It also, as suspected, constitutes a death blow to what was left of the reputation of the most successful, respected coach in the history of college football, Joe Paterno. Many expected to learn that Joe Paterno covered up Sandusky's child abuse to protect the football program, but there is so much in the report we didn't know.
We didn't know that "several staff members and football coaches regularly observed Sandusky showering with young boys" before May 1998.
We didn't know that there was evidence that Paterno knew about formal allegations against Sandusky as far back as 1998, four years before his assistant Mike McQueary walked in on Sandusky raping an 11-year-old boy in the Penn State showers and then reported it to the coach. Shortly before his death, a supposedly shocked Paterno told the Washington Post that he didn't know what to do upon hearing McQueary's story, because he had "never heard of rape and a man."
We didn't know that when Sandusky was forced into retirement in 1999, he received, in Freeh's words, "an unusual lump-sum payment of $168,000," as well as full use of team facilities. We didn't know that Paterno, though well aware of every sick allegation, wanted Sandusky to stay on in the volunteer position of "director, positive action for youth."
We didn't know that Sandusky had the gall to ask the school to open a football camp for middle school boys in his name.
And we didn't know that, according to Freeh, vice president Gary Schultz and Athletic Director Tim Curley agreed to go to authorities in 2001, but changed their mind after Curley discussed the plan with Paterno. At one point, former Penn State president Graham B. Spanier said that if Sandusky quietly sought help, they would turn a blind eye.
As Freeh commented, "Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky's child victims. The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized."
He also accuses Spanier, Curley, Schultz, and Paterno of "opting out" of compliance with the Cleary Act, the federal law that requires colleges to report crimes. That accusation, in black and white, will become a staple of lawsuits for years, if not decades. As one Penn State alum tweeted last week, "If you want to take a picture with a Joe Paterno statue, you had better do it now."
But the report is also striking for what it doesn't discuss — mainly the role of Gov. Corbett. Freeh has always been a proud lieutenant of institutional power, and with this report, he doesn't disappoint.
As I wrote after the Sandusky verdict, the governor is far from an innocent bystander. In 2009, as attorney general, he headed a state investigation into accusations against the revered former coach. Although his office denies it, according to multiple accounts, Corbett assigned no one from his office to follow up on the charges — just one state trooper not authorized to bring charges against Sandusky.
In addition, when Corbett was sworn in as governor, in 2011, he still had not informed the Second Mile Foundation that its founder was under investigation. Instead, as a candidate for governor, he took about $650,000 in donations from members of the Second Mile's unknowing board, even allowing its chairman to hold a fund-raiser for his campaign.
Upon being elected, Corbett then moved deftly from doing nothing to trying to deflect the entire weight of the scandal onto Joe Paterno and Penn State, using his ex officio position on the school's board of trustees to do so.
As bracing as the Freeh report is, it confirms what we long suspected, and Penn State will pay the price. But it's also bracing that the dead and the indicted get the blame, while the sitting governor gets to have press conferences and praise Freeh for his efforts. I hope Sandusky's victims leave room in their litigation for Corbett.
Dave Zirin is the author of "Bad Sports: How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love" (Scribner). This was distributed by Agence Global.
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