Scott MichauxSports columnist for The Augusta Chronicle. |

Penn State didn't do enough to stop monster

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It is a tragedy and scandal of such staggering and horrifying proportions that it is difficult to comprehend.

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Penn State football coach Joe Paterno (center) didn't conduct his weekly news conference on Tuesday amid the child sex abuse scandal.  Matt Rourke/Associated Press
Matt Rourke/Associated Press
Penn State football coach Joe Paterno (center) didn't conduct his weekly news conference on Tuesday amid the child sex abuse scandal.

Penn State University and its football program are reeling under charges that a monster played, coached and lived amongst them for nearly 50 years. That alone is disturbing enough.

But of greater concern is that when the monster was exposed committing unspeakable acts inside the school’s locker room facility nearly a decade ago, a failure of leadership ensued that is so damning and disgraceful it could bring down the school’s administrative hierarchy and forever stain the accomplishments of college football’s most successful coach.

The monster at the middle of all this is Jerry Sandusky, the longtime defensive coordinator for the Nittany Lions who was once considered the heir apparent to take over as head football coach. The defensive architect for two national championship teams, he is often referred to as a “legend” at Linebacker U.

Sandusky never took the helm because Joe Paterno never let go of the reins. The revered 84-year-old Paterno just a week ago passed Eddie Robinson with his 409th career victory to become the winningest coach in Division I history.

A week later, however, all that glory seems meaningless. Paterno now finds himself in the middle of a storm with support “eroding” and the likelihood that his exit into retirement will be hastened.

Paterno, of course, did nothing legally wrong in regards to the sickening Sandusky scandal that brought multiple charges of repeated sexual abuse on eight boys as young as 8 years old over a period of 15 years. But Paterno simply didn’t do enough to stop a predator from continuing to abuse children.

If you are able to get through the 23-page Grand Jury report detailing acts that make any parent – any human – want to bring back public hangings, you understand that culpability is far-reaching in this case and Paterno shares in it.

When in March 2002 a graduate assistant coach witnessed Sandusky committing an act of rape on what he described as a 10-year-old boy in the showers of Penn State’s locker room, he immediately reported it to Paterno. The head coach then followed the chain of command and reported it to his superiors.

Penn State’s director of athletics Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz have been charged with perjury and failure to report the allegations to law enforcement authorities. All they did was “ban” Sandusky from bringing children on campus. They will face legal justice for whatever role they played in covering up the act and enabling a predator to remain a threat for nine additional years.

But simply passing the buck isn’t enough to absolve Paterno of his moral failure on behalf of Sandusky’s victims.

There’s a simple test to reveal the failure: what would you have done?

I can say without hesitation that if someone came to me and said they had witnessed a sexual rape of a child, I wouldn’t stop at reporting it to my boss. If I continued to see that sexual predator walking around among my co-workers for the next week – much less NINE YEARS – I would not stop at my boss’s desk to break the chain of command to protect other children.

ANYONE would do this.

Paterno didn’t. He did the bare minimum required of him legally and moved along. It is hard to fathom that a man who has forged a reputation for caring so deeply about the “kids” who play for him could so casually have disregarded the well-being of the troubled children who were captured in the charitable net that his former assistant and friend was using to troll for victims.

Paterno was prevented from conducting his weekly news conference Tuesday by Penn State President Graham Spanier, whose own bunker mentality in the aftermath of this scandal is another failure of leadership so egregious it should cost him his job as well.

But the Penn State community at large is not taking this silently and deserves credit for demanding accountability from its leaders.

In an unprecedented editorial that took up the entire front page of Tuesday’s Patriot-News in nearby Harrisburg, Pa., they have called for the president to resign immediately and Paterno to be retired at the end of the season for failing to do “what is right.”

The editorial said Paterno should be allowed to retire with his honor intact. “It might always be honor with an asterisk, admiration with a shake of the head. Joe will have to live with that.”

That might be too generous. Paterno will have to live knowing he didn’t do enough to save young boys from being abused and scarred at the hands of an old friend.

