Last week Maddie’s impending birthday gave me insomnia, so I watched a lot of the coverage of the Penn State Scandal (read that link for the basics if you’re unfamiliar). There isn’t one part of the story that isn’t horrifying. From the alleged rapes of at least eight minor boys to the massive cover-up that COUNTLESS people were involved in, it’s all despicable. But there’s one part of the story that has really gotten under my skin – the fact that many people have come to the defense of Joe Paterno.
These people say that Paterno didn’t deserve to be fired because he didn’t witness the molestation. They are also quick to point out his long tenure at Penn State, along with his win/loss record and national championships, as a sort of virtual get-out-of-jail-free card.
Longevity and a history of success do NOT make ANYONE above the law. And while I know that “technically” JoePa didn’t break any laws (which is nuts), so many moral laws were violated. Not only did he not call the police after learning about Jerry Sandusky’s suspected abuse, but he continued to interact with Sandusky who remained on campus with emeritus status. How could Paterno do that and live with himself? He gave little thought, it seems, to the concerns of the victims, or the possibility that Sandusky might abuse other children.
The rapes of little boys allegedly took place in the locker room of the football building. Did that not anger Paterno? If he was literally a professor at Penn State, this would be his classroom. And if a professor had covered up something so serious, that teacher would have been thrown out of the University so fast we’d all have felt the breeze. Why should Paterno be any different?
Paterno was the face of the program. The top. The Head Coach. The buck stops there. To whom much is given, much is expected, and the head coach of any sport at an institution of higher learning has been given a lot. We trust coaches to lead us, teach us, guide us. They should be held to the highest moral standards, not the minimum.
I’m not naive – a good football team can bring in more money than tuition. I went to a school with a massively successful football team. The pressure on Paterno to keep football profitable must have been insane. But you cannot care more about your football program than the well-being of children, no matter how much money is at stake. Money is never more important than children. Keeping a job and preserving a legacy is not more important than children.
I feel sick for the victims and their families. The parents of these boys thought their kids were safe. They trusted the coaches in charge of their kids’ well-being. They were betrayed. I played sports my whole life. Imagine if that was my coach. Imagine if that was your child’s coach. Imagine if that was your child.
It is beyond contempt.
Latina ESQ says:
Ditto to everything you said.
It makes me worry so much that some people think it is okay to protect the image and the team rather than protecting these most vulnerable, utterly defenseless children.
I 100% AGREE. I find it amazing that this opinion isn’t really even talked about. I give the college kudos for firing him right away, but can’t get over the response by fans of the team. Little kids! Being raped! He knew and looked the other way. Despicable. And you are right, it is all about money. So sad.
You can include the rioting by Penn State students in support of Paterno in the picture. I saw that and wondered “what is WRONG with people?” How do all those people see and/or know that kind of behavior is going on and not only do nothing but still interact with the man? How could they still look at him and not want to do something to stop him from hurting other kids? It’s so disheartening.
I agree completely. When I saw those kids vandalizing property because of their Paterno support I just kept thinking how naive they all are. I too am disappointed this is how his ‘legacy’ went down, but he made poor choices and now he has to live with them – just like anyone else. I often wonder what these people would have done if it was their own child being molested by Sandusky? I’m 100% positive they would have acted differently instead of this sad, pathetic, sweeping under the rug crap.
I don’t think the students rioting knew of the details, to them it was just an excuse to congregate, get drunk and party all night. Sad. They’ll look back on that with much regret when they have kids of their own. At least I hope they will.
Another reply to this thread, and I know it’s late but I was listening to the news and they were interviewing one of the student’s and he said “well it was kind of boring for a while and then some people flipped a van over” Give me a break boring ???? What does that even mean ? I had to turn off the radio so I could calm myself before work, only to walk into work and hear a discussion about Penn State
I wonder if some of the fools that rallied to JoePa’s defense regretted that after the story continued to unfold. Even if JoePa didn’t witness the behavior himself, what did he think was happening when the team traveled to bowl games and Sandusky brought under age boy companions instead of his family? They knew he was a pedophile and they facilitated it with institutionalized coverups. It makes my blood boil.
JoePa could have been a hero if he had nailed Sandusky. Instrad, he is a cowardly zero. May they all be haunted by thoughts of further victims, which we know are out there due to Sandusky’s abuse and their coverup.
Amen, Heather. Amen to every last bit of it. And, Jenny, I thought the same as you. Joe Paterno could have been a hero- and a fantastic example and inspiration to other people with his kind of power- if he had done the right thing years ago and seen to it that Sandusky was immediately turned over to the police. This whole thing is sickening.
I agree…it’s TERRIBLE!!! My old high school English teacher is now in jail for a SECOND time for abusing boys….the kids he taught AND coached. As hard as it was to believe he would do such a thing, when all was said and done, it was my peers I simply could not NOT believe. I can’t believe all of the 1st abuses happened when I was in gr. 11 & 12 and although it definitely affected my guy friend, my girl friends and I had no idea!
You are so right Heather….No child or teenager deserves to be harmed by an adult….I don’t care what the hell their role is.
Thank you, Heather. You have best explained why we should be outraged with the Penn State football staff
Rachel C. says:
I totally agree. I also went to a school where the football program is EVERYTHING, but there is no excuse for this.
