As a Penn State blogger who worked in a public university for 13 years, I feel a need to express my feelings about the sordid mess Penn State is in over Jerry Sandusky and his alleged exploits with young boys. Although Sandusky, Curley, Schultz, Spanier, Paterno, and McQueary, the major players, are innocent until proven guilty, a sacred principle of our society, I need to make some worst case assumptions here. This is in no means an attempt to try those who are charged with offenses here in my blog; the assumption of guilt of some of them is merely a “what-if?” on my part. Obviously, if everybody is innocent, there’s nothing to speculate about. We’re not here to pat these men on the back for the good job they’ve done; we’re here to think through the situation if the worst case comes to pass.
For the complete details, just in case you’re not up to date, please read the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s press release. If you’d like excruciating details, read the grand jury presentment.
Let’s start out with Sandusky. Things look bleak for Jerry. Those of us on the outside looking in knew something was up in 1999 when he suddenly retired, but we could not have guessed that it would be multiple counts of child molestation. Behind the scenes, things were happening at Penn State. Ass-covering administrators were no doubt running around like chickens with their heads cut off.
“It is typical for public universities to want to handle bad situations internally so they don’t get blown out of proportion by the media.”
It is typical for public universities to want to handle bad situations internally so they don’t get blown out of proportion by the media. Frequently, the effort to keep elements of sordid affairs under wraps borders on paranoia. I mentioned that I worked for a public university for 13 years. During that time, I witnessed several scandals swept under the rug because administration officials wanted to protect the university’s reputation and not impede the flow of large donations. One such scandal, which I personally unearthed, involved a professor abstracting funds from an NSF grant for personal use. This was a big deal, which if handled poorly would harm the university chances of getting future grants from NSF, a huge funder of research grants. I was called into an associate dean’s office and told that he and the department chair would handle the situation — essentially, thanks for dumping this mess in our laps, now go away. That wasn’t good enough for me. I told the ivory tower servant that I wouldn’t rest until the professor in question was fired and returned the money to the university, and if he didn’t want to pursue the matter, I would be happy to sit down with the State Auditor first thing in the morning. That didn’t make any friends for me, but I eventually got what I wanted. I stuck around long enough to insure it: the professor was hauled into a meeting with the president, provost, and department chair, and given two options, resign voluntarily, pay back the money, and keep his pension; or fight it and be charged with a felony. He wisely chose the former.
The story above has a connection with what I’ll write later about Curley, Schultz, and Paterno, but now I’ll get back to Sandusky.
There is evidence that Penn State dealt with the Sandusky child molestation issue behind closed doors when it first came to light in 1999. The university conducted its investigation, involving the university and State College police departments presumably to provide the appearance of propriety, should anyone ever dig for details. The police department(s) never brought charges, and as far as they were concerned, the case was closed. Meanwhile, I’m thinking that back in the ivory tower (perhaps meaning the Lasch Building, or perhaps Old Main), furtive deals were being cut with Jerry, essentially that the university had swung its weight to keep the thing under wraps, so Jerry owed them big time, and only his resignation would do. To soften the blow, Sandusky would get a key to the Lasch Building and office space there. (I doubt that anyone specifically mentioned use of the showers, but he also had free access to those.)
When Mike McQueary witnessed a sex act taking place between Sandusky and a young boy in the shower, it was over two years later and Sandusky was enjoying his new arrangement. McQueary was taken aback by the scene before him — who wouldn’t be? — which he recounted to his father that evening and Joe Paterno the next morning. McQueary was a 28 year-old graduate assistant at the time who would later become an assistant coach on Paterno’s staff. As a GA in the football program, he was assigned to Paterno, so reporting the unholy event to the old man was McQueary’s only responsibility. Whatever happened from there on was not his concern. I think that unless there is evidence that McQuery lied about something or tried to suppress information, he should be completely absolved of any lingering burden from the Sandusky affair. He was the messenger, and as far as I know, he did his job well.
