What Will PSU Football Be Like on Saturday?
“Will you be there in time for happy hour?” That’s typically the only question my friends and I are discussing leading up to a big weekend at Penn State. But, what matters this week isn’t about what time people will start doing carbombs and tequila shots. It’s not about getting a big enough table for our group, shopping for a tailgate or flirting with coeds. It’s not even about whether or not the Nittany Lions defense will be tough enough to keep their struggling offense and its dual quarterbacks in Saturday’s game against a top-25 Nebraska team. This week is about a scandal. How, if the allegations against Jerry Sandusky and subsequent charges brought against other school officials are true, was a former coach and prominent member of the Penn State football family able to sexually assault young boys at team facilities without anyone doing anything about it? And, for the most part, without anyone knowing?
We had heard things. I wouldn’t even qualify them as rumors—minor murmurs, maybe. But, when I was a junior at Penn State, my roommates and I associated former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky with the word “creep.” If these allegations are true, “creepy” wouldn’t even begin to approach aptly describing his heinous actions. At the time, the murmurs were as credible as hearing that a chain restaurant might be built in town, or a prominent actor was in the closet. There was no proof, no specifics, and no sources to indicate that any of the murmurs might be true.
In the 21st century, whether or not a secret stays a secret is heavily dependent on the strength of the Internet connection in a given room; it’s not surprising that people were talking—or typing, as the case may be. During my final year at Penn State, some (seemingly) credible information hit the message boards. Again, there were no sources and no proof, but the “creepiness” began to take shape.
The details and sources came later—in the form of a 23-page grand jury presentment that indicates that the alleged ongoing sexual abuse of young males by Jerry Sandusky wasn’t simply a Jerry Sandusky problem. It seems to have started there, but seeped its way through an organization that has historically prided itself on moral fortitude. Florida and LSU had National Championships and SEC speed, USC had Heisman trophy winners … and Penn State had clean hands, high graduation rates, and a stout sense of ethical elitism.
Then, it became public knowledge that a graduate assistant allegedly walked in on a former coach sexually assaulting a young male in the shower, before promptly turning around and exiting the building without so much as a, “What the fuck, Jerry?”
A day later he allegedly told some-to-all of what he witnessed to Joe Paterno who is said to have told some-to-all of what he heard to two officials who are accused of passing the whole thing forward and allegedly perjuring themselves in a grand jury investigation.
Three years ago my friends and I would talk about the future of the Penn State football program and speculate that Sandusky’s “creepiness” probably led to him being passed up as JoePa’s successor and may have helped the university avoid the troubles that might come with giving someone like that the keys to the kingdom. Now, we’re talking about how Sandusky didn’t need the keys to the kingdom because he already had a set to the team’s facilities and was allegedly using them to aid his ongoing sexual assaults.
For the past three days, my friends and I have been discussing Penn State’s position on the moral high ground being compromised. It is alleged that one man committed terribly evil crimes as a member of the Penn State community. But, an evil equally as threatening is the indifference of good men. University president Graham Spanier, head coach Joe Paterno, wide receivers coach Mike McQueary (thought to be the graduate assistant involved in the ordeal) along with Curley and Schultz may not have helped Sandusky commit the crimes of which he’s accused, but they could have helped the victims by acting when they first heard murmurs (or witnessed first hand) that Sandusky might be “creepy.”
Penn State needs to hold them to the higher standard it has used to look down its nose at other prominent programs as they won games and lifted hardware. Napalm the program, start from scratch, and hire people who will do what’s right and not just what’s right for them.