I am from Pittsburgh so if you think the media attention this gets on a national level is huge…well lets just say this is the ONLY thing you see in the newspapers and on the news here and even on the radio…its the ONLY topic of conversation for the past week. Its a shame people put Paterno on such a pedastool…and I agree with everything you wrote! There are so many rumors swirling here of more kids that were abused coming forward and even people talking that Jerry Sandusky’s charity was a front for rich men who wanted to be around little boys…this is by far the craziest story I have ever followed and it gets more intense every day!
Susan Matthews says:
Well written. You should submit this essay to the editorial dept of a bunch of newspapers.
“To whom much is given, much is expected”…..I COULDN’T agree more.
And to the Penn State rioters…may I suggest a philosophy or ethics course next semester.
I completely agree with you. We are big Penn State fans, but we find the whole thing disgusting. I can’t believe people are coming to his defense. And the rioting? Foolish. It is a shame that after all those years of coaching that he has to go out on this note. But I am so glad he was fired because he acted foolishly in this whole thing and he didn’t deserve to finish the season.
Barbi Emel says:
You’re right Heather. I’m an employee at Penn State and it’s a disgrace. I hear this is just the tip of the iceberg. Sad part is I work for projects that are wonderful for our community and nation but this just tarnishes everything. Sandusky is a piece of shit and hope he rots in jail. People treat Paterno like he’s God, and he’s not, he definitely should of done more & McQueary, I would of wrapped a towel around that young man, walked him out and called 911. Pathetic! Ah, there was my vent for the day. Last week was a sad one at PSU, but it’s time for the media to go home.
Yes, but I first would have kicked McQueary where it counts and THEN wrapped a towel around the kid and called 911.
Heather – I totally agree! Someone said to me, “he followed the proper channels”. My response, “if it was your child, would you have wanted him to call the police”? I know he did not want to get involved but his position MADE him involved! It is a horrible situation all around.
I completely agree! The more I hear about this story, the more it disgusts me. On the Daily Show the other night I saw some of the protestors/rioters who had gathered after Paterno was fired. For some reason I had been thinking they were there to support the victims and protest the administrations lack of action against Sandusky. I had no idea they were rioting in support of Paterno. Made me sick!
This was not a traffic violation that they covered up!! And the thing that makes me sickest is that BY covering it up, they ALLOWED the abuse of more and more children. How could they live with themselves knowing that?!? Child molesters don’t just abuse one kid and stop. No, it goes on and on and on until it is discovered and stopped. And it WAS discovered. Apparently by a lot of people. But it wasn’t stopped. Sickening.
Also, did you know that the prosecutor who was going to nail this guy back in 1998 up and DISAPPEARED, never to be seen or heard from again?! They found his car and his computer near a lake, but never found his body. There is sooo much more sickness to this story than we have even heard.
this, this exactly!!! there is some tension in my family….my brother-in-law is a penn state alum and proud of it, and has proclaimed his love and support of ‘joepa’ …and my husband (his brother) and i are like ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?? (the dude is 27 and should know better!!) it is deplorable and horrifying and sickens me. he (paterno) failed. i don’t care about his record or all the good that he did. he “didn’t know” or whatever b.s. his ‘defenders’ jump up and down to say? COME.ON. this is the man who knows whether one of his players skipped class. he “didn’t know” what sandusky was up to, and continued to work with and interact with him after that 2002 incident? he CHOSE to do NOTHING. and other boys were harmed as a result. unconscionable. i don’t care one bit about paterno’s awesomeness as a coach or his charity work or anything. none of it matters. he failed as a decent human being with morals and character when he chose to look the other way, period. he is utterly indefensible.
It’s interesting to me because in our lower schools, teachers are mandated to report if anything that smells remotely abusive is going on in a child’s life – at home, at school, in really any context – and can be fired if they fail to do so. Can you imagine if it was a high school coach? People would be calling for his head for covering this up. But at our universities, people are suddenly comfortable with the silence.
It’s really uncomfortable for me, that dichotomy.
I’ve been trying to stay away from the scandal because – yeah. I used to teach. And it’s sick to me that someone in that position of authority (granted, a coach) sort of – put his fingers in his ears. To me, that’s just messed up.
What I want to know is why the GSA, asst coach, who witnessed the incident did not beat the shit out of Sandusky and save that little boy? Instead, he went home to his Dad and told him???? Hello? What about that kid you left behind that you should have protected! That make my stomach turn and why is he still with the team? I absolutely hate that they were all more concerned about the reputation of the program and their own uncomfortable reactions than they were about the welfare of vulnerable children. Makes me so angry. I hope they all go to “go away island” and stay there, and I hope Sandusky gets life and rots in jail. I won’t even think of Joe Paterno in anything but a negative way, what a colossal bum.
I don’t agree with what Joe Paterno did, but as Colleen said, the one I really have a problem with is the GSA. He just walked off and left the kid there with Sandusky and called his dad and not the police!
I couldn’t agree with your more. The whole thing is so sad.