What happened from there is where the university political games start creeping into the picture. Paterno claims to have immediately reported the incident to his “boss”, athletic director Tim Curley. McQueary then heard from Curley ten days later when Curley asked him to come to the ivory tower to recount what he saw. While he presumably told Curley the same story he told Paterno and, later, the grand jury investigating the Sandusky affair, somehow the story changed when Curley was asked about it later by the same grand jury. What had been a sexual molestation turned into “horsing around,” which Curley thought was minor; therefore, he didn’t involve the police or child protective agencies.
Today the university barred Sandusky from its main campus. Meanwhile, Sandusky had been arrested yesterday and bonded out with $100,000.
Did McQueary lie to Curley? I doubt it. I think that the mind of a GA trying to work his way into a permanent, full-time job works quite differently from that of a full-time university administrator. While they’re both out to save their own asses, the procedure for doing that differs. The GA knows that dishonesty will probably blow his opportunity, whereas the administrator realizes that if a far reaching scandal were to happen, his ass would be compromised, as it had occurred under his watch, in his athletic department, on university premises, between two non-employees, one a minor — and the worst part is that Curley was probably instrumental in cutting the 1999 deal (in my opinion) with Sandusky. That deal, as you recall, swept the 1999 incident under the proverbial rug and gave Sandusky the keys to the castle.
Or did Paterno lie to Curley? What would Joe have to gain by lying? Protection of an assistant who served Paterno for over 30 years? Paterno is smarter than to simply change a story involving an eyewitness to protect an old friend and colleague. I believe that Paterno probably told Jerry that he was going to have to throw him to the wolves, knowing that the mindset in the ivory tower was such that the approach that would be taken going forward would be the one that the administrators there thought would do the least harm to the university. Paterno was once AD himself, so he undoubtedly knows how they think up there. I believe that if Paterno gave a truthful account of what McQueary told him along with a good word for Sandusky (“Try to minimize the damage to Jerry. He’s been through a lot.”), Curley would do the “right thing” and try to sweep it under the rug as much as possible. Curley, sitting in the ivory tower, is probably arrogant and stupid enough to believe that he could accomplish that.
Curley knew that there had been closed police reports relating to the 1999 incident. That made this one all the more onerous. He and Schultz could have had a private meeting to strategize just how the 2002 incident could be hush-hushed and what preventive measures could be taken to give Sandusky a token wrist slap. The story that came out was that “horsing around” didn’t constitute a criminal offense, so with full knowledge that they were taking a major risk, they did not call the university police. They admonished Sandusky to not bring children inside the Lasch building anymore. Curley later admitted that he had no way to enforce that sanction. You would think that Curley would at least take Sandusky’s keys, ending the arrangement that facilitated Sandusky’s peccadilloes with boys on university property, even if it was just a case of a 58 year old man “horsing around” with a young lad in the shower, but he didn’t even do that!
I suppose I could speculate about what dirt Sandusky has on the administration that could be used as blackmail to suppress any reprisals for his actions, but I don’t want to get into wacko conspiracy theories. I’m already far enough out in left field.
Should Curley, or Schultz, or Paterno, or McQueary have reported the incident to the police, as prescribed by Pennsylvania law? Well, here we get into the possibility that McQueary made the original error of omission. Did McQueary fumble the ball? He was, in fact, the only eyewitness among the people involved. However, the law states that a staff member observing such an incident must report it to the head of the university, which in my mind is president Graham Spanier. It could be argued that Curley is essentially the head of the division of athletic affairs, acting as Spanier’s agent, and that McQueary, being a student, was not a staff member. This puts the ball in Paterno’s court as the designated staff person, and he did, in fact, report it to Curley. Curley and Schmidt both testified to the grand jury that they did not report anything to the particular agencies mandated by law. I suppose once again, they relied on the “horsing around” excuse. But come on, get real. Someone sees a 58 year old man cavorting in the shower with a 10 year old who is not his son or grandson and that raises no suspicions whatsoever? A ten year-old kid knows how to take a shower on his own without the assistance of an old (alleged) perv.
