Wednesday, 25 January 2012

A great man’s legacy has been forever tarnished

There is no doubt in my mind that Joe Paterno was a great leader in sports. He did so many good things for some many people – including his own football players and many students in general. In 2011, Paterno's base pay was a little less than $600,000. Yet, he and his wife, Sue, reportedly gave the university $4 million. Penn State College named both a library and campus spirituality center after both of them. Those buildings will remain on campus but alas, the legendary former Penn State football will be remembered by many for the little he did when an alleged child sex-abuse scandal was going on under his watch.

And yes, while it was former Penn State College's defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky and not Paterno, who allegedly sexually abused boys—some abuses taking place even on the Penn State College campus, it was impossible not to blame Paterno for his wrongdoing as well when the details of his role in the matter came out this past November.

The incident that brought shame to Paterno which was presented to the grand jury shocked many, both the people in the city of State College, Pennsylvania and everywhere else. His penchant for extreme secrecy has left him with a sordid legacy.

In 2002, in the Penn State College football complex, assistant coach, Mike McQueary allegedly caught Sandusky in a shower, naked, with a young boy who was also naked in a position that seemed to McQueary as being sexual in nature. It wasn’t just the appearance of being sexual, it was sexual as it is alleged that Sandusky was anal raping the ten-year-old boy and this is what McQueary actually saw.

Although McQueary informed Paterno of what he had seen, Paterno didn’t bother to call the police or even asked Sandusky about the incident. Instead, Paterno simply told the school’s athletic director (Tim Curley) and washed his hands of it. That is somewhat the same as Pontius Pilate washing his hands after condemning Christ to the cross.

That lack of action was denounced by many and a week after the scandal became public, Paterno was fired by Penn State College’s board of trustees as coach after 46 years of service in the university because of the intense publicity by the media. It was six weeks before his contract was set to expire and the university didn’t allow Paterno a chance to win his 549th game, which would have been the most ever by a Division I coach in U.S. history.

And although Paterno's official cause of death was lung cancer, many believe it was brought about by a broken heart as well.

After so many years of doing good, doing what’s right, Paterno dropped the ball. Many believe he turned his head when he decided to overlook the welfare of those young boys in his football program. It was wrong of that there can be no doubt.

People soured on Paterno, affectionately known as Joe Pa. Many believe that once you hear of any unlawful behavior, especially with an adult and a child, you just jump in to stop any kind of abuse happening again. Unfortunately Paterno didn’t do that. The legacy of Paterno who didn’t do the right thing when it was needed is also damaged forever.

Paterno’s unfortunate death doesn’t put the scandal to rest. It has damaged Penn State College forever. You won’t be able to tell the Penn State College story and not mention what took place when Paterno was the coach of the football team there and Sandusky was one of his assistants.

When asked why he didn’t do more than he did, he replied, “…to be frank with you, I don’t know if it would have done any good because I never heard of rape and a man.” That is an odd statement. And worse yet, he also said, "I was afraid to do something that might jeopardize what the university procedure was."

I thinking he was trying to say that he never heard a statement from the assistant coach that the latter saw Sandusky anal raping the boy. But he did hear the assistant coach express his concern as to what might have been going on in the locker room with Sandusky and the boy. That information alone should have been sufficient enough to jump start Paterno into speaking directly with Sandusky as to what was going on between Sandusky and the boy. What he should have done was question McQueary further and obtain all the details of what McQueary actually saw.

Doing that certainly wouldn’t have jeopardized the university’s procedure because he was Sandusky’s immediate boss. What he did instead as he explains it, was to turn the matter over to the university’s officials whom he believed had more expertise in matters such as this one. It appears that their so-called expertise was seriously lacking in what goes with expertise—common sense.

Millions of people were outraged that a man of Paterno’s reputation for being a good man and also being a smart man did so little when he became apprised of the allegation of sexual misbehavior by Sandusky who was one of his assistants.

On November 4th, 2011, a grand jury which had been convened in September 2009, indicted Sandusky on 40 counts of sex crimes against young boys. The indictment came after a three-year investigation that explored allegations of Sandusky having inappropriate contact with a 15-year-old boy over the course of four years, beginning when the boy was ten or eleven years old. The boy's parents reported the incident to police in 2009. The jury identified eight boys that had been singled out for sexual advances or sexual assaults by Sandusky, taking place from 1994 through 2009. At least 20 of the incidents allegedly took place while Sandusky was still employed at Penn State College. If this is what really happened, then Sandusky is a serial child molester.

Penn State College's athletic director Tim Curley and senior vice president for finance and business Gary Schultz (who oversaw the Penn State police department) were charged with perjury and failure to report suspected child abuse by Sandusky. They were also fired from the college.