Amen! Since this news broke, it’s nearly all I can think about. And any defense of any of the men sends me into a rage. If I could have jumped through the tv screen and slapped the face of Paterno’s whiny son crying about how daddy ought to be here at the game, I soooo would have. I don’t care at all about how most of the men involved did what they were legally required to do. They didn’t do what they were morally required to do. I heard a valid point made a few days ago about the whole situation: Of course, Sandusky is the monster here, BUT if all of the allegations are in fact true, is he not SICK? What’s the excuse of all the others?
Every one of them deserve the hell I hope they’re now living. And I hope they get to live it for a very long time.
Thank you. I keep thinking, what if this was one of my sports’ heroes (since I honestly care nothing for football or Penn State), would I be inclined to come to his defense?
NO. I would be MORE outraged at him, for proving so false to the image he’d portrayed all these years.
The instant we place anything involving sports above the protection of the innocent – OUR CHILDREN ESPECIALLY – we, as a society, have become despicable. The instant we place anything at all above protecting the innocent, but especially sports! College football, of all things!
We’ve discussed this in depth. You know where I stand. I 100% agree with everything here.
The entire situation is heartbreaking!!
I’m from Pittsburgh. I have read the grand jury presentment and almost every article I could lay eyes on. I am horrified. I am horrified by every aspect of this. How could you work with a man knowing what he was doing? How could you WITNESS him raping a little boy and walk away and go talk to Daddy about whether you should tell anyone? How could you tell Sandusky to just not bring boys onto campus any more? Unfortunately, in Pittsburgh, people are vehemently behind what they feel happened to Joe Paterno. I think he was right to be fired. I’m so SICK of this town putting football above everything. My husband was yelled at by a coworker for just mentioning the case. My husband made no claim as to what he felt should have happened to Paterno, and this guy went off. Saying no one understands what it’s like at Penn State and all this crap. I don’t care what it was like to go there, I care that those little boys were from troubled back grounds already and Sandusky took advantage of them. And no one had the big-boy balls to beat the crap out of Sandusky. It is really disgusting and vile. And I guarantee you if it was one of kids of these Joe Paterno supporters, they would be fuming that no one did more than what was “legally” required.
I couldn’t agree more. It’s disgusting. I don’t know how Paterno could sleep at night knowing that there was a real life monster under his roof and did nothing day after day, year after year.
Also, random observation, I found it interesting that the media refuses to use the word rape or rapist. I think the general public would have reacted differently if they knew how serious these offenses were (although any amount of sexual violation to a child is abhorrent).
This case aside, it’s really sad on many levels how football programs are put ahead of the actual students. In this case it’s TRAGIC how far ahead of actual people they put the program. If a program is doing well and winning who cares what else is going on is the attitude at far too many schools, basket ball as well. I live in a big college town, that’s the industry here, but when I drive through campus and see some of the academic buildings in desperate need of repair, and then drive past the football stadium that had a multi million dolla upgrade, we see what is important. What Paterno did is WRONG, everyone involved made so many tragic mistakes, but looking at college sports programs I’m not surprised it was allowed to happen.
Thank you Heather!! Well said. A voice of reason in all this insanity.
TOTALLY agree w/ you Heather……. just so sad and disgusting.
AMEN!!!!!!!!!! Those people involved (Esp the sad excuse of a man that witnessed it and walked away -the intern guy) should have their genitals ripped off their bodies.
Paterno is going to be arrested, it’s a matter of time before he does. He broke MANY laws, not reporting a crime to police, IS a crime, commiting conspiracy IS a crime. He knows that he’s going to be arrested, hence why he’s hired a defense attorney, the same attorney that repped George H.W. Bush during the Iran Contra Scandal. So don’t think that he won’t get him, he will get his, as well as McCleary, they’re all going down. AND that case needs to be moved out of State College, move it to Philly, or Pittsburgh, or even better yet, Boston, NYC, DC, just get it moved out so that there is a FAIR trial for BOTH parties AND this way not one judge will be swayed or associated with the program! The biggest joke is that Sandusky is out on BAIL! Don’t even get me started on this whole thing! I can go on and on and on about it.
I don’t think Paterno will get arrested. I bet that he and McQueary both have an immunity deal in exchange for their testimony before the grand jury. Just a hunch…
As the wife of a D1 head coach I look at things a little bit differently. There are a lot of things that go on in athletic departments that are beyond a coach’s control. Paterno did go to his superiors AND was told campus police were investigating. The cover up happened above him.
You also have to realize that coaches form very close personal relationships with the other coaches in a program. The ring bearer and flower girl in our wedding were the children of two other coaches that my husband used to work with. These people become your close friends, so I can imagine Paterno wanting to believe it was all some big mistake. Would you ever believe a friend of yours to be capable of something so disgusting? I know I wouldn’t.
In hindsight its easy to say Paterno should have done more. He’s even admitted it himself. It is unfair for him to take the blame for mistakes and corruption in the administration above him. I’ve seen plenty of crooked athletic directors since becoming involved with college sports 10 years ago. I would hate for my husband to be dragged down by them.
I do agree that using his history / legacy at Penn State to justify not firing him is a terrible argument. One has nothing to do with the other.
While the corruption may have gone on above him, I disagree that it’s unfair to blame Paterno, because at Penn State there is no one above him. A decade ago university officials went to his house to ask him to resign, he refused and threw them out. How many other head coaches could get away with that and STILL have a job?
