Saturday, November 12, 2011

Horror in Happy Valley -- And Trustees Opt for Damage Control

After I first posted the other day on the developing Penn State sex abuse scandal, I didn’t anticipate commenting a second time, and when I did I really thought that would be the last.  But Penn State’s continued obliviousness draws me once again to the keyboard. 

Recognizing that we have only allegations at this point, but acknowledging also that we have certain facts like a 1998 investigation of the alleged perpetrator Sandusky by multiple authorities, I have written that “my guess is that when all the facts emerge this will come out as a 15 or so year conspiracy of silence involving Paterno and many others to cover up ongoing homosexual rape and other sexual molestation of young boys at Penn State, practically in plain sight.”

For so many, I suspect the horror of the depth and breadth of the allegations and facts known so far are incomprehensible, and perhaps some resistance to objectivity on the part of some longtime Paterno and Penn State athletic boosters is understandable.  But the University Board of trustees should be above that and past that.  

In the wake of continued University employment of the assistant coach who testified to the grand jury that when finding a boy being raped in a Penn State athletic department shower room he neither rescued the boy nor called the police, in the wake of the trustees’ new interim football coach Tom Bradley just praising Paterno as a man who “will go down in history as one of the greatest men....", in the wake of some oblivious students rioting in support of Paterno, the Board of Trustees met and appointed someone to lead the University’s internal investigation of this whole sordid affair.

Did the Penn State Board select someone independent of the school and its culture, with a background in investigation and law enforcement?  Well, by now we know the answer to expect given what we’re rapidly learning about the Penn State culture.  No it did not.  The Board chose a Penn State grad, an attorney, who’s an executive with a pharmaceutical firm.  No reported investigative experience.      

Is the Board first and foremost interested in the full truth, or some truth with a heavy dose of damage control?  But it doesn’t really matter now, anyway -- the truth will come out in due course, perhaps mostly in tortuous and torturous drips and drabs.    

We already have inconsistencies in the grand jury testimony of Penn State officials Paterno, Curley, and Schultz.  Eventually we will find out who knew what and when they knew it.  We will get answers to many questions, including these:
  • Why were the 1998 investigations of two child sex abuse allegations against Sandusky dropped by the county prosecutor, the local child welfare agency, and the Penn State police department? 
  • Why did Sandusky unexpectedly retire in 1999 as one of Paterno’s chief lieutenants?  Any why was a special retirement deal negotiated with him?   
  • How many people in and around the Penn State athletic department had reasonable suspicions and concerns about Sandusky and his entourage of boys?  
  • Why didn’t officials at the local school, at which Sandusky served as a volunteer football coach as recently as a few years ago, alert authorities when he was found in sexually suggestive situations with boys at the school?  
  • Why did prosecutors wait until November 2011 to arrest Sandusky, the subject of an investigation for years, thus revealing then the explosive charges?  Was it just coincidence that the revelation came just days after Paterno set the record for most football wins as a college coach?  Who was responsible for the decision on the timing? 
In the end, I suspect that the ultimate motivation for what looks like a 15+ year cover up by many adults in many different agencies and departments will be the fear of what exposure would do to their money and glory.  I heard on Fox News yesterday that the CEO of Sandusky’s “charity” for young troubled boys has been paid $1.3 million since 1998, and I’ve heard it said that Penn State’s football program was one of the most lucrative in college sports. 

The truth will all come out eventually, but Penn State’s reactionary Board may not be the source of much of it.    

John M Greco

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