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Penn State/Sandusky Story Finally Public

Posted by Steve Markowitz on July 12, 2012

For those of us that are alumni and supporters of Penn State University, this is been a painful nine months.  Our University has been tainted with a scandal of horrific proportions.  And yes, We are Penn State.

When the scandal went public in November, the University’s Board of Trustees took two major actions.  First, it fired longtime and legendary coach Joe Paterno, as well as President Graham Spanier.  In addition, it engaged former FBI director Louis Freeh to create a no holds bar report on the scandal and any University involvement in it.

The firing of Joe Paterno by the Board of Trustees was certainly controversial at the time.  We alumni considered Joe our mentor, father and to some even near deity status.  Many alumni including famous football players Franco Harris and LaVar Arrington went public with criticism of the firing claiming it was precipitous and unfair.  The validity of that criticism could not be absolutely judged until all of the facts were known and now they are.

The other action of the Board of Trustees was less controversial, but no less important for the University and Sandusky victims.  The hiring of independent and respected Louis Freeh to create an in detailed report of the scandal, its causes and those responsible was a prerequisite for the University to begin a cleansing process.  That report based on over 400 interviews and more than 3 million documents was issued today and answered most open questions.  It was damning of high-up Penn State officials including Joe Paterno and Graham Spanier.

According to the New York Times, the Freeh report concluded that:

  • The highest officials at Penn State failed for over 10 years to take any steps to protect Jerry Sandusky victims.  “Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims,” and “the most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized” said Freeh.
  • The report also concluded:  “In order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity,” the most powerful leaders of Penn State University “repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities, the board of trustees, the Penn State community and the public at large.”
  • One finding of the report was that Joe Paterno knew in 1998 of concerns about Sandusky behaving inappropriately with children.  At that time, University police investigated a related claim concerning Sandusky in a Penn State shower with a child, an investigation that Paterno closely followed.
  • The report concluded that Paterno failed to take any action on the Sandusky matter “even though Sandusky had been a key member of his coaching staff for almost 30 years and had an office just steps away from Mr. Paterno’s.”

Any doubt that the Board of Trustees did the right thing by immediately terminating of Spanier and Paterno has been put to rest.  Even strong Paterno supporter LaVar Arrington agreed Tweeting today that “I must admit, the report seems largely unbiased and fair.”  Arrington further tweeted that “All in the report are culpable starting with the president-vice pres-ad-head coach-bot all involved should’ve and should be removed.”

As a strong supporter of the University, this alumni is certainly disappointed with the findings of the Freeh report, but at the same time not surprised.  Those of us who followed and supported the football program clearly knew that Joe Paterno ran it with an iron fist.  During much of that period the program was very well run, helping young men turn into not only great athletes, but great citizens.  It also produced great football teams.

Since the latter part of the 1990s it also became apparent that the football program had degenerated not only in the quality of its teams, but in the personal qualities of some of the athletes recruited.  The win-loss record became unacceptable and too many players got in trouble with the law.  Discipline of these players remained in the total purview of the football program, i.e. coach Paterno.  But most of the alumni, including this writer, turned a blind eye to the issues because JoePa was there running the program.  For that we bear some responsibility in enabling an atmosphere that was conducive to the scandal.

When the scandal went public in November, this writer supported the Board of Trustees’ decision to immediately terminate Spanier and Paterno.  While it was not possible then to determine their (if any) participation in a cover-up, at the very least as chief executives of the University and the football program they had to be held accountable for inaction and a breakdown in controls that led to children being damaged.  For that position some alumni shared with me their strong dissenting opinions that matched the initial reaction of LaVar Arrington.  Their positions, while understandable given our strong feelings for Joe Paterno, was emblematic of an attitude that helped cultivate an insular mentality that was a breeding ground for what the Freeh report confirmed was a cover-up by Paterno, Spanier and likely others at the University.

We now not only know the sordid details of the criminal acts of Sandusky, but also why this predator was allowed to remain connected with University for so long after his behavior became known. As painful as this knowledge is, it will allow us as a university to begin down the road to recovery and a healing process.

It is time for all Penn State alumni to come together and even more significantly support the University going forward.  Penn State is a great educational institution that has helped many become the type of people who have improved society, the country and the greater world.  Let us all work together to bring the University back to the preeminent position that it deserves.

We are Penn State!!!!!

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One Response to “Penn State/Sandusky Story Finally Public”

  1. Paula Bomboy said

    The time has come for everyone to remember that first, and foremost,Penn State is an institution of Higher Learning. It has produced many, many more scholars than football players. For that, the university and alumni should be most proud.

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