As for him wanting to believe it was all a mistake & that there’s no way his friend could possibly do that — the 2002 incident was AFTER the 1998 incident (again something that happened in his locker room, so he had to know what went down). By that point he couldn’t just dismiss Sandusky’s actions or wish it away. Even IF he thought the campus police were told about it, he still interacted with Sandusky and allowed him to be associated with HIS program after the fact.
I’m sorry, I must strongly disagree with your coverup statement. Let’s break it down to the most basic element:
He witnessed a grown man raping a boy in the shower.
What should he have done? CALL THE POLICE.
He should NOT have gone to his superiors- he should have done the right thing and called 911. He is absolutely a part of the coverup. It is even more sickening to think of this silence as this continued on with other children. No job, no matter it’s pay or prestige, is worth robbing children of their safety, mental health, and their future. My heart is aching for their families.
Heather- I’m glad you wrote this. I agree completely with what you said.
Paterno did not witness the rape in the locker room – the grad student did.
1. Paterno, as an educator, had a legal responsibility to report the crime. Esp one of child rape/abuse.
2. After the 1998 incident was swept away, Sandusky was told in 1999 that he was no longer next in line for the head coach job as Paterno’s replacement (this is in the Grand Jury testimony).
You’re going to tell me that back in 1999 when they decided that Sandusky could no longer take over as the head coach when Paterno retired, Paterno didn’t know what was going on? You’re going to tel me that anyone other than Paternoa made that call? He knew. Don’t you think that if Paterno can tell the university that he’s not going to retire, that he’s also going to select the next heir apparent himself?
THEY ALL KNEW.
That’s why they knew that Sandusky could never be the head coach.
Also – Paterno = Penn State. He is not just the head coach of the football team, but the face of that institution. If he had said “go to the police” it would have been done. The people above him did what they did based on Paterno’s own inaction/lack of response to the whole situation.
Also – did anyone see the Sandusky interview? I did not, but heard the part where Bob Costas asked if he was sexually attracted to little boys. Can anyone say NAMBLA? This guy is sick. Also, his attorney? Is in his 50’s and got a 17 year old girl pregnant. Birds of a feather…
I would agree with a lot of that. Additionally, I don’t think many people who are commenting about this story can really know for certain how much Paterno did – and did not – know. Certainly if he had knowledge or proof of wrongdoing that he did not report or ignored, he should be accountable for that. But knowing Paterno – and his family – I am definitely not convinced that he’s the villain most are painting him to be.
I could NOT agree more, Heather. It angers me, too. “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke) comes to mind here. Not that I consider JoePa a “good man” right now. As far as I am concerned, he is one of the worst offenders in the whole thing, because if he had spoken, SOMEONE would have listened.
And thank you for pointing out the disparity between what is expected of athletic staff vs teachers. You are absolutely right, and as an educator, I am grateful that there are people intelligent enough to note the irony.
Thank you for this.
Nancy Smego says:
That was so well said Heather that I think you should have Andy Rooney’s old spot on the end of 60 minutes to read it. Seriously. VERY WELL SAID AND I COULDN’T AGREE MORE.
These abusers and the people who continue to help them cover up their crimes or fail to act to put a stop to it – they seem to have come to some sort of conclusion that these children they are harming are somehow . . . disposable, they don’t count – there’s always more where they came from, they’re young, they’ll forget or get over it, etc., etc. We are talking about a MAN. RAPING. CHILDREN. How could Paterno or ANYONE who KNEW about it turn a blind eye to such a heinous thing?
I agree completely. It blows my mind that when it comes to Football, people are willing to let anything slide. Even harming little kids. It’s sick.
I was under the assumption he would be a mandatory reporter. That still confuses me. And it’s completely disgusting how much support has rallied around him. By protecting an abuser, he’s no better than the abuser.
Preach it, Heather! I so agree.
We lost Tressel to TattooGate, which was so minor compared to the reasons JoePa was fired. And yes, he should have been fired, and so should everyone else who lost their jobs, because they caused countless children to be harmed forever. I just don’t get how McQuerry didn’t insist on contacting the police…I get he called his Dad for advice, but both of them should have come to the conclusion to call the cops right then. Hell with Penn State and reporting it to the Athletic Director. If Sandusky wasn’t arrested within days of reporting it to JoePa and the AD, he should have called the cops himself.
So many people turned a blind eye to what was going on, in an effort to support a football team and a University. It’s a sad statement of what the money machine can do.
Shannon O says:
The only thing I wonder about is the fact that most of us are naive. Paterno didn’t witness the event, and he reported it to the school, so maybe he came to believe that it was just a lie. Often we don’t want to admit that someone we know could do something so horrific. I think he deserved to be fired, and I’m not trying to defend him, but I wonder if he really knew that these things were true. Often those at the top are lied about, so maybe he just trusted Sandusky and wanted to believe the person who reported the incident was lying. The whole thing is deplorable though, and my heart goes out to the young victims.
I am Canadian so our coverage of this has been much less than yours, I am suspecting . But I did catch an interview yesterday that talked about WHY people are backing him up, and its because he is regarded as an almost Cult like figure.