According to the indictment, in 2002, assistant coach Mike McQueary, then a Penn State graduate assistant, said he walked in on Sandusky anally raping a ten-year-old boy. The next day, McQueary reported the incident to Paterno, who informed Curley. Ultimately, it is alleged, the only actions Curley and Schultz took was to bar Sandusky from bringing children to the football building, take away his keys to the locker room, and report the incident to Second Mile. These actions were approved by school president Graham Spanier. The indictment accused Curley and Schultz not only of failing to tell the police, but also of falsely telling the grand jury that McQueary never informed them of the alleged sexual activity.

McQueary was fired and rightly so. How could he witness a boy being anal raped by an adult and do nothing to stop it?

The question that begs to be answered is, “Why didn’t Paterno report this matter to the police?” What he did do was report what he had been told by McQueary to the Penn State College's Atheletic Director and concluded at that time that he had done all he could have done.

Unfortunately, the police were not called and the reason is obvious. If the police had been told what McQueary claimed he saw, it would soon become public knowledge that an assistant coach at Penn State College was raping a ten-year-old boy on university property. Penn State College has been the subject of significant media criticism for allegations that several members of its staff, ranging from the University President down to a graduate assistant, had jointly covered up Sandusky's alleged assaults. It reminds me of the late President Nixon when he tried to cover up the Watergate break in. His attempt to cover up what had been going on brought about the end of his presidency.

What Paterno should have done was to press the college into firing Sandusky. But this he didn’t do. He washed his hands of the affair. That was a very big mistake on his part. His hands were still dirty when he died because of this most unfortunate incident in his lifetime.

I find it hard to believe that Paterno was so naïve that he had no idea that Sandusky was acting suspiciously. There were warning signs that he could have looked for that would have indicated to him that Sandusky had less than honest intentions with young boys. For one thing, showering naked when the boys were in Sandusky’s presence would have been a clue that something is not right with Sandusky’s conduct.

Preferential child molesters and pedophiles have distinct patterns of behavior that are highly predictable. As a parent, it would have been crucial that Paterno learn to identify certain patterns as warning signs, as they are an extremely valuable tool in assessing whether someone represents a risk to one’s children.

He would have learned that Sandusky showed an intense interest in young boys. Now when someone works with boys, there is nothing wrong with having an interest in the welfare of the boys you are caring for. But when that interest becomes intense, it should be of considerable concern to anyone who has the best interests of the boys in his or her mind. There is a balance between average or appropriate interest, and excessive interest. Sandusky had an excessive interest in young boys and it would appear that his interest was more of a sexual nature than simply the wellbeing of the boys.

A pedophile may refer to children as pure and innocent, and put them on a pedestal. They may think of children as projects, offering them extra help after school, for instance, or arranging meetings with the child for ostensibly good and honest reasons. They will likely invest a great deal of time and effort in one or several children, rather than offering equal attention to an entire group of kids. Some pedophiles have a belief that they are looking out for and have genuine love for children. There is no doubt in my mind that Sandusky fits that particular profile.

According to the testimony given at the grand jury, his interest was centered on at least eight boys whom it is alleged that he had some form of sexual relationship with them.

For obvious reasons, a pedophile needs access and privacy to commit the abuse. He will avoid inviting other adults on planned events or outings. He works and plays in areas where children congregate.

Pedophiles typically choose work environments that allow access to children. This may include working in a school (as a teacher or in some other capacity) or daycare, as a coach or as a volunteer in a community centre, or in any other profession that is child- focused. This was what Sandusky was doing.

It's unfortunate that pedophiles like Sandusky who are likely to abuse kids' trust with sexual and emotional exploitation don't wear big warning signs. There are many particular traits that we all should be aware of, so that we can prevent sexual predators from gaining access to children where children are likely to be in or at.

A person’s perfectly innocent hand on a child's shoulder or back is not a sign of a sexual motive although if the child has a ‘creepy’ feeling when someone touches him or her, that's a red flag that something may be wrong.

The profile of a pedophile is hard to detect. They are CEOs. They are homeless beggars. They are friends, neighbors, teachers, priests, aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers and yes, even coaches. He may even be married. A key distinction in the profile of a pedophile is his sexual interest in kids.

It was not only Paterno’s moral obligation to report the abuse to the police, but his legal obligation also. He shouldn’t have relied entirely on his superiors doing the reporting. Obviously they didn’t report Sandusky to the police and that should have been of considerable concern to Paterno but unfortunately, it wasn’t. And for this reason, Sandusky continued to sexually abuse more boys and this fact alone was enough to bring shame upon Paterno. That is the real sad part of this story. A great man has had his legacy tarnished because he chose to wash his hands of an affair that had eventually got out of control and which subsequently did more damage to the University he loved than had he acted properly when he learned of what had happened in the locker room.


On October 9th, 2012, Jerry Sandusky was sentenced to a minimum of 30 years and a maximum of 60 years in prison after being convicted of 45 counts of sexual abuse against 10 young boys. He is 68 years of age and that means that he will be eligible for release when he turns 93 years of age if he lives that long. He has filed an appeal claiming that he is totally innocent.

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