Curley and Schultz have been charged with perjury for misrepresenting and withholding information to and from the grand jury. This is a third-degree felony punishable by up to seven years in state prison. Should they be convicted, was it really worth it to play the academic cover-up game? ???? ????? ????? Weren’t they pretty pretty pretty stupid to try to sweep a pile of dirt that big under the rug? Or like many college and university administrators, did they arrogantly sit in their ivory towers thinking that they could pull all the strings necessary to make this thing go away at the expense of the “little people” — namely the children who were allegedly molested through the years and their families. I say three cheers for those who conducted a two year investigation, ultimately impaneling a grand jury to find facts and hand down indictments as necessary.
This Turkey’s opinion is that Curley and Schultz should go down for their attempted cover-up.
Sandusky, if found guilty, should pay the maximum price. It is this Turkey’s feeling that those who abuse positions of power to exploit the powerless people they subjugate need to be stoned in the village square. Is there anyone more powerless than a child? A person who commits this type of crime should not be allowed to ever hold dominion over people again. I don’t care if Sandusky is 67. If convicted, he should be serving time for the rest of his life, which probably will not be a long time in prison.
And now, the tough ones to speculate on: Spanier and Paterno. Spanier is, of course, stonewalling it, as the university’s lawyers undoubtedly want him to do. He’s saying that Curley and Schultz have his unqualified support and he’s sure they’ll be found innocent. But how much did Graham Spanier himself know about what was going on. Hell, in a university setting, at the upper echelons of administration, everyone is always looking over their shoulder. I believe that being in such an environment, Curley and Schultz would have briefed Spanier and discussed paths forward with him — just to cover their own asses. What took place in the ten days between Paterno’s report to Curley and Curley summoning McQueary? You’d have to be a fool to think that Curley got busy and forgot about the incident, or just stuck it on the back burner to get around to sometime later. Something like this creates Defcon 2, Code Red, in a university administration building, with everyone looking to cover their ass seven ways to Sunday. Oh, the lights in Old Main had to be burning bright into the wee hours, and Hi-Way Pizza put on standby alert to nourish the ass-covering minions of administrators and lawyers. Again, just this Turkey’s speculation, based on first-hand experience with a large, public university that once had to fire a president who made the mistake of paying hookers with a university credit card on his business trips. ???? ?????? But I digress. If Spanier was briefed by Curley and Schultz, not with the “horsing around” drivel, but with what McQueary actually saw, Spanier should go down, too.
As for Paterno, you would think that he did what the law and the university would want him to do. He reported it to his superior. Period. End of report. Game over. But wait a minute! Do you think for a minute that Paterno just sat back and went on to the next football film after hearing McQueary’s story? Hell, no! Sandusky and wife were personal friends of Joe and Sue, and Sandusky worked for Joe for over 30 years. Few of us have been in that position, but loyalties that old don’t just evaporate in the face of adversity. I can understand Joe’s not wanting to report the incident to anyone outside the university, and the law seems to support the way he handled it, reporting it to Curley. Assuming that he told Curley the truth and didn’t try to cover up the most sordid facts to protect Sandusky, Joe is in the clear there. However, given that Joe and Jerry had such a long lasting interpersonal relationship, wouldn’t Joe have wanted to stay close to the matter, perhaps checking in with Curley daily to hear of any recent developments. As I’ve written, I find it entirely fanciful to think that Paterno reported the incident and forgot about it. My thought is that Curley told him that it was being handled and it would blow over. We all know how stubborn Joe is about things like that. But once Joe saw a cover-up in progress, should he not have gotten involved? Or did his old friendship with Sandusky cloud his judgment? If Paterno abetted the cover-up, even by benign neglect, he should go down, too.