BUT that before this happened if you had asked anyone if they would back a Football team and its standings over a scandal like this, they would have absolutely said they would NOT… yet when it happened look how many did.
It also questioned why Saturdays game went ahead and whether the next games should go ahead. It said that Penn State Football brings in $50 million every year, (I hope that the # is accurate and I am not quoting false info) so they can’t afford for it to not go ahead.
I find the whole thing repulsive and shocking. I agree, while no he did break any “laws” persay, does he not have any morals???
i’ve been discussing this with people, but have been unable to say it just “so”….you’ve managed to do just that!
when i first heard the story i likened it to the catholic church and it’s continued pedophilia coverups. then jon stewart did a story on the same thing. not sure if you saw it, but it was fantastic and spot on!
What I can’t understand now, is how does Rock Center get off giving Bob Costas a mic and Sandusky a chance to PROCLAIM HIS INNOCENCE?!?!?
WTF dude. You were SEEN!!! RAPING!!! A!!!! BABY!!!!
Ridiculous. He shouldn’t be allowed the chance to speak for himself. I want to vomit. And people who claim to believe him are total effing idiots. End of story.
I agree with you 100%. The coverage has made me sick to my stomach. The people justifying what Paterno did not do and the fact that the board did nothing to McQuery, who was a 28 year old man who could have decked Sandusky and called the police right away bothers me more than anything. It’s all so heinous and I feel horrible for the boys involved and applaud the bravery to finally come forward. Living with the secret of abuse is so hard and those boys who are now men, should not be marred by the media as to Why now after all these years? Confronting abuse is such a hard thing and I admire them all for having the courage.
tracie d says:
i’m from PA and can’t even look at facebook bc so many of my friends and family have jopa as their profile picture. please keep blogging about it. everyone needs to think a lot about this and get sick over this and stay tuned. bc it’s happening everywhere and the only reason PSU responded this way was bc of their image- not bc of the children. i now live in charleston, SC where a similar scandal is unfolding about a christian prep school coach/ principal- who also got caught doing stuff years ago at the Citadel. ignored. google ReVille- this shit is everywhere.
I agree with you! I am a huge college football fan (went to Michigan), and if this happened at Michigan I can’t even imagine the disgust I would feel. Of course it’s shocking and sad that after all these years (and wins), this will be Joe Paterno’s legacy. But there it is. I also think, of course, that even if he had no responsibility for the problem, he would have been fired anyway in an effort to protect Penn State and the program. But I don’t find him to be the fall guy here. I read the above comment by the wife of a coach, and while I hear where she’s coming from, I think she’s still missing the main point. Yes, the program becomes like a family. No one wants to believe such a thing. And speaking out will have devastating repercussions. I can understand all of that, and I would have felt sympathy for Paterno and his staff if they had done the right thing. But no matter how hard it is to stand up when we see something terrible happening, we have to do it. And you got it exactly right, Heather, “to whom much is given much is expected.” Or, from Spiderman, “Great power comes with great responsibility.” No one’s legacy is more important that children being raped.
When I read stuff like this I always take that as an opportunity to speak with my children about how it’s not okay for anyone to touch them or for anyone to ask the kids to touch anyone else or even themselves. I start with myself. I say something like, “It’s not okay for mommy to touch you or for you to touch mommy.” Then I go on and list every person in the whole family along with friends parents, people at school, etc. . . .And I leave it at just ‘touch’ because sometimes it’s not always ‘private parts’ that are touched in a harmful manner.
I tell my kids that they don’t ever have to hug anyone they don’t want to, they don’t have to shake hands, or give high fives. Their body is nobody’s business but their own.
I could go on……but I don’t want to completely hijack comments.
very well said
To whom much is given, much is expected.
Very well said.
Agree, agree, agree agree. I do wonder, however, if he was doing something illegal, as working for a school he is actually a mandated reporter, and mandated reporters CAN get in trouble if they have not reported something that they know to be true!
I totally agree. I live in Ohio, and when Tressel was “fired” (or resigned) I was so disappointed in that man. What Paterno did is WAY worse…and people support him??? That is just GROSS. My husband turned on the Penn Sate game and I had to leave the room when I saw all of the signs, shirts, etc. in support of Paterno. It was just disgusting. Sports will be the downfall of our nation.
Bianca S says:
If he failed to call the police even after learning of the suspected abuse, can he not be arrested for that little thing called perverting the course of justice?!
I live in PA…very close to this and a LOT of people who are BIG PSU fans. I think being closer makes me more ill….the correct response to knowing about suspected child rape is not to report it to the next guy up and go home. The correct response is to tell the next guy, and the next guy, and the police and NOT STOP until someone does something. The whole thing is appalling. Listening to Sandusky talk to Bob Costas last night was infuriating. The SNL skit with the devil was perhaps the most spot-on response to this whole thing.
I agree 100% with everything that you said. There is one point that should be made and I apologize if someone else has already made it.
Joe Paterno wasn’t fired because he was the face of the team and he failed to report a crime. He was fired because he was the face of PENN STATE. For the past 40+ years, he was the moral compass of that school. He taught many young men values and what was important in life, and he was the idol of everyone who stepped onto campus.
