Before next Penn State home game, Sandusky case will have far-reaching effects

Jerry Sandusky is due back in court next month.
Jerry Sandusky is due back in court next month. (Associated Press)
Posted: November 14, 2011

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Beaver Stadium stood silent Sunday. The rolling fields surrounding it looked barren except for strings of blue Port-O-Pots still scattered around. Outside the stadium, there were mid-day signs of life and campus life springing back toward some attempt at normalcy.

A couple of miles away, a "Road Closed Ahead" sign remained on the street where Jerry Sandusky lives.

A new chapter will be ushered in the next time the stadium fills up for next fall's home opener. But the current chapter of Penn State's history - the Sandusky chapter - is far from written. It doesn't end with the forced departures of head coach Joe Paterno, maybe the most famous man in Pennsylvania, or even with the ouster of Penn State's longtime president Graham Spanier.

The university's athletic director and a vice president have been relieved of their duties, charged with perjury and failure to report child sexual abuse allegations. A Nittany Lions assistant coach reportedly is under protective custody. Sandusky, the former defensive coordinator, should be back in court - where he is Gerald A. Sandusky, charged with 40 criminal counts of molesting eight young boys between 1994 and 2009 - next month. More victims reportedly are coming forward. Sandusky has a Dec. 7 court hearing.

So much has happened, yet so many questions remain.

"It will unfold like Watergate," said historian Taylor Branch, who has taken on college sports as his latest project of study in his book The Cartel: Inside the Rise and Imminent Fall of the NCAA.

Many Penn State alumni still have questions that extend across the landscape of their university.

"Penn State is a very insular community," said Joseph Korsak by e-mail. Korsak is a lawyer in York and a 1971 Penn State graduate whose father and two sons also graduated from the school.

He said his devotion to Penn State remains as fervent as ever. "I wonder how much the Board of Trustees knew from 1995 through 2005. Everyone sits on everyone else's board."

In addition to court proceedings, Penn State's board has assembled a committee, led by trustee Kenneth Frazier, CEO of Merck and Co., to investigate the university's handling of the entire episode. Pennsylvania's secretary of education, Ron Tomalis, will serve as vice chairman of the committee. More members will be determined, including faculty and students.

Moody's Investors Service said Friday that it had put the university's bond rating under review for a possible downgrade and will assess the potential impact on Penn State of risks from possible lawsuits as well as more potential financial impact resulting from the damage done to the school's reputation.

On top of the larger who knew what, when? questions, there are probably enough smaller ones to equal the 107,903 who showed up at Beaver Stadium to watch Saturday's 17-14 loss to Nebraska in the final home game of the season.

The continuing relationship between Sandusky and the football program will draw much further scrutiny.

A grand jury report described multiple instances in which Sandusky gave gifts to boys - one as young as 8 - took them to football games, and hosted them on overnight visits to his house. Ultimately, prosecutors say, he coaxed or forced the boys into sex acts, including oral and anal sex.

There are key questions still out there about specific alleged incidents in 1998 and 2002. The alleged incident in 1998 drew the attention of university police, who launched an investigation after the mother of an 11-year-old boy complained that Sandusky had showered on campus with her son, according to the 23-page grand jury summary that portrayed Sandusky as a serial predator.

In a telephone conversation, which the boy's mother let university police monitor, Sandusky said, "I was wrong" and apologized to her, the grand jury report said. "I wish I were dead," the report also quoted Sandusky as saying.

The Centre County district attorney and state Department of Public Welfare investigators also reviewed those allegations, but brought no charges.

Sandusky retired as coach after the 1999 season and has never taken another college job, devoting his time to the Second Mile charity, which he founded.

Started as a group foster home for wayward boys, the organization now maintains seven offices statewide. It claims to serve more than 280,000 youths a year through programs including a sports trading-card program called Nittany Lions Tips, in which Penn State athletes offer advice. It also hosted a summer camp on the campus.

On Sunday, another issue arose. Deadspin.com reported that District Judge Leslie Dutchcot, who ordered Sandusky free on $100,000 bail, had among other charitable deeds volunteered for the Second Mile, according to her law-firm profile. The profile did not say when Dutchcot volunteered for the charity or in what capacity. Dutchcot could not be reached for comment.

At least one other jurisdiction is getting involved. A San Antonio police spokesman confirmed that detectives there were exploring charges against Sandusky for allegedly sexually abusing a boy during trips with Penn State's football team to bowl games in 1998 and 1999.

But there was more focus on a 2002 incident at Penn State. According to the grand jury, a graduate coaching assistant said he saw Sandusky raping a young boy in the team showers one night in 2002 and reported it to Paterno and other administrators.

Paterno and Spanier have denied any wrongdoing. The graduate assistant, Mike McQueary, now the team's receivers coach, was not on the sidelines Saturday, placed on administrative leave, due to "multiple threats made" against him, the school said in a statement.

NCAA president Mark Emmert said college sport's governing body would let the courts decide the facts before the NCAA would do anything regarding Penn State.

Many Penn State alumni especially want more scrutiny of why Sandusky, a highly regarded assistant coach, retired with emeritus status in 1999, with access to university facilities that continued until the days before he was charged with the sex-abuse crimes.

One thing is certain - the focus has moved away from that stadium, for a long time.


Contact Mike Jensen at 215-854-4489, mjensen@phillynews.com , or @Jensenoffcampus on Twitter. Read his "Off Campus'' columns at www.philly.com/offcampus.

Inquirer staff writer John Martin contributed to this article.

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