Posted by: mutantpoodle | July 13, 2012

But…the football team!

There’s not much to say about the Penn State travesty, other than Jerry Sandusky isn’t the only one who should be doing hard time.  From the Freeh report:

The most saddening finding by the Special Investigative Counsel is the total and consistent disregard by the most senior leaders at Penn State for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims. As the Grand Jury similarly noted in its presentment,1 there was no “attempt to investigate, to identify Victim 2, or to protect that child or any others from similar conduct except as related to preventing its re‐occurrence on University property.” Four of the most powerful people at The Pennsylvania State University – President Graham B. Spanier, Senior Vice President‐Finance and Business Gary C. Schultz, Athletic Director Timothy M. Curley and Head Football Coach Joseph V. Paterno – failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade. These men concealed Sandusky’s activities from the Board of Trustees, the University community and authorities. They exhibited a striking lack of empathy for Sandusky’s victims by failing to inquire as to their safety and well‐being, especially by not attempting to determine the identity of the child who Sandusky assaulted in the Lasch Building in 2001. Further, they exposed this child to additional harm by alerting Sandusky, who was the only one who knew the child’s identity, of what McQueary saw in the shower on the night of February 9, 2001.

These individuals, unchecked by the Board of Trustees that did not perform its oversight duties, empowered Sandusky to attract potential victims to the campus and football events by allowing him to have continued, unrestricted and unsupervised access to the University’s facilities and affiliation with the University’s prominent 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 the red flags of Sandusky’s behaviors and no one warned the public about him.

By not promptly and fully advising the Board of Trustees about the 1998 and 2001 child sexual abuse allegations against Sandusky and the subsequent Grand Jury investigation of him, Spanier failed in his duties as President. The Board also failed in its duties to oversee the President and senior University officials in 1998 and 2001 by not inquiring about important University matters and by not creating an environment where senior University officials felt accountable.

In short, the senior leadership at a major university – including a football coach hailed for his impeccable moral character – turned the other way while a sexual predator racked up victim after victim – in the Penn State athletic facilities! – because doing the right thing would tarnish the image of their beloved football program.

Well, at least that didn’t happen.

I don’t know where Penn State goes from here.  And while I love college football, fully aware of all its flaws, I also know that this scandal could have happened at any number of Division I football powers.  Where winning coaches are deified, and the success of the program becomes a blinding light, there is no shortage of small people to rank expedience over justice.

Alan Barra at Salon says Penn State’s only option is to drop football…or worse:

Penn State must drop football, or … turn it around from the profit-making machine that created the mind-set that led to this disgrace in the first place. That is, turn the football team into an instrument of healing.

All revenues from the football program – ticket sales, TV money, merchandising, everything – must go to charities and foundations dedicated to helping abused children and eradicating pedophiles like Jerry Sandusky. Yes, that means hiring a coach who will settle for far less than the salary of a coach at a Class A football factory like Penn State would normally receive. (And this goes for the rest of the coaching staff as well.) It means no more cushy athletic dorms and 150-piece bands traveling with the team.

Stewart Mandel at Sports Illustrated berates himself for his early naivete regarding this case, and points out that it’s not just the big boys who put sports ahead of human decency:

Just look at the recent scandal that befell Montana.

Because it’s an FCS school, the story didn’t garner nearly the same attention as Penn State’s, but the details are no less disturbing. The Grizzlies’ head coach and AD were recently fired, and the Department of Justice has launched an investigation following a series of suspiciously handled sexual assault allegations against football players. E-mails exposed a university vice president, Jim Foley, suggesting retaliation against an alleged victim who went public with her story and criticizing a newspaper’s use of the phrase “gang rape” to describe a woman’s accusation that she was drugged and sexually assaulted by four players.

There’s no Freeh Report yet for Montana, which like Penn State is a traditional power at its level (two national championships, 11 playoff appearances). And like Penn State, it takes its football very seriously — more seriously, apparently, than the plight of sexual abuse victims.

My guess – and fear – is that hundreds of universities will issue mealy-mouthed statements of shock and concern, and reassure their communities that nothing like what happened at Penn State could ever happen at their own august institutions.

And they will do nothing else, and hope that when something like this happens again – and it will – they can dust off the same statement one more time.

Because this is the statement none of them will ever want to make:

Today’s comprehensive report is sad and sobering in that it concludes that at the moment of truth, people in positions of authority and responsibility did not put the welfare of children first. The Board of Trustees, as the group that has paramount accountability for overseeing and ensuring the proper functioning and governance of the University, accepts full responsibility for the failures that occurred. The Board, in cooperation with the Administration, will take every action to ensure that events like these never happen again in our university community.

The focus of all of our actions going forward will be on driving a culture of honesty, integrity, responsible leadership and accountability at all levels and within all units of our institution.

Judge Freeh’s report concludes that certain people at the University who were in a position to protect children or confront the predator failed to do so. There can be no ambiguity about that. The defenseless victims and their families are at the forefront of our thoughts and prayers. We are deeply sorry for the failure to protect these vulnerable young boys from the pain and anguish they suffered. At the same time, we are filled with admiration for the bravery shown by the young men and their families who came forward to ensure that justice will be done.

The rest of us are just plain ill.


  1. My only addition to this is to wonder whether some of the horror at Penn State was that the victims of sexual assault were boys, not girls or women. Sandusky’s behavior disrupted the boys club. The cases of gang rape, or even single rapes, of women have never generated such widespread horror. Which is not to trivialize it; but patriarchy lives.

  2. I suspect the real horror – and you won’t get a comparable case with girls – is that incidents were witnessed and the powers that be chose to ignore them. Had Sandusky’s victims been female, the abuse would have been no less horrific, but also far less likely to be witnessed by individuals in the Penn State men’s showers

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