PENN STATE: IS THE COACH THE FALL GUY?

Joe Paterno, now 84 years old, has been the football coach at Penne State since 1949.  He is the winningest coach in the history of American college football.  In a 10 pm phone call Paterno was fired summarily and told not to attend today’s Penn State game against Nebraska which will be nationally televised.

Did Paterno , beloved on the campus, deserve this shabby treatement.  Some eight years ago an assistant coach told Paterno that another coach, Jerry Sandusky, was seen sexually assaulting a 10 year-old boy in the shower.  The boy indeed was being raped but so far as I know there is no evidence whether Paterno was told the gory details’

In any event, Paterno took the information, whatever it was, up the chain to his superiors which he was legally bound to do.

The rap on Paterno is that he did not see to it that the information was placed in the hands of the police.  But suppose we were in his shoes.  Is it so clear that, having told our immediate superiors, we were legally responsible for seeing the info got to the police?  I wonder.

Joey Paterno is now a disgraced old man.  His years of service to Penn state (he raised millions of dollars for the University) just rubbed out.  Could not Paterno have been put on administrative leave until all this has been sorted out?

Should today’s nationally televised Penn State game been cancelled?

Should Penn State’s football program be suspended for a year?

Was Paterno dealt with fairly?

What do you think?

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22 Comments »

  1. 1
    Barbara Says:

    I don’t get it, Neil. A few days ago you were saying that the Catholic Church might learn something from the way the sexual abuse accusation was dealt with at Penn State. You pointed out the injustice in the treatment of the hierarchs in the Church who tried to avoid scandal by attempting to deal with the sexual abuse as simply a moral issue within the institution and did not have recourse to the police. You decry (rightly, I think) that bishops like Law were given cushy jobs higher up and note that only now is one bishop being taken to court. Here you appear to be arguing the exact reverse, that Paterno bore no clear responsibility to report the abuse to the police. If medical personnel and schoolteachers, etc. are required to report suspected abuse to the authorities, how much more are those who witness the abuse? or know of such a witness?

    I feel sorry for Paterno, but much more for the children that were scarred for life.

  2. 2
    Neil McKenty Says:

    Barbara,

    It seems to me there are two points to be made here:

    Did the underling coach describe to Paterno the gravity of the sexual offense he saw? We don’t know.

    Once Paterno told his superiors what he knew (which unlike many in the Catholic church he did), was he still legally bound to go to the police? He was not.

  3. 3

    Neil says: “Some eight years ago an assistant coach told Paterno that another coach, Jerry Sandusky, was seen sexually assaulting a 10 year-old boy in the shower.” “no evidence that he was told gory details” WHAT? SEEN-ASSAULTING-BOY. are the only details for a call to action!
    I don’t feel the least bit sorry for Paterno.
    The only sympathy I have is for the children.
    Paterno should have reported and followed up.
    I don’t care what position on the totem pole, if I had that kind of information, I would not hesitate to make waves.
    Sexual abuse is not something that happens once by mistake. There’s a pattern and repetition and signals! In eight years, I guarantee that the old goat got more signals…and ignored it.

  4. 4
    Barbara Says:

    Are you sure Paterno was not legally bound to go to the police? Rules on that can be pretty strict in the States. Let’s see what the district attorneys cook up.

  5. 5
    Neil McKenty Says:

    As I understand it, Barbara, Paterno was legally mandated to disclose the abuse to his superiors (which he did) but not legally obligated to report the matter himself to the police.

  6. 6

    I don’t know all the details of this story, but if you’re summarizing it accurately, then I’m with Patti on this: Paterno was a coach, and in a position of authority over the youngsters AND the other staff. He therefore had a duty to ensure the safety of all his charges!

    Reporting to his own superiors was not enough. He should have grabbed his assistant and gone with him straight to the police, and had his assistant tell the police what he saw. Paterno could not be a witness to what he did not see, but his assistant could. Paterno should have seen to it.

    But I think his abrupt firing was wrong, as was the way it was handled. I think the board at Penn State were retroactively covering their own asses with both hands and trying to make him the scapegoat for their own failure. They ought to join him on administrative leave until a judge (or, from the sounds of this mess, maybe a whole platoon of judges) can sort it out.

  7. 7

    You can not defend the indefensible.

    Also, “platoons” of lawyers are preparing actions against the coaches, the administration, the State, and rightly so.
    This is going to be a major crime trial, and hopefully put an end to “cover-ups at all costs” like this was.
    The “fairness” of firing Paderno will grow pale.

  8. 8

    Here’s one more thought:
    The USA need not send troops to Afghanistan and Iraq- they need to send the National guard in to Universities, and Schools, and slums to protect children!
    Their own.

  9. 9
    Barbara Says:

    littlepatti, this happened off campus, as I understand it. It was at a charity facility that Sandusky founded. Listen, this happens all over, unfortunately. Remember Mount Cashel?