From what I’ve been told, Curley is a sycophant who Paterno dominates. In that case, is it possible that Joe engineered the whole cover-up?
Those are my feelings on the subject, assuming that the court system gets its convictions. Again, there are a lot of assumptions, which might not be true, and there are certainly errors in the representations I am taking for fact, because I wasn’t there. I’m kind of convinced that at least three high ranking university officials’ heads will be rolling. ???? ?????? ??? ???? It is going to be painful to watch this play out.
For some other feelings on this matter, Black Shoes Diary has a very well written piece called Jerry Sandusky: Allegations and Obligations. Also, PennLive.com (Harrisburg Patriot-News) has been doing the best ongoing coverage of the mess, which has regrettably found its way onto front pages of important national newspapers. This kind of publicity, Penn State could do without!
Interesting read, especially with your unique perspective of working in a university setting. So I guess the matter with Paterno would come down to what would have happened in your circumstance had you not been persistent? You could have walked away and not been legally obligated to do anything else. The prof in question would have probably “got away” with it for the moment, and if an investigation occurred later, you did what you were supposed to do. That appears to be where Paterno is right now. Did he legally do anything wrong? Doesn’t appear to have. Should he have done something else? Aye, there’s the rub. What if said prof in your scenario was a family member or close friend? Now how persistent are you? It’s easy for those of us outside the situation to impose our absolute morals on the situation, but you can’t always do that. In the case of a close friend, it seems to be a win-win situation to do the legal thing and then let well enough alone. Whole ball of wax changes, though, if Paterno knew the 10 year old or his dad personally. I bet things would have transpired differently. And in the end, it’s the kids who ultimately paid the price here and not some NSF government agency.
The Nittany Turkey says
I pretty much agree with all you have to say there, Todd. We cannot ever hope to boil the emotional factors out of these incidents.
As for the matter in which I was involved, to be frank, if the professor in question hadn’t provoked me several times in the past, I probably would have done what Paterno apparently did — the very least that would be required to satisfy my obligation to the university to report such things. They could have done what they wanted from that point on, as I was covered.
I’m not certain just how close was the friendship between Paterno and Sandusky. Did Paterno know about the earlier incidents, such as the one in 1998? Hell, he had to. Was that one of the factors that led to Paterno meeting with Sandusky in May 1999 at which point Paterno told Sandusky that he would definitely not be the next head coach at Penn State? I would propose that it was. Did this strain their personal relationship? I bet that it did.
I find it difficult to put myself in Sandusky’s position at the time, but if I indeed had been in his position, I would have found it nothing short of embarrassing to be present on campus knowing that people knew what was going on. If he was unabashed by being discovered molesting young boys several times, than he’s a very, very sick man.
My main reason for relating the university stories was not to laud my exploits but to provide an insider’s view of the way some fairly serious issues are blown off merely to avoid degrading the almighty, pristine image of what goes on inside the ivy-covered walls. People deserve to know about these shenanigans that frequently are contemptuous of sunshine laws.
And in the end, I agree. Eight victims are named in the grand jury presentment, and there were a couple other individuals mentioned in it who were unable to testify for various reasons. It is they and their families who were damaged and will continue to be damaged for years.
There are probably going to be civil cases against the University by many of the victims seeking damages. This is going to go on for years. There may be more kids coming forward. If there was a deal back in 1999 getting Sandusky to retire early at 55, then that is going to come out and this scandal is going to get much bigger.
The Nittany Turkey says
I agree with you, as does my legal friend. We believe that the university was negligent in allowing Sandusky free use of its facilities once it was suspected that he was a pedophile. Stronger action than the admittedly unenforceable ban on Sandusky bringing Second Mile children to campus was indicated. Instead of waiting until yesterday, after the shit had already hit the fan, to ban Sandusky himself from the campus, the administration should have done it way back when.
j.e. pobanz says
what did graham spanier know? I do not like the way he is responding , and he makes me ashamed of my alma mater.