There are pyschological studies that show that men will protect their “institution” over a victim of a crime. Joe Paterno should have been the one to rise over the institution. He should have been the one to step up. If no one else was going to, it should have been him. he wasn’t just another D1 football coach. He WAS Penn State.
Unbelievable. I am disgusted that college football is more important than the welfare of children.
You see a rape of a child in progress? You STOP it right there!
What catches my attention as well is that this repeatedly took place in the showers – a public place – and Sandusky was interrupted multiple times. Clearly he felt he was above the law and that no one would run to the authorities.
I am completely sick over this BS.
I just had this conversation with my mom over the weekend. She and my dad feel “sorry” for Joe and felt the graduate student who witnessed the attack should have done more. I was horrified by their logic. “What if it had been one of the boys(my two sons…their grandsons)? Wouldn’t you have wanted everyone to do what they had to do make sure it was handled?”
There wasn’t much of an answer to that.
What upsets me is how this isn’t the only cover-up. Why isn’t the Catholic Church in trouble? This happens all of the time. People hush the terrible stuff in order to not bring shame to a company/group of people. The real shame, I think, is the silence…
I COMPLETELY agree with you. I live in PA (2 hours away from PSU), unfortunately me, you and only some people feel the same way. It amazes me that the students are outside of his home and throughout campus saying that he shouldn’t have be fired. Everyone is so concerned about Joe Pa getting fired that they are forgetting who the real victims are in this horrible situation!
Amen! Well said! Couldn’t agree more!
Heather, I’m so glad you wrote about this. I have been brought to tears repeatedly after hearing and reading the awful details of this case. When I go to bed at night it replays in my mind. My heart aches for those children and I would give anything to restore their innocence and protect them from abuse of any kind.
I have heard the argument in defense of Paterno that he did not know the extent of the abuse, but that does not work for me. I don’t care if someone was “inappropriately horsing around” with a kid or raping him. I would be all over that situation in defense of those children from day one. That is our job as adults, to protect those who cannot protect themselves. End of story.
Every last person who turned their backs on those boys must face a clear and swift consequence for their actions, or lack thereof. I am sickened by this situation and if frightens me to think we live in a world where this has happened.
I think its disgusting that people will put football over the sake of those boys. I think the people who are standing behind Joe Paterno are disgusting. How can you support someone who covered up such a heinous crime? What I think is that Joe Paterno KNEW about the perverts little problem and he chose to look away. I think when he was brought up with what the graduate student saw he just thought “damn it, again” and told the pedophile to keep it out of school grounds. Never doing more than needed. Also, the police department. WHY if people had come to them already were they just sitting on their asses? Is football really that much more important than the safety of those boys? I can not even begin to image how someone who knows that a 10 year old boy was raped by their colleague just ….. does nothing. Disgusting. But I do think Joe knew about it since before the graduate student said anything.
As a Penn State graduate, I completely AGREE with you. But I am sad to say that I am in the minority when it comes to this issue. It is such a shame that so many people have lost sight of what’s important: not a football coach or a football team but the many young lives that may have been destroyed, not just by one person’s disgusting actions, but by the indifference of many who knew what was going on.
I am embarrassed to see my fellow Penn Staters and Penn State alumni behaving the way they have, rioting over the firing of the football coach instead of over the fact that there are many people hurting because of the actions of Sandusky and the inaction of his colleagues.
I totally agree you. This article in the NY Times is interesting though. We just all never really know what we would do until we are faced with it…
You put all of what I’ve felt into words. It just makes me SO beyond sick and disgusted…I practically break into sobs just thinking about those little boys.
My favorite line:
And if a professor had covered up something so serious, that teacher would have been thrown out of the University so fast we’d all have felt the breeze.
Great blog. Thank you.
Emily (NY) says:
I hear what you’re saying, Heather. And I think that what Paterno did — or, more importantly, didn’t do — is sad and awful. I also agree that the wild, blind calls of “He’s a hero! He’s above reproach!” are misguided and naive, to say the least. But, on your other points, I — respectfully, but strongly — disagree.
Obviously, Joe Paterno made a huge, terrible mistake in not taking the information to the police. And, given the media frenzy that ensued (as well as an attempt on the part of Penn State to try to ‘prove’ it was doing something proactive), I also understand why he was fired.
But he has become a scapegoat simply because he is the most easily recognized name. Yes, he clearly had a god-like status, not just at Penn State but in general within the realm of college football and its fans. But I don’t think that he himself *asked* to be given that status, nor did he come about it through nefarious means. In all the years I’ve heard about Joe Paterno, it’s never been because he’s done anything inappropriate or wrong — it’s always been because he’s been a stand-up guy, an amazing coach, someone who gives his time (and his money) to many ‘good’ causes beyond the football field. In short, he earned his god-like status simply because he was a truly good man who did truly good things.
But that hardly makes him perfect, nor does it render him incapable of making mistakes, god or not. I’m not trying to absolve him of responsibility (see above: “he made a huge, terrible mistake” ;o) ), but I truly don’t think he was trying to cover up what he saw in order to save his team’s image. I think, as the author states, he did – sadly – what many of us would do in the same situation: become so horrified and overwhelmed, he didn’t know WHAT to do, so he did the minimum and then tried to forget what he knew, because the knowledge was just too horrible to truly take it all in.