  10. 10

    Canada has nothing to be proud of. I do remember Mount Cashel, NFLD. and numerous others in Quebec, Ontario etc. The “where” is unimportant.
    Obviously, children are not taught to report abuse, and are not taught to scream blue murder.
    How can you tell…I’m pissed!
    Bullies, Politicians, Sex scandals, Pedophiles, I need a breather.

  11. 11
    Tony Kondaks Says:

    Even if all that was related to Paterno was worded as “fondling” or “inappropriate touching” that was MORE than enough to require Paterno to immediately go to the police.

    But I have even more outrage towards McQueery, the then 28 year old who witnessed the anal rape of the 10 year old: (1) why didn’t he immediately stop it and rescue the boy; and (2) why didn’t HE immediately go to the police.

    He needs to be fired, too.

  12. 12
    Neil McKenty Says:

    Coach McQueery is now on paid administrative leave. I doubt that he will last and he could well be criminally charged.

  13. 13
    John Says:

    A crime is a crime. Knowing or not knowing the “gory details” doesn’t make it any less so. Paterno and the others (including McQueery as Tony points out) had a moral obligation to report what they knew to the police, but didn’t.

    It’s one more tragic case where the reputation of an individual and the institution that surrounds him intimidates those who are aware of his transgressions.

    No one wanted to bring dishonour to a school, a program or an individual held in such high regard throughout the country. Each left it to someone else.

    The janitor who witnessed the incident in the locker room told only other janitors. McQueery who witnessed the rape in the shower told only Paterno. Paterno told only his superiors. School officials told only the dierector of Sandusky’s foundation.

    No one took it to the police and find their moral cowardice to be every bit as reprehensible as that of the Catholic bishops.

  14. 14
    John Says:

    Sorry. Looks like I dropped an “I” before “find” in the last sentence.

  15. 15

    A stand-up guy, on seeing this vile act in the shower , would have yelled at the attacker ` What the hell are you doing ?`,and the attacker, having no come-back,would have backed off. Going to Paterno is nice, but not doing anything. The police, hearing that somebody said that somebody saw,would have very little to work with. No, I think Paterno is a fall guy.

  16. 16

    I think that any human, seeing a child being raped would rescue them.
    It speaks volumes about all of those men (animals) involved.

  17. 17
    jim Says:

    These universities normally have campus police who answer to the university authorities. Paterno also answers to the same university authorities. Did the administration call in their own police? Did the campus police give an answer to the admin to the effect, this one case happened off campus and they had no authority ‘out there’? Did the admin then say “whew, thank God, we thought we had a scandal on our hands, which could have affected our multi-million dollar revenues”, totally ignoring the fact that still had a sicko (Sandusky) in their midst, but did not do anything about it because disturbing the shit pile might…..
    Besides they really have to leave this incident alone because there are over 3000 teachers at this Univ, and if national figures are correct this figure is tantamount to having about 300 Sanduskys snifting around. Is it not reasonable to think that the Univ may have filtered out 250 of the limp wrists by asking them to leave, only after evidence proved that they had messed around with at least 250 students, otherwise they couldn’t have been fired. We now have 50 wierdo teachers left who may still be on the payroll because they are giving freeby boinkings to some of the admin staff, the same staff who should have been reporting sexual incidents to the city police.
    Now this leaves us with 2500 teachers, who as we all know, don’t mess around with the opposite sex (ahem) because Penn State has very strict rules about fraternizing, right?
    There is more big stuff to come out of Penis State. On the other hand I wonder what the exchange rate is? You know, I’ll do you up teach if you give me a better mark?

  18. 18
    Barbara Says:

    Here is an excellent article from the Washington Post on the role of narcissism and grandiosity in sexual abuse. They are both in play here. Pay attention to Jim Martin’s closing paragraph.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/guest-voices/post/a-priests-view-of-penn-state/2011/11/13/gIQAcevnHN_blog.html

  19. 19

    Thanks Barbara,
    Here’s that closing paragraph:

    “But anyone who seeks to combat abuse in an institution should be aware of a hidden trap: Be vigilant not only about safeguarding against sexual abuse, not only about holding perpetrators accountable, not only about turning over credible accusations to civil authorities, but also about resisting the powerful draw into feeling too sorry for the wrong people.”

    James Martin, SJ, is a Jesuit priest and culture editor of America magazine.

  20. 20

    Jim: I don’t believe that 10% of a population are pedophiles.
    And don’t mix up pedophiles, who are perverts, with Gays.

  21. 21
    Tony Kondaks Says:

    Ditto littlepatti’s comment #20. I wanted yo say the exact same thing as she did, but I wouldn’t have said it as nicely.

  22. 22
    Jim Says:

    Littlepatti – Your comments are dead on. Although I did mention what was happening in the paedophilia area, my main thrust was really about Penn State, which I don’t think have children enrolled.


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