Former college head coaches who knew Sandusky – Vince Dooley and Dick Bestwick – described the revelations as “shocking” and “unfathomable” on Tuesday. Neither would defend nor condemn Paterno, a man they both admire.

But Greg McGarity, Georgia’s director of athletics, mentioned the Disney accountability philosophy he’s adopted.

“If you see it, you own it,” McGarity explained.

Everyone who knew about what Sandusky did to that defenseless little boy in the Penn State locker room nine years ago owns it, and apologizing for their inaction isn’t enough.

They must be accountable and go.

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AjavaCafe 11/09/11 - 09:00 am
Scott, I read the entire

Scott, I read the entire grand jury report and it was sickening to me. But I want to clarify one point. You said the grad assistant coach immediately reported it to Coach Paterno. Not so! He immediately left the room, went to his office, and called his daddy. His daddy told him to come home and they did not tell Coach Paterno until the next day, which was Saturday. Paterno waited until Sunday to contact his boss! Personally, I don't think Paterno should be allowed to finish out the year. He should be gone today, along with the University President. They hold themselves up as an institution that has always done the right thing, never been investigated by the NCAA. Paterno is supposed to be a mentor to young men, but evidently he cares nothing about little boys!

This isn't going to go away anytime soon. The civil lawsuits alone will be years in the making! They need to do the right thing and take out the trash, all the trash!!

mike1sc 11/09/11 - 12:05 pm
Been watching a national

Been watching a national three hour sports program who has tried numerous times during today's program to change the topic but it keeps coming back to center. Paterno should not coach another game. The heads above him must role as well. Sandusky will be the easiest...but at the end of the day, he just may not be the sickest of the group, it's all the others that swept it under the table, including Paterno.

Because of Paterno's age, people for years have made small jokes about his obvious lack of mental sharpness. Some of that must be true, but how good was his senses 9 years ago when this was first brought to him.....was he really satisfied with the result....or we are finding out now, that Paterno was just like all the rest who put the University first above he'll pay for that decision with his legacy.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 11/09/11 - 12:35 pm
mike1sc wrote: Paterno was

mike1sc wrote:

Paterno was just like all the rest who put the University first above he'll pay for that decision with his legacy.

I don't think he'll pay. This story will dry up and be forgotten very quickly.

BamaMan 11/09/11 - 03:20 pm
How could this person just

How could this person just walk off and not attempt to stop what was happening? Were there no cellphones in 2002? And, if Paterno reported it, and obviously nothing coming of it, did he not followup and make sure this would be prosecuted?!?

Vito45 11/09/11 - 04:06 pm
Bama, that is where I have a

Bama, that is where I have a problem with Paterno. I don't think HE should have gone to the police, the guy who SAW the incident should have done that; but after he reported it his superiors, he was obligated to follow up since there was clearly a cover up going on.

Riverman1 11/09/11 - 07:22 pm
The graduate assistant is the

The graduate assistant is the one who gets me. He was 26 years old at the time. He sees Sandusky with this child and walks away and calls his daddy? Then tells Paterno the next day? He let the child stay with Sandusky. Anyone would have fought tooth and nail to the point of death to grab the boy from him right then and there.

Paterno has more power at Penn State then the AD and president. He never followed up. He never asked Sandusky about any of it? Joe Pa needs to go to the Alzheimer's wing of the local nursing home.

Scott Michaux
Scott Michaux 11/10/11 - 01:33 am
The Penn State Board of

The Penn State Board of Trustees did the right thing and removed Paterno from his post immediately (and President Spanier). The students now rioting in State College, Pa., have lost all site of the only real victims in this whole situation - the abused children. The list of things Penn State has to be ashamed of grows by the minute.

Willow Bailey
Willow Bailey 11/10/11 - 11:15 am
River, absolutely!!! Amen. I

River, absolutely!!! Amen. I would have beaten Sandusky to a pulp or died trying to. I would never have left that boy. Nor would I have ever shut up until Sandusky was removed from the school and placed into custody.

It was ALL about a cover it. Paterno is disgusting. The school president is disgusting and most disgusting is the 26 year old MAN who walked away. I hope he dreams about it every night. It'll be real to him, when he has his own son playing sports.

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