Pedophilia is soooo sick– how can they even think of covering it up and letting it carry on. class of 1961
The Nittany Turkey says
I think we’re at the early stages of witnessing a cover-up of almost Nixonian proportions. We’ll see how Spanier changes his tune this morning when he delivers his new statement. It appears that in this Showergate, not unlike Watergate, the truth is a moving target.
Yes, pedophilia is disgusting. Penn State should have damned the torpedoes on this and shown that it won’t stand for it. Instead, we get a weak attempted cover-up.
It remains to be seen what Paterno and Spanier really knew. They are both denying everything, passing the buck up and down, and it’s hard to believe that they didn’t know more than they claim.
Excellent Blog. Your line – “did they arrogantly sit in their ivory towers thinking that they could pull all the strings necessary to make this thing go away” really struck a cord with me. Perhaps you are hitting the nail on the head.
I recently sent Spanier, or should I say his office, an email regarding my experience with PSU college student recruitment process. I titled my email (below) “Is it complacency or just arrogance?” I never did receive a response, either Spanier never read the email or he and his administrators hands are full with other matters (which I’m sure in light of the recent scandle is the case) and don’t have the time to respond to the hordes of emails they must receive on a daily basis.
To whom it may concern,
I love Penn State and feel that it’s one of the best academic institution in the world. With that said, I was recently very disappointed in PSU’s effort in recruiting perspective students compared to its Big Ten brethren.
I graduated from PSU in 1982 with a BS degree in Economics. My wife Jan is a graduate of the University of Indiana’s Kelly School of Business. My son Jake was determined to go to a Big Ten University as a business major after graduating from high school last year. He applied and was accepted to the Smeal College of Business, Kelly School of Business, and The University of Wisconsin (freshman can’t apply to the business school). Jake was invited by each University to attend an introductory seminar for accepted students and to tour the university’s facilities.
Both Indiana and Wisconsin did a marvelous job. They were both incredibly well organized. Each seemed to know or at least make an effort to get to know each of the visiting prospective students. Professors, graduate assistants, and current students were all part of their presentations, even the Dean of the Kelly School of Business presented at Indiana’s orientation. Both Indiana’s and Wisconsin’s slide shows were informative and well-rehearsed, and each school did an excellent job of making the prospective students feel special about themselves and important to the University. I wish I could say the same for Penn State. Penn State’s slide show was a disaster. The person presenting the slide show seemed totally unprepared. It was if they were seeing the slide show for the very first time, reading from the slide rather than speaking to it. There were also a number of slides that were out of order compelling the presenter to say at one point “somebody really screwed up my presentation”. The presenter also didn’t seem well informed, a number of very basic questions were asked by the audience that the presenter wasn’t able to answer. I don’t believe there were any professors or graduate assistants present or part of the presentation either. Anyway, I don’t want to overly criticize someone that may not have had much experience doing these things, which was probably the case, but I have heard similar feedback from parents who have attended other introductory seminars. As you know it’s an extremely competitive market and first impressions are so critical. If PSU wants to stay in the forefront of the national academic community, let alone the Big Ten, I believe they mustn’t give the impression that they take prospective students for granted, which is what it seemed like to me and my son.
Thanks for reading this,
The Nittany Turkey says
I am appalled at how Penn State has become so slovenly about academic recruiting. Implementing the STEP program seems to get much more attention from the administration than polishing the university’s academic image.
And now, Showergate. I am ashamed of Penn State for the attempted cover-up more than I am for Sandusky’s reprehensible actions.
It is sad to see Penn State, not just a school but part of our lives that we love so much, acting like a second-rate sleaze factory. It’s like discovering that your girlfriend is secretly a crack addict.
I’m not sure Paterno and Sandusky were friends though, I have heard suggestions that their relationship was mostly a professional one and they did not necessarily care for each other.
The Nittany Turkey says
When it came to light that Paterno had met with Sandusky in May 1999 to tell him that he wouldn’t be the next head coach at Penn State, my feelings about their friendship changed. If they were close friends, Paterno would have handled it differently.
