 2004, according to the grand jury.

Given that Penn State chose to cover-up the 2002 allegations and assuming victim number nine is telling the truth, he may not have been a victim at all if Penn State had reported what McQueary told school officials he witnessed. There is no forgiveness for anyone at Penn State who played any role in the aftermath of the 2002 incident and failed to report the allegations to local law enforcement.

“As in many of the other cases identified to date, the contact with Sandusky allegedly fit a pattern of `grooming’ victims,” Attorney General Linda Kelly said in a statement. “Beginning with outings to football games and gifts; they later included physical contact that escalated to sexual assaults.”

According to McQueary’s testimony, Curley and Schultz told him they would investigate what McQueary told them.

Soon after McQueary told Paterno, Curley and Schultz what he witnessed, McQueary, a graduate assistant coach at the time of the 2002 incident, was offered a full-time coaching position with Penn State. There has been a great deal of criticism directed at McQueary, suggesting that once McQueary realized Penn State officials hadn’t informed the police of the allegations against Sandusky in 2002, McQueary should have contacted the police on his own.

McQueary spent his entire life in and around the Penn State campus. He played football at Penn State when Sandusky was a member of the coaching staff. It’s impossible to fully understand what McQueary felt when he witnessed what he saw in the Penn State locker room in 2002.

A better question that could be asked -- Would anyone who is questioning what Mike McQueary did or didn’t do, have done themselves, if they had been in his place that fateful day in 2002?

Only Penn State officials and Mike McQueary can answer the question if their cover-up and McQueary’s full-time appointment are in anyway related to each other.

Why then, if Tim Curley and Gary Schultz participated in a cover-up, did Curley and Schulz not contact the police as they were supposed to do?

Penn State’s football program represents more than $50 million annually in revenues for Penn State University. Joe Paterno was the school’s football coach for 46 years. Joe Paterno is Penn State University. The cover-up was wrong, but really not that difficult to understand, if one takes the time to examine the business of Penn State University and what Joe Paterno represented.

Curley and Schultz are going to be held accountable for their actions. Jerry Sandusky is facing a trial that logic suggests will end with Sandusky spending many years in jail. Paterno and now former Penn State President Graham Spanier were fired for their respective roles.

The NCAA has launched an investigation into how Penn State managed (or in this case mismanaged) the allegations of child sex abuse against Sandusky and Penn State’s cover-up. The NCAA has asked Penn State for a report on what was or wasn’t done.
Late last week Penn State General Counsel Cynthia Baldwin sent a letter to the NCAA asking for additional time to prepare their response.

The NCAA has a long list of rules, regulations and penalties covering everything from illegal payments to student-athletes to grade fixing. Given the scope of the Penn State and Syracuse sex/child abuse scandals, it is imperative the NCAA announce a set of regulations dealing with member institutions’ inaction when it relates to the welfare of minors. It remains to be seen if Penn State, as an institution, will be held accountable.

Between legal proceedings moving forward, and firings against those directly involved, Penn State is well on their way to seeing those who are responsible for the cover-up being held accountable for their actions. That remains a good starting place in allowing the victims of this terrible tragedy to begin to move forward with their lives.

For Sports Business News, this is Howard Bloom

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