The national media has shown its spotlight on Happy Valley and the criticism being directed at the Penn State football program is understandably harsh. By now, you've probably heard that former PSU defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky has been charged with sexually assaulting eight boys, with many of the incidents being alleged to have happened on the Penn State campus. In addition to the charges against Sandusky, Athletic director Tim Curley and school administrator Gary Schultz have been charged with perjury in connection with the investigation.
And therein lies the reason the school will be taking a serious amount of heat from this incident. State Attorney General Linda Kelly was sharp in her criticism of the Penn State administration.
"Despite a powerful eyewitness statement about the sexual assault of a child, this incident was not reported to any law enforcement or child protective agency, as required by Pennsylvania law," said Kelly.
The eyewitness statement she refers to is detailed in the Grand Jury report, summarized here by Black Shoe Diaries.
On March 1, 2002, Sandusky was alleged caught by a PSU football Graduate Assistant (identified by the Harrisburg Patriot-News as current PSU wide receivers coach Mike McQueary) with a 10-year old boy in the showers at Lasch. The next day, the Graduate Assistant called Joe Paterno and went to Paterno's home to describe what he saw at Lasch. On March 3, Paterno called Director of Athletics Tim Curley to his home and relayed what he had been told. According to the Grand Jury Findings of Fact, approximately one and one-half weeks later, the GA is summoned to a meeting with Curley and Gary Schultz, who assure the GA that they would investigate further. Joe Paterno was not at this meeting.
Curley's response to this was not to notify university police, but to take away Sandusky's keys to the locker room. If true, it's unconscionable and as Pennsylvania State senator Jeff Piccola says, far worse than any of the recruiting scandals that have hit college football in recent years.
"This is a major blemish on the reputation of Penn State University. This makes recruiting violations look like small potatoes," said Piccola, who has called on the PSU board of trustees to investigate the actions of those involved. So far, however, Penn State President Graham Spanier has offered his "unconditional support" for the officials charged with perjury.
"I wish to say that Tim Curley and Gary Schultz have my unconditional support," said Spanier in a statement, "I have known and worked daily with Tim and Gary for more than 16 years. I have complete confidence in how they have handled the allegations about a former University employee."
I find it hard to believe that there's any defense for the way PUS officials reacted if all the allegations are true. Whether or not they are found guilty of perjury is a separate matter. If that grad assistant did indeed make the report, which the Grand Jury believes he did, and the PSU officials reacted in the way that the Grand Jury says they did, it's absolutely unforgiveable.
And while the Attorney General has said that Joe Paterno is a cooperating witness who has testified to the grand jury and is not a suspect, questions will certainly be asked of his culpability as well. While the facts of the case do seem to say that Paterno did what he was legally obligated to do... certainly people will wonder if he should have done more. You would hope that anyone in his position would take every possible measure to stop such horrific things from happening on his watch.
Either way, there will be plenty of time for judgements as more facts emerge. For now, all parties (Sandusky and the PSU offcials) maintain their innocence.