Nevertheless, it is hard to believe that Paterno, knowing what he knew based on McQueary’s report, could just dump the whole affair off on Curley’s desk and say he’d done his part. Paterno is a leader. He should have taken the lead in being forthright about Showergate and in implementing corrective measures for the sake of the kids and their families as well as the university.
Why should he trust Curley and Spanier to do anything about it when he apparently dominates both of them to the extent that he could tell them to go home when they came a-knockin’ at his door to fire him several years ago?
Sean O'Brien says
Bullsh*t! McQueary should be absolved?? At the least, why did he not personally report to the police. He had a first hand personal account. He witnessed first hand a violent felony against a minor. My beef? Why did he not grab Sandusky by the scruff of his neck, throw him down and pound his face into the tile floor, and get that poor kid to safety??!!?? I guarantee you, that is EXACTLY what I would have done. HE IS TO BLAME. JOE IS TO BLAME. THEY ALL ARE TO BLAME! SHAME ON EVERYONE AT THAT UNIVERSITY!!
The Nittany Turkey says
My first impulse after overcoming my revulsion when witnessing that shocking scene would have been to kick the shit out of Sandusky, too. McQueary was right not to do so. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
I also suppose that it is a weak excuse I’m making for McQueary in saying that he was trying to play by the rules, so as not to compromise his chances of getting an assistant coach’s job at Penn State. However, he was probably told by Paterno that he had done all he needed to do when they met that Saturday morning. So, I’m going to still exonerate McQueary.
I’m not giving Paterno any leeway. He clearly should have taken the lead.
Sean O'Brien says
That gave him “blackmail” over all the powers that be for years. And don’t be fooled. He knew it and used it to his advantage.
The Nittany Turkey says
For sure. Joe didn’t consolidate and grow his power by being a pussy. He can play hardball with the best of them.
Perhaps McQueary’s coaching job was a payoff for keeping his mouth shut. I wouldn’t put it past a university bent on self-preservation above all else to wield its power in any conceivable way to keep this quiet.
Interesting read. Could have very well happened like that. With one major exception: Paterno and Sandusky where NOT friends by the year 2002.
The Nittany Turkey says
Since writing that, I’ve changed my tune. I don’t believe they were even that close in 1999, when Paterno met with Sandusky to tell him that he would not be the next head coach at Penn State.
Joe, of course, wants to call the shots even after he has departed. This sordid affair might finally put the kebash to that, as it is as good an excuse as any to clean house and put the past behind.
Sean O'Brien says
The blackmail is was referring to was what McQueary had on everyone, not Joe. He held Joe’s legacy in his hands. I always joked the only reason he was standing next to Joe was because he was tall and had blazing red hair–so Paterno could easily spot him on the sidelines to find some ears to yell at….well looks like there was another reason after all. Shame on everyone. Total house cleaning is in order. I guarantee all the assistants have been frantically calling every contact they have across the country looking for jobs. It’s every man for himself inside that football complex right now. Bye Bye any shot at BCS game. The players are the only innocents here, and they will ultimately pay a price they do not deserve.
The Nittany Turkey says
Interesting. I don’t know what McQueary’s contract looks like. It would be revealing to see how much he is making and what kind of guarantees he has in comparison with some others, just to test your assertion, although each of those other assistant coaches is a unique case in his own right. It is cool just how much power can accrue to a person who sees something he shouldn’t see, especially in an organization in which everything is kept quiet.
I want to see how Spanier and Paterno worm their way out of this one. They are masters at the art of self-preservation and wielding power. Think of Spanier as Bill Clinton and Paterno as Tony Soprano.
The Nittany Turkey says
P.S.: I love the line “the only reason [McQueary] was standing next to Joe was because he was tall and had blazing red hair — so Paterno could easily spot him on the sidelines to find some ears to yell at.”