Friday, November 11, 2011

The Naivete at Penn State: An Even Darker Side to the Scandal

When Bruce Pearl was fired from his position as basketball coach at Tennessee, I was devastated. I argued with myself for months that him lying to the NCAA wasn’t an unpardonable offense, comparing him to other coaches with histories of questionable behavior. I got defensive when radio and television personalities took shots at him, and held out hope he would be allowed to stay with the program.

But I was naive. My view of Pearl was emotional, irrational, and skewed. These days in State College, Pennsylvania, an even more extreme naivete is rampant throughout the community.

Years of assuming Penn State football coaches lived with the highest integrity are crashing down on the Nittany Lion faithful, and the university has only seen the beginning of the reckoning it’s about to endure. The outrage is clear, and justifiably so.

But to believe the head football coach, athletic director, university president, multiple administrators, and countless members of the State College community worked together to “sweep this under the rug” is absurd and laughable. It’s difficult enough for a family of four to decide what they want for dinner, much less convince an entire community to keep the lid on heinous crimes against children.

Hard evidence of this has yet to be uncovered, but I would be willing to bet that individuals with money, power, and prestige coerced anyone who knew to keep this information hidden from the light of day. I’d also bet they did this with pressure and threats.

The speculative evidence of abuse of power is widespread throughout this tragedy. Just look at the progression of events.

- Jerry Sandusky retires in 1999 suddenly after a parent of one of his victims finally confronts him the year before.
- District Attorney Ray Gricar choses not to pursue a criminal case against Sandusky regarding the 1998 incident, even though he is known to not be lenient for Penn State football.
- Gricar disappeared in 2005, and phrases like “how to wreck a hard drive” are found are internet searches on his home computer.
- In 2000, a campus janitor saw Sandusky in a sexual act with a boy, told the janitorial staff, but did not report the event to authorities.
- University officials continue to allow Sandusky access to football facilities for his nonprofit organization, The Second Mile, until the shower incident in 2002.
- Coach Joe Paterno denies knowledge of Sandusky’s behavior before the 2002 incident, even though Sandusky worked with Paterno for 30-plus years and Paterno was notorious for knowing everything about his players and program.
- Sandusky was allowed to see boys involved in his nonprofit while they were at school, and even check them out of school at times. School janitors and faculty reported suspicious behavior in the grand jury report, but at the time did not report the incidences. (See Victim One in the Grand Jury Report)

I could easily continue this much longer, but this information alone is reason enough to be suspicious. Why would a janitor fail to report what he saw? Why was Sandusky allowed access to kids at school, a facility that would normally pride itself on its strict guidelines for protecting students? Why did Penn State officials do nothing more than tell Sandusky he could no longer use their facilities for The Second Mile after the 2002 revelation, essentially saying, “Just don’t do it here”?

And why was he on campus just last week, even with this story about to erupt?

I simply cannot accept so many people saw the writing on the wall of what Sandusky was doing and chose to look the other way. Maybe they were naive and couldn’t bring themselves to believe it. Or maybe they were threatened to keep quiet.

I’m no conspiracy theorist, but a simple Google search presents an overwhelming amount of reason for suspicion. And at this point, Penn State should be downright paranoid. A little paranoia in the beginning might have prevented this whole disaster.


  1. Interesting thought, comparing Bruce Pearl's termination to Paterno's. I'm also a UT fan, and found myself with many of the same thoughts and feelings as those you described above. How is it possible that, given the general outrage over what has allegedly transpired in Happy Valley, that there isn't somebody involved who was so overwhelmed at Sandusky's actions, that their outrage boiled over into a national media news leak? Remember, some of the allegations date back over 10 or 12 years! Are fans THAT blinded by love of the school colors? Am I THAT blind?

  2. Absolutely. Our devotions make us think irrationally and act on emotion. This is an extreme case, but it's not unlike any other fan/coach/player defending their U.

    Maybe we all need to be more like Colin Cowherd.
    "Love your family. Like sports."