How Much Did Joe Paterno Know?
Tuesday, November 08, 2011
By now, we all know of the allegations toward former Penn State linebackers coach Jerry Sandusky and the completely reprehensible things he is accused of doing. University vice president for finance and business Gary Schultz has stepped down and athletic director Tim Curley has requested to be placed on administrative leave after being charged with covering up Sandusky’s alleged child sex-abuse.
Did Sandusky’s former boss – legendary Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno – cover it up too? As of now, authorities say that they have no intention of bringing charges against Paterno believing that he did nothing wrong.
I certainly hope that’s the case.
How anyone could do to children what Sandusky is alleged to have done is absolutely disgusting and disgraceful. But, so too is the idea that anyone who knew of it failed to report it to authorities or, even worse, covered it up.
According to the grand jury report, Paterno first learned of Sandusky’s alleged child sex-abuse back in 2002 when Sandusky was retired but still served as a volunteer assistant and had full access to the school’s facilities.
A graduate assistant allegedly told Paterno that he saw Sandusky in the locker room shower performing a sex act on a young boy he estimated to be 10 years old. That same report claims that Paterno informed his boss – AD Tim Curley the following day.
The graduate assistant was summoned to a meeting with Curley and Schultz that same day. While the grad assistant claims that he told both Curley and Schultz of the graphic details of the alleged sexual-abuse, Curley and Schultz told the grand jury that they had not been told of such allegations. They told the grand jury that they were under the impression that Sandusky’s actions amounted to “horsing around.”
If this was, indeed, the extent of Joe Paterno’s knowledge and involvement regarding these heinous allegations, then Jo Pa did the right thing. He reported the matter immediately to his boss.
But after seeing the grand jury report, there is some question as to when Paterno first learned of these types of allegations against Sandusky and exactly how much he actually knew.
According to prosecutors, in 1998, the mother of an 11-year old boy reported to campus police that her son had been inappropriately touched and held by Sandusky in the shower at the football facility. Prosecutors also say that a campus police investigation also revealed a second set of similar allegations from another child toward Sandusky.
Could this investigation of Sandusky – the person many people believed was the heir-apparent to Paterno as head coach – have taken place and been completed with no knowledge on the part of Paterno? It seems difficult to believe.
Looking back, it also seems to make more sense that there was virtually no fanfare surrounding Sandusky’s retirement in 1999. Maybe it was suggested that he step down given the circumstances surrounding some of the allegations against him.
What’s most disturbing when reading the report is the fact that many of the university’s employees knew of this heinous activity yet no one reported it to the proper authorities.
Paterno was the closest to doing the right thing in reporting what he had heard to his boss. Two janitors at Penn State’s Lasch Football Building also reportedly saw Sandusky performing sexual acts with young boys in the showers in 2000 and reported it to their boss but it was not reported to university officials or local law enforcement. And then there’s Curley and Schultz who were told by Paterno and the grad assistant and chose to do nothing about it.
In fact, even after that 2002 incident where Paterno, Curley and Schultz were made aware of the allegations, Sandusky was allowed on campus and held football camps at other Penn State campuses throughout the state.
Had just one of the people who either witnessed or learned of these allegations against Sandusky done the right thing and notified proper authorities, who knows how many young boys would have been spared such abuse?
Much like the sex-abuse scandals that rocked the Catholic Church over the past couple of decades, this appears to be a story of people more concerned with covering up heinous acts as opposed to putting an end to them and reaching out to help and heal the victims. And that’s a shame.
Here is Paterno's statement released by the university Monday:
If true, the nature and amount of charges made are very shocking to me and all Penn Staters. While I did what I was supposed to with the one charge brought to my attention, like anyone else involved I can't help but be deeply saddened these matters are alleged to have occurred.
Sue and I have devoted our lives to helping young people reach their potential. The fact that someone we thought we knew might have harmed young people to this extent is deeply troubling.
If this is true we were all fooled, along with scores of professionals trained in such things, and we grieve for the victims and their families. They are in our prayers.
As my grand jury testimony stated, I was informed in 2002 by an assistant coach that he had witnessed an incident in the shower of our locker room facility. It was obvious that the witness was distraught over what he saw, but he at no time related to me the very specific actions contained in the Grand Jury report.
Regardless, it was clear that the witness saw something inappropriate involving Mr. Sandusky. As Coach Sandusky was retired from our coaching staff at that time, I referred the matter to university administrators. I understand that people are upset and angry, but let's be fair and let the legal process unfold.
In the meantime I would ask all Penn Staters to continue to trust in what that name represents, continue to pursue their lives every day with high ideals and not let these events shake their beliefs nor who they are.