Monday, November 7, 2011

Happy Valley’s dark, ugly secret

image Jerry Sandusky, former Penn State Nittany Lions assistant coach was indicted last week on felony sex abuse charges against minors. Sandusky will faces 40 counts of involuntary deviant sexual intercourse of someone under 16, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault of someone under 16, indecent assault of someone under 13, and corruption of minors. The incidents were alleged to have taken place from 1996 through 2005 and the was handed down after a two-year long grand jury investigation.

Read the grand jury report for yourself, but be prepared to vomit. It is disgusting.

Also indicted were Penn Athletic Director Tim Curley and PSU Vice President Gary Schultz, who will be charged with felony perjury in their grand jury testimony in the case and failure to report to law enforcement what they knew about Sandusky's behavior.

As with all criminal cases, the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But if true, this scandal would represent a dark and ugly secret, kept quiet by people who had a responsibility to stop and report the abuse. There is a special place in hell for people who hurt children and Mr. Sandusky—if convicted—will spend the rest of his natural life in prison and then enter his eternity of perdition. Is there also a special place in hell for those who knew what was going on, and covered it up? What if one of those was a beloved icon of college football?

In a statement released Sunday, legendary football coach Joe Paterno said “we were all fooled” by someone who, according to the indictment, had engaged in unspeakable abuses of children for ten years. Can we seriously believe that an entire athletics administration had no idea that there may have been a pedophile on their staff? Can we accept the fact that by failing to report the alleged behavior and allowing Sandusky to remain employed by the university until he retired, Penn State not only covered up the scandal, but enabled Sandusky to continue the unimaginable crimes he is accused of?

This is not a college football scandal. This descends far deeper than improper benefits, illegal recruiting, point shaving or doping. This isn’t about a bunch of bowl and conference executives living large and gaming a system for money, power and prestige. This is a scandal in which the most defenseless of victims were alleged to have been horribly and irreparably harmed over and over again, and people with the knowledge and responsibility to stop the abuse failed them. It’s absolutely heartbreaking.

Curley and Schultz have both stepped down from their positions at the university. Coach Paterno—who testified before the grand jury—remains. Paterno says he was told of an incident by an assistant coach who witnessed Sandusky abusing one of his victims and, since Sandusky was retired at the time of the incident, reported it to the athletics department. Paterno’s son Scott—an attorney who helped his father draft his statement—says that’s all he could do. If that makes you squirm in discomfort, join the club. I shudder to think that a man of JoePa’s character and intellect would not conclude that Sandusky may have been engaging in a horrible pattern of abuse and do something about it. If he thought what he was told was credible, he had a moral obligation to do more than just pick up the phone and call Curley.

A week ago today, the college football world was toasting JoePa’s 409th career victory, making him the all-time winningest coach in history. But today, we’re wondering whether that legacy will now be forever tarnished. Instead of remembering him for all of the young people he helped through his decades as a college football coach, some will ask: “What did JoePa know, and when did he know it?”

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