Saturday, November 12, 2011

Unhappy Valley

It's Saturday, and for the first time in 46 years, Joe Paterno will not be on the sidelines at Penn State.  Last week "Joe Pa" was fired, not for his performance on the field for the 'Nittany Lions' where he has 409 victories (vs 136 losses), but for a defeat that he suffered off of the field.  That mistake was one of judgment with regard to one of his assistant coaches Jerry Sandusky.

Mr Sandusky worked with Coach Paterno for some 20 years as a defensive coordinator, and seemed at one time to be the heir apparent to the throne in Happy Valley (a rather dubious honor, since Joe at 84, showed little interest in retiring until this week).  Mr Sandusky lost his status in1999 however, abruptly retiring after an incident reported by the mother of an 11 year-old in which he was giving the child a bear hug in the shower.  The University police investigated this occurrence, but no charges were filed, nor apparently was the information turned over to local authorities outside of the university.

Three years later, as it emerges in a recently released Grand Jury report, Sandusky was apparently caught in the showers at a campus locker room with a boy who appeared to be around 10 years-old by now linebacker coach Mike McQueary, who was a graduate assistant at the time.  Though there was some delay involved, McQueary eventually reported the incident and this report reached Coach Paterno, who in turn reported it to the Athletic Director.  That Grand Jury report in fact points to eight potential victims of Mr Sandusky, and is often the case when such charges are publicized, more may yet surface.

OK, these are the alleged facts as we know them now, but how then do we question what went on and judge those involved, if such judgment is permitted?

Why weren't the accusations in 1999 reported to local authorities?  When did it become the province of University Police to determine such things?  If Jerry Sandusky retired in 1999, what was he doing on campus, using school facilities, three years later?  Who permitted this and gave him access or keys?  Why, if he was granted access at all, wasn't he under closer scrutiny, based on previous accusation?  One must certainly call into question the judgment of the University in general and the Athletic Department in particular for allowing an alleged sexual predator access to the scene of many of his alleged past crimes.

Forget the delay in 'reporting' on Mike McQueary's part, why didn't he move immediately to protect the child in question?  It's reported that McQueary called his father for advice, so the question extends to asking why his father didn't tell him to go back and protect the child? These events show a serious lapse in judgment on McQueary's part, if not one of courage.  There is guilt by commission and guilt by omission, and if the story told by McQueary in this case is true, he is certainly guilty of the latter in the form of a cowardice that would be hard to defend.

(On a side note, let me say that a reaction of 'kicking the crap out of Sandusky seems the rather logical and immediate, if a bit Neanderthal solution.  If this didn't occur to McQueary Jr, it should have certainly occurred to McQueary Sr.  I understand that Michael McQueary is currently under suspension.  Perhaps he should be permitted to keep his job if he allows the father of the abused child to kick the crap out of him as he should have done to Sandusky when witnessing this event.)

How could no one else have noticed what was going on?  Campus life is largely provincial, and everyone knows everyone else's business.  It seems to defy credibility that this could have been going on for an extended period of time (which it apparently was) without others knowing.  If in fact others did know, then they too must share some complicity in this heinous behavior.

While I don't normally comment on sports, this story transcends athletics, and should act as an indictment of Penn State University itself.  This is not an NCAA rules violation on recruiting, undercover payments to players by slimy Alumni, or players attempting to cash in early on a fame that may be all too fleeting.  This is an institutional and systematic choice to turn a blind eye to child abuse going on by a current or former employee on your property.  It's also an apparent willingness to sweep such immoral and illegal behavior under the rug to keep the money associated with college sports spilling into Penn State's coffers.

If the NCAA is to continue to hold any moral dominion with regard to its mandated mission, there can be only one answer to these charges, if they are in any part proven to be true:  "The Death Penalty".  I leave it to this organization of dubious moral character whose inability to police its members is well known, the period which Penn State should do without their football program; but considering the length of time that this appears to have been going on, certainly such punishment should be greater than any of the one or two year sentences previously handed out by this bastion of all that's fair in college sports (sorry, that's alleged bastion).

I pronounce sentence without desiring to see any of the players currently on the Penn State football team punished (though I'm afraid that they will be forever tainted by association).  They should be permitted to transfer without eligibility penalties and allowed to continue their sports futures.  Penn State and its football program must however be punished in the only way that Universities and 'Big Time College Football' programs seem to understand, by hitting them in the revenue stream where it hurts.

Could this hurt other sports programs at the university or the admissions of new students?  I'm sure it could, but it certainly appears that more than the Athletic Department were at least aware of this situation and that the university as a whole is responsible for looking the other way for a considerable period of time.

Let the picture of an empty stadium in what will become 'Unhappy Valley' be shown every week on 'football Saturdays' to serve as a reminder to all those who see themselves as living in the ivory towers of academia and above the more mundane concerns of everyday living that they have a responsibility to the mere mortals who surround them and the communities they live amongst; and most especially to the children who may one day walk their halls.


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