The Freeh Report into Penn State’s handling of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse case has been released. The results are as damning as expected for Graham Spanier, Gary Schultz, Timothy Curley and Joe Paterno.
Four of the most powerful people at The Pennsylvania State University – President Graham B. Spanier, Senior Vice President‐Finance and Business Gary C. Schultz, Athletic Director Timothy M. Curley and Head Football Coach Joseph V. Paterno – failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade. These men concealed Sandusky’s activities from the Board of Trustees, the University community and authorities. They exhibited a striking lack of empathy for Sandusky’s victims by failing to inquire as to their safety and well‐being, especially by not attempting to determine the identity of the child who Sandusky assaulted in the Lasch Building in 2001. Further, they exposed this child to additional harm by alerting Sandusky, who was the only one who knew the child’s identity, of what McQueary saw in the shower on the night of February 9, 2001.
All four men were aware of the 1998 criminal investigation of Jerry Sandusky’s potentially inappropriate activity with Victim 6 in the Penn State showers. Paterno was aware of the investigation, “followed it closely” and took no action. Schultz wrote in his notes: “Pandora’s Box” and “More Children?.” No one spoke to Sandusky about the incident. Sandusky was permitted to retire in 1999 with “free lifetime use of East Area Locker Room facilities.”
Following the 2001 incident, Spanier, Schultz and Curley formed a plan of action. They would inform Second Mile, report the incident to the Dept. of Welfare and tell Sandusky to stop bringing children in the building. After a conversation with Paterno, it was determined they would “play it by ear” about informing the Dept. of Welfare. Sandusky was asked not to bring his “guests” to Penn State facilities. According to Freeh, the four men a decision to “actively conceal” this information and “feared the consequences of bad publicity.”
This was a callous failure by the four individuals involved, enabled by an oversight failure and a flawed, football-centric culture. The men are or will be facing criminal charges. Penn State University likely will be facing a massive civil suit.
More complicated is the issue of NCAA sanctions. This may give the NCAA a window to investigate. We would question the wisdom of doing so. The NCAA regulates sports rules. This does not fall directly within its purview. It goes well beyond even the worst scandal the NCAA has addressed. The only option, should the NCAA choose to become involved is the death penalty. It is unclear what that accomplishes, besides sating a thirst for vengeance.
Penn State must seriously reevaluate its football culture, but that should be a task left to Penn State. Sandusky’s crime was egregious, but, sadly, the culture that permitted the coverup is anything but abnormal in major college football.
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