In 46 years of Joe Paterno’s coaching football at Penn State, there’s never been a worse fumble.
Maybe in all of sports history.
The legendary coach and several superiors were warned back in 2002 that a former Nittany Lions defensive coach who still had an office at Penn State, Jerry Sandusky, had been caught by a graduate assistant violating a young boy in the school’s showers. The graduate assistant told Paterno. Paterno told an awkwardly sanitized version to the athletic director and so on.
Their response? They asked Sandusky not to bring children on campus anymore.
No call to police. No reaching out to the victim – who turned out to be one of eight young boys allegedly abused by Sandusky from 1994-2008, some up to 20 times. They didn’t even take Sandusky’s office away from him.
They covered it up. And then, authorities allege, two officials allegedly covered up the cover-up: Athletic Director Tim Curley and university Vice President Gary Schultz are accused of lying to a grand jury about it.
Yes, Paterno notified his superiors. But, as a front-page Harrisburg (Pa.) Patriot-News editorial notes, “When Paterno heard that the milquetoast response was to ban Sandusky from bringing kids on campus – a ban that (athletic director) Curley himself called unenforceable – there is no indication Joe ever went to (university President Graham) Spanier to warn him that this could be far more serious.”
In short, multiple fumbles. What were these men thinking? They had an eyewitness to one of the most vile crimes known to man – the sexual assault of a child – and on their property and allegedly by a man in their midst. And they came a whisker away from doing absolutely nothing about it. And what little they did do was patently offensive: In effect, they told him to take it elsewhere.
It’s difficult to put into words how out-of-bounds these men’s actions were. There’s much debate in Pennsylvania about who should go and when. Curley and Schultz are already gone, the former on leave, the latter to retirement. The Patriot-News says President Spanier and Paterno should go too, although the beloved coach should be allowed an honorable discharge after the season. University officials appeared to be working Tuesday on Paterno’s exit.
It’s a good bet if a player had dropped as many balls as these guys have, Paterno would’ve yanked their stumps off the field post haste.
All we know is, they all let those boys down and fed them to an apparent wolf. Wherever they go and when, they’ll have to live with that.