THE SHAME IN STATE COLLEGE

Big national news the past few days that has rocked the sports world and spilled over into the general news flow is that former Penn State football coach/defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky has been charged with multiple counts of sexual assault against minor children he came into contact with. During his coaching career he established the Second Mile program which provided aid to young boys with troubled family and personal lives. He had received near universal praise for these efforts until recently.

Since his retirement from coaching in 1999, Sandusky has devoted his time to the Second Mile and related activities.

At the time of his retirement Jerry had obviously abandoned any hope of succeeding his boss, Joe Paterno, as head coach of the Nittany Lions. JoPa, as he is known, is still on the job.

Jerry Sandusky is one of the reasons I became a Penn State football fan. He was three years ahead of me in school at Washington High and was a starter on both the football and basketball teams. Since our school held grades 8-12, I was witness to his athletic endeavors.

When he graduated he, and classmate Bob Riggle, received scholarship offers to Penn State to play football. Keeping up with the home town guys I listened to Penn State games on fall Saturday afternoons on the radio.

Following their Penn State careers Riggle spent a year or two in the NFL while Sandusky began his coaching life at his alma mater.

By that time I was on my way to transferring to WVU and adopting the Mountaineers as my favorite college team. But I still rooted for Penn State save for the annual game with WVU.

I always thought it was kind of neat that I could be watching a PSU game on TV and point out to fellow viewers that the man pacing the sidelines as defensive coordinator, and turning out stalwart defensive teams year after year, was someone I had been in high scool with. Never mind that I only met him personally once or twice when he was already out of school.

Now this past Saturday Sandusky was arrested and formally charged, though rumors had been swirling about him for over two years. Because some of the alleged assaults took place on Penn State’s campus and Paterno and others in the administration were informed about them, since none were reported to police some administrators were questioned by a grand jury . As a result two, Athletic Director Tim Curley and a finance man, Gary Schultz, were charged with perjury.

At least eight boys were victims and a call is out for others, if they exist, to come forward.

Pennsylvania, like most if not all states, has reporting requirements concerning child abuse imposed on parties who work with children and have any hint that abuse has taken place. Doctors and other medical people, teachers and child care workers are the principle targets of such laws.

There have been a number of public comments that Joe Paterno, since he was informed of at least one incident, had that legal obligation. It seems, though, that, at least technically, he does not, as police officials have made clear.

However, I, and many others, believe that any adult with knowledge had a moral duty to report or take other steps to protect the kids. That most certainly was not done.

Penn State’s AD, Tim Curley, has been charged and apparently his grand jury appearance was based partly on his job title. But it has been common knowledge the past several years that, rightly or wrongly, Paterno rules the football program and really answers to no one. Officially that is not the case so he escapes responsibility there.

My reaction after hearing the news on Saturday is that Paterno will be gone after this season if not before its end. I would suggest that Penn State decline any bowl game offered and remain home for the holidays.

Some will say that punishes the players who had absolutely nothing to do with this situation. That is true but the University—any university—derives enormous benefits from such games.

Though the scandal is not tied directly to football activities, I believe it is another symptom of the corruption rampant in big time college sports. That means the program is protected apart from any effects on the individual participants or outside individuals for that matter.

Though I’ve been a Penn State football fan for nearly fifty years, partly owing to Sandusky , I am little worried about what the scandal does to the program.

I am worried that the victims, if that is what they truly are, may continue to suffer from these violations into the future. I have also wondered if there are victims from much earlier than any timeline yet presented. And, horror of horrors, did such victims include the six kids Sandusky and his wife adopted.

If the allegations do not prove out, as happens on occasion, I know Sandusky’s reputation is irreparably tarnished. I suspect that will NOT be the case., that any tarnishing will be found to be justified.

There are stories that Sandusky’s history of abuse goes back at least into the late 1990’s, while he was still coaching. This article from the Chicago Tribune details one incident, including Sandusky’s alleged remark upon discovery that “I wish I were dead.”

http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/college/ct-spt-1107-haugh-penn-state–20111107,0,2324737.column

That information was included in the report presenting all forty counts of the indictment against Sandusky. You can read that report here:

http://www.attorneygeneral.gov/uploadedFiles/Press/Sandusky-Grand-Jury-Presentment.pdf

Before you click on that link, I will warn you that it is extremely graphic. I could not get through reading even the first set of charges.

That such abuse happens too often—hell, at all— in our society is shameful enough. That much of the abuse is perpetrated by public figures who’ve previously been admired adds a special layer of shame.

That there were adults capable of reporting this abuse and possibly preventing future attacks, legal responsibility or not, but who put their heads back in the sand, brings an unforgiveable level of shame to them, national sports icon or not.

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