Reports are circling that JoePa will be forced to step down as Penn State officials attempt to control the damage.
Controversy isn’t new to college sports. Every week new stories seem to surface about players and coaches that skirt the rules to gain a competitive advantage. NCAA violations are issued like M&M’s because of illegal practices and contact with recruits, as well as rogue boosters glad-handing athletes with unmarked Benjamin-filled envelopes. These infringements on the NCAA rule book invariably hurt the integrity of college sports — championship banners are taken down, wins are vacated and prestige is diminished. However, no loss of recruits or scholarships compare to what is currently happening at Penn State.
News of Jerry Sandusky’s repeated and unpunished sexual abuse of minors over the course of his career as defensive coordinator at Penn State is incredibly disturbing. Sandusky was in a position of power as founder of The Second Mile, a charity that helps troubled boys from absent or dysfunctional families, and he abused the trust he built by taking advantage of the kids he was supposed to be helping.
According to court documents, Sandusky kissed, fondled, and performed both oral and anal sex on boys as young as 10 years old. To make matters worse, in more than one case, the administration was notified of the abuse and decided to sweep it under the rug. Why? Because Penn State football is big business. During the 2008-09 season, the program made $61.76 million in gross revenue. A scandal of this magnitude would cause serious damage to the reputation of both the team and the school itself. During his 22 years as a coach at Penn State, Sandusky helped the team gain the reputation as linebacker-U, and was twice named assistant of the year in college football. He was Joe Paterno’s right hand man, and was once considered the coach-in-waiting before his sudden retirement in 1999. This scandal would also hurt the school’s most visible spokesman.
Since Sandusky was arrested on perjury charges the grand jury investigation’s documents have been released to the public. If true, it appears this coverup reached as high as the school’s athletic director Tim Curley and its vice-president of fiance Gary Schultz. After Sandusky was caught by a graduate assistant having anal sex with a 10-year-old in the team showers, these officials met with the witness and then failed to report the criminal incident to the police. During a trial in 2002, Penn State officials magically forgot the details of the meeting.
Now the sports world is faced with its biggest scandal in decades — bigger than USC and Duke lacrosse. Penn State football has always been considered a shining beacon of what is right with the sport, and Joe Paterno has been a controversy-free ambassador to the game. JoePa, as he has always been lovingly referred, is now part of a chain of command that utterly failed in making the ethical choice. Paterno now appears to be guilty of putting his reputation in front of making the right and moral decision, as well as remaining complacent as his superiors followed suit.
Paterno most likely had no clue about his assistant’s proclivity for fondling young boys, but according to court documents he was the first person notified by the graduate assistant eyewitness in 2002. Instead of notifying the police, he called his boss, who called the vice-president of finance, who did nothing. This coverup was all about money. Forbes reports that this scandal will devalue the football program by at least $10 million.
Sandusky allegedly sexually abused at least eight boys over the course of 15 years. School officials allegedly first caught wind of these claims of abuse in 1998, which makes the coach’s 1999 retirement suddenly suspicious. When Sandusky was caught again four years later, the administration kept on sweeping. Now the coverup, which spans over a decade, is shocking the media, fans, alumni and ex-players as well.
The image of a once pristine program is sufficiently shattered, and the damage is likely to be severe. People are calling for the resignation letters of nearly everyone in the administration. However the real shame and embarrassment resides in Paterno’s corner. Sure, he performed his legal obligation to inform his superior, but he stood by and watched as Sandusky went unpunished. He covered his ass and shut his mouth. Now his image will likely be tarnished forever.