Penn State is down for the count

Posted: November 08, 2011

THE PENN STATE brand is bust. And I mean for a long time.

I don't know how anyone connected to the horrific child sex-abuse charges, and a very apparent cover-up, survives. And I mean anyone.

And I don't know how the university gets its pristine profile back.

I know there's a presumption of innocence. And the three men (so far) charged proclaim theirs.

Fine. But it sure doesn't seem there are innocents here, except for the eight (so far) victims whose abuse is graphically detailed in a 23-page grand jury presentment.

The legendary former defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, the man credited with creating "Linebacker U," faces 40 counts stemming from the abuse of young boys.

Longtime athletic director Tim Curley and a senior vice president who oversaw campus police, Gary Schultz, are charged with cover-up and lying to a grand jury.

It makes the university's much-touted creed, "Success With Honor," and its "core values" of integrity, honor, respect, etc., a jumble of hollow words.

It makes the 2001 book, "Touched: The Jerry Sandusky Story," a sad, ironic title.

It makes Sandusky's charity, The Second Mile, a nonprofit to help young folks, look less of a charity and more of a trap.

It damages the long-developed image of clean and wholesome "Happy Valley."

And it calls into question the moral, if not legal, responsibility of sainted head coach Joe Paterno and Penn State president Graham Spanier.

This occurred on their watch. And they knew about it.

There was a 1998 case involving allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior by Sandusky investigated by campus police, the Centre County district attorney and the Department of Public Welfare. Nothing happened.

There was a 2002 incident in which a then-graduate assistant, identified in press reports as Mike McQueary, a former quarterback and current assistant coach, was an eyewitness to abuse.

According to the state's presentment, McQueary saw a boy, maybe 10 years old, in a locker-room shower at night "being subjected to anal intercourse by a naked Sandusky."

McQueary reported it to Paterno, who reported it to the athletic director. But nobody did anything. They never even tried to identify the boy.

Collateral damage, I suppose, to maintaining the university's aura. And while McQueary, oddly to me, seems to get credit for telling what he saw, I wonder why a young, strong 6-foot-4 recently former Division I athlete didn't stop the rape of a child in progress.

Are we to believe that when an icon such as Sandusky is "investigated" for one abuse allegation then caught in another that it doesn't rise to the level of full attention and examination by PSU's head coach and president?

How was it handled? There was a "ban" approved by Spanier, saying that Sandusky could no longer bring children onto campus.

Really? Why approve such a "ban" if you don't think there's a serious problem?

Also, according to the grand-jury report, Sandusky showed up at a preseason practice with a young boy in 2007. This is after the "investigated" allegation, after the witnessed shower rape.

Are we to believe no coach at that practice thought something might be amiss?

State Attorney General Linda Kelly told a packed Capitol news conference yesterday that the investigation is "ongoing."

She said Paterno is "not regarded as a target at this point." Given the opportunity to say the same of Spanier, she passed.

Asked about moral obligations of university higher-ups, she said there's a difference between legal and moral guilt, adding of the latter, "I'm not going to comment on that now."

State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan was less reluctant to comment.

After the news conference, Noonan was asked by journalists about the obligations of those who suspect child abuse.

This is what he said: "I think you have the moral responsibility, anyone. Not whether you're a football coach or a university president or the guy sweeping the building. I think you have a moral responsibility to call us."

He's right, of course.

Penn State had that opportunity and that responsibility and opted out of it.

Instead, we get half-baked statements such as Paterno's, "If this is true, we were all fooled"; or Spanier's, "I have complete confidence" in how the allegations were handled.

It's sad and seemingly self-inflicted. But this university today has no reason to be "Penn State Proud."


For recent columns, go to

philly.com/JohnBaer. Read his blog at philly.com/BaerGrowls.

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