At the very least, what Joe P did was no *more* wrong than anyone else who shared the same knowledge, and perhaps even less wrong than some. Aren’t educators mandatory reporters? How did his higher-ups not take it to the police, as required by law? Why did those who actually witnessed the abuse not take it to the police? Yes, Paterno had knowledge… but he didn’t see it for himself (so far as we know). Again, it was wrong of him to not contact the police. But there are many others who shared the exact same responsibilities, and therefore who are just as wrong… yet they’re not being vilified by the media and everyone and their mother. And so, while still wishing he’d done more, while still believing what he did was wrong… I feel sorry for Joe Paterno for that.
I also agree that the vitriol obscures the real issues here. Yes, of course, the central issue is that of Sandusky (and whoever else was directly involved) and those boys, and my heart absolutely breaks for them. But… as I read the stories of abuse… I literally find myself becoming nauseated and closing my eyes, because it’s simply too awful to ‘see,’ even in my mind’s eye. I find myself wanting some distance, because it’s just so disgusting and horrific.
Which makes me wonder – how WOULD I have responded in the same situation? Of course, I WANT to believe, like the author, that I would have run in and saved those boys and that, if I myself didn’t beat Sandusky’s ass, I would’ve immediately contacted the authorities. But… if this abuser was someone I admired? Someone who held a position of authority and power where I worked? Someone who was viewed – by my colleagues, friends, family — as a trustworthy human being, as surely Sandusky was by those who saw him abusing those boys? Would I then have immediately stepped in and taken matters to the police?
I sure as hell hope so.
But… realistically… I just don’t know.
And I don’t know if any of us truly knows unless we’re in that situation. So many people literally drive by when we see another person being hurt… We watch muggings occur right in front of us and don’t assist stranded motorists who obviously need our help.
Are any of us really so different, at our core, than Joe Paterno and everyone else who didn’t take matters to the authorities? Maybe it’s the knowledge – somewhere deep in our subconscious – that, in fact, we just might behave the same way, that’s so truly terrifying to us… which makes Joe Paterno an easy target for our own fears and misgivings.
So that’s what I think the other real issue is in this story… that there’s a huge gap in our collective moral psyche that needs to be repaired. As Sandusky is punished (as strongly and horribly as it’s possible to punish someone, I hope) and those boys begin to find healing, it’s the one that I hope we all carry with us from this point forward: what WOULD we do? What SHOULD we do? And, from now on, how can we make sure we do it?
All of us like to think of universities as sacred sources and generators of wisdom seeking to impart knowledge through a collegial exchange with our our best and brightest. But as anyone who’s ever paid for a college education will tell you..they are first and foremost… a business. Tuition and taxpayer support do not come close to covering the cost of running institutions of higher learning. That’s the educational truth from our most prestigious universities down to the smallest community college. University administrators are not hired because they know how to create a schedule of classes. The are hired and compensated on their ability to attract funds. They attract funds through alumni fundraisers, apparel logos, out of state tuition’s, corporate sponsors, television rights and successful football and basketball programs etc. As such they count on the university “brand” as their most important fund raising tool. The 2002 flagrant incident with Sandusky and the child in the shower wasn’t an isolated incident. It was a recurring nightmare played out over many years with multiple child victims. The university was aware of this unfolding tragedy many years earlier when they tried to dissuade the police from going to the district attorney with child molestation charges against Sandusky. It is unimaginable and certainly would have been unconscionable on their part for the university not to have notified “god”, Joe Paterno, that his right hand coach was being accused of child molestation. It begs the question…why would the university, through it’s administrators and athletic department, suppress these insidious acts? As always…follow the money. The university and Paterno knew this sort of scandal would hurt the university’s brand and therefore severely limit their ability to raise funds and Paterno’s ability to recruit. At a time when they were most innocent, Penn State University chose money over children. Did Joe Paterno witness these horrible crimes..no. Is Joe Paterno an unindicted co-conspirator..most certainly yes.
I thought about that too when this story first broke…I felt some sympathy for Joe P….but now that ALL of the allegations have come to light…some as far back as 1998..well, that changes EVERYTHING. If he KNEW things were happening, the least he could of done is fired Sandusky. But, he chose to look the other way and it continued to happen. Joe P. is VERY guilty.
” Aren’t educators mandatory reporters? How did his higher-ups not take it to the police, as required by law? Why did those who actually witnessed the abuse not take it to the police? Yes, Paterno had knowledge… ”
You state that Paterno is a mandated reporter since he works at an educational facility. Do you honestly think that his “reporting” responsibilities ended when he told his “higher-ups” about the abuse? How can you honestly believe that he did his moral duty just by passing the buck? He had a responsibility, not only as an educator, but as a HUMAN BEING, to report this abuse to the police.
People need to stop trying to find loop-holes for Paterno in this situation. He is guilty–at the very least of intentionally sweeping this horrifying event under the rug and ultimately allowing it to continue.
And I am dismayed that you would even question turning in someone you admired if you knew they were raping a child. Shame on you.
