No doubts remain: Paterno's legacy tarnished


After Jerry Sandusky was initially arrested, Joe Paterno issued a statement. In it, the former Penn State head coach said he wished he had done more to prevent what happened. Now we know he could have done more, quite a bit more, but knowingly failed to do so.

In November, Penn States Board of Trustees empowered Former FBI director Louis Freeh and his law firm to conduct an independent investigation concerning the universitys involvement with, knowledge of, and culpability stemming from Sanduskys criminal sexual activities. (Sandusky was recently convicted on 45 of 48 counts and is awaiting sentencing.) You can read the full findings here. The report is beyond damningfor the university, its most powerful leaders, its carefully crafted and once-pristine image, and particularly Paterno.

Anyone who previously believed that the former head coach had limited knowledge of Sanduskys criminal sexual devianceanyone who thought Paterno did what was required of him by alerting administration officials after Mike McQueary told him of an incident involving Sandusky and a young boy in the showers at the Lasch Building in 2001will be disabused of that notion upon reading the full and lengthy report.

According to the investigation, four of the most powerful people at The Pennsylvania State Universityformer President Graham Spanier, former Senior Vice President Gary Schultz, former Athletic Director Tim Curley and former head coach Joe Paternoexhibited a striking lack of empathy for Sanduskys victims." Worse, those menconcealed Sanduskys activities from the Board of Trustees, the University community and the authorities.

The actions of those individualsSpanier, Schultz, Curley and Paternoempowered Sandusky to take potential victims to the campus and football events and allowed him to have continued, unrestricted and unsupervised access to the Universitys facilities and affiliation with the Universitys football program. Indeed, that continued access provided Sandusky with the very currency that enabled him to attract his victims. Some coaches, administrators and football program staff members ignored red flags of Sanduskys behaviors and no one warned the public about him.

The motivation, according to the findings of the investigation, was simple and unconscionable: avoid the consequences of bad publicity.

The evidence in the report shows that all four men knew of Sanduskys deviant sexual behavior as early as 1998. In an e-mail to Schultz that year, subject line Jerry, Curley asked anything new in this department? Coach is anxious to know where it stands. The report states that the reference to Coach is believed to be Paterno.

That stands in direct contrast to what Paterno said during his grand jury testimony. Paterno was asked whether, other than the 2001 shower incident, he was aware in any way, through rumor, direct knowledge or any other fashion, of any inappropriate sexual conduct by Jerry Sandusky with young boys?

Paterno responded: I do not know of anything else that Jerry would be involved in of that nature, no. I do not know of it. You did mentionI think you said something about a rumor. It may have been discussed in my presence, something else about somebody. I dont know. I dont remember, and I could not honestly say I heard a rumor.

That does not appear to be the case. Call it a tweak of the truth or an outright lie or whatever you like, but the report indicates that Paterno not only knew about Sanduskys behavior as early as 1998 but also later helped enable a monsters heinous crimes.

According to the report, following the shower incident, Spanier, Curley and Schultz agreed on Feb. 25, 2001,to tell the chair of the Board of the Second Mile about Sanduskys conduct, report it to the Department of Welfare, and tell Sandusky to stop bringing children to Lasch building.

Just two days later, however, Curley emailed Schultz and Spanier and wrote that he had changed his mind about the plan: After giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe yesterday, I am uncomfortable with what we agreed were the next steps."

Those interviewed during the Freeh investigation described Curley as loyal to a fault to Paterno and as Paternos errand boy. They also said Paternos words carried a lot of weight with Curley and that Curley would run big decisions by Paterno.

The conclusion, according to a statement Freeh issued in conjunction with the report: Based on the evidence, the only known, intervening factor between the decision made on February 25, 2001 by Messrs. Spanier, Curley and Schulz to report the incident to the Department of Public Welfare, and then agreeing not to do so on February 27th, was Mr. Paternos February 26th conversation with Mr. Curley.

To eliminate any possible confusion, could Paterno have stopped Sandusky?

Its a very strong and reasonable inference that he could have done so if he had wished, Freeh said.

It was a staggering statement. Everything we thought we knew aboutPaterno must now be measured againsthis sad, unthinkable, unpardonable failure to stop Sandusky from hurting more children.

What we know now is that Paterno was very much a part of a conspiracy to protect the university and the football program against bad publicity." At the least, theFreehfindingsstate that Paterno, Curley and McQuery were obligated to report the 2001 Sandusky incident to the University Police Department for inclusion in Clery Act statistics but that no record exists of such a report.

After the decision in 2001 not to report Sandusky, Spanier dispatched an email to Curley and Schultz. The language in the missive is shocking in its candoras is the pronounced disregard for anything but immediate spin control.

In the craven email, Spanier wrote that the only downside for us is if the message isnt heard and acted upon, and then we become vulnerable for not having reported it. But that can be assessed down the road.

We are well down that road nowa dark and twisted pathbecause four men conspired to conceal the truth and, in the process, protected a serial pedophile. One of those men was Paterno. There is no denying that any longer.
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