Catherine Scherer says:
I totally agree. If this turns out to be true – Joe Pa is totally culpable. I fear we will find there were atrocities committed by MANY around this subject at PSU. So disgusting. I have first hand knowledge of what child molestation does to the victim. Oftentimes it RUINS your life in every way imaginable. You lose the ability to trust, you question your own sexuality and a normal adult intimate relationship becomes practically impossible. And most victims never report it and/or never get the help they need to recover.
Well said Heather! The bottom line is that Pennsylvania has a mandatory reporting law for educators. They ALL were required to report this to police and NOT ONE of them did. Every person in the chain broke the law. You don’t get a pass because you “think” it was reported, you are required to be sure. The entire case is sickening.
I’m also a Penn State grad and while I agree with you for the most part, at this point I really just wish people would stop, step back for a moment and take a breath. The fact is: the whole story is not out there yet. I am in no way making light of what happened to those boys and I am appalled at the inaction of those coaches/administrators/officials who knew or witnessed anything. After reading the indictment and hearing Sandusky speak on Monday, I have no doubt that he is guilty and deserves the worst punishment possible. However. We don’t know all the facts yet. We don’t know in its entirety what Paterno, McQueary, Spanier, etc. said in their testimonies or what actions they took. We *think* we know, we speculate, we see the excerpts that appeared in the grand jury’s indictment but we don’t know. And yet, everyone has an opinion.
As for the students who rioted, I’m not as hard on them. Drunk college kids do stupid things en masse, and I don’t think they recognized at the time how their actions would be interpreted. Two thousand rioting idiots do not represent the other 42,000 students at University Park or the millions of alumni.
This is such a heated issue — as it should be — but I really just wish the “I would have done this, they should have done that, it’s a big coverup” diatribes would cease until all the facts are public knowledge. I am both anxious and terrified to see how things unfold over the coming weeks/months…this has shaken me, and most Penn Staters, to the core.
You’re right. Everyone should rely on the facts. Here is the link to the actual Grand Jury report http://www.huntingtonnews.net/sites/default/files/n64/sandusky_grand_jury_presentment.pdf
As a fellow Penn Stater I want to thank you for this comment. As Penn Staters, we grieve. Full on, ugly cry, grieve. First and foremost for the victims. Dear god, what that man did to these kids….its beyond words. He should be tortured extensively. I have read the GJR in its entirety and it took me a few days to get through it. But I took it in because I knew I needed to be fully informed. No one disputes the monstrousness of what is in that report. But the fact of the matter is this is the ONLY definitive information that is available. Everything else is twisted media speculation and interpretations of what “likely” happened or “should have” happened. If u pay attention to the verbage used in the countless articles that have been written on the subject, it is all conjecture. What everyone fails to realize is that this story broke earlier this year, in March or April. But it didn’t catch the attention of the media, bc the story was “just” about jerry sandusky sexually abusing boys. Then the gj investigations happened. It wasn’t until last week, with the arrests, and the gjr containing Joe paternos testimony, did anyone care. Then suddenly Joe paterno was made out to be the criminal. But we don’t know how much he knew. He said he wishes he did more. But if he didn’t know the extent of this, he wouldn’t know that more needed to be done. Is this a cover up? Hell yeah. Could it have been covered up above Joe? Hell yeah. Yes, Joe is the face of psu. But its not unfathomable that the full story may have been kept from him in order to continue on with the business as usual lucrative football program. And that is my inference. But, really, this is neither here nor there in this tragedy. Children’s lives have been ruined. And THAT is why there wasn’t a dry eye in Beaver Stadium last Saturday. And THAT is why as a family, Penn Staters have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for RAINN in the past week and a half. And THAT is why over 10,000 students held a candlelight vigil last Friday night. But none of that gets any media attention, bc it isn’t dramatic enough. It isn’t a “riot” (which was really about 1000 students walking around the town. Confused. Lost. Sad. And a ridiculous few who knocked over a van and broke a couple windows). We also grieve for what we have lost as a community. We love Penn state deeply and this kind of betrayal is painful. But our pain paales in comparison to what those kids are living every day of their lives. But our pain is much more than football and joepa. Sorry if this is scattered, rambling and paragraph-less. I’m typing from my phone.
You’re right. Everyone should rely on the facts. Here is the link to the actual Grand Jury report http://www.huntingtonnews.net/sites/default/files/n64/sandusky_grand_jury_presentment.pdf
Sister Sister says:
I completely agree with your whole post. I cannot believe anyone could be angry about his being fired. Why aren’t they angry and saying…”JOE..how could you have not done more?” How can people actually have been rioting over the his being fired and not that the whole staff of the freaking program basically covered it up? How could the assistant NOT have demanded that more be done and come public himelf?
There are so many things that are just incomprehensible to me in that whole situation…
If all these alligations turn out to be false …I still think a lot of wrong was done because why did eleven years go by before someone made sure everything was brought to light and thoroughly investigated.
I haven’t read all 80+ comments…but here’s what angers me: Mike McQuery! Seriously, how does he still have a job, how has he not been arrested?! He SAW it happening and DID NOT STOP IT. He claims he stopped the attack…but there are no records of that AND no police records. Is he “safe” because he’s a star witness or something? It’s ridiculous. Just think how many dozens of lives would be different if McQuery had been a man, thrown Sandusky to the ground off that poor little boy, called the police and had him arrested right then and there. He should be ashamed.