Does Penn State deserve the death penalty for its abominable cover-up?

The full report into Penn State’s response to allegations of sexual abuse by longtime defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, following an eight-month investigation overseen by former FBI director Louis Freeh, fills 267 excruciating pages. But to put the finishing touches on the obliteration of a half-century of goodwill, it only took 163 words:

The evidence shows that these four men also knew about a 1998 criminal investigation of Sandusky relating to suspected sexual misconduct with a young boy in a Penn State football locker room shower. Again, they showed no concern about that victim. The evidence shows that Mr. Paterno was made aware of the 1998 investigation of Sandusky, followed it closely, but failed to take any action, 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.

At the very least, Mr. Paterno could have alerted the entire football staff, in order to prevent Sandusky from bringing another child into the Lasch Building. Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley also failed to alert the Board of Trustees about the 1998 investigation or take any further action against Mr. Sandusky. None of them even spoke to Sandusky about his conduct. In short, nothing was done and Sandusky was allowed to continue with impunity.

It is one of the saddest and sickest stories in the history of college athletics. It turns my stomach so violently that I don’t even like to write about it…so, I will let the selected links highlighted below do the talking for me.

First, CBS has a fantastic article that starts from the premise that ‘negligence is the least of their sins’.

First, the facts. In 1998, an allegation by the mother of an 11-year-old boy (later identified in court documents as “Victim 6”) who claimed Sandusky had sexually assaulted him in a locker room shower led to an investigation by Penn State campus police and local law enforcement. That investigation resulted in a 95-page police report – but no charges against Sandusky. During that investigation, according to a November 2011 indictment by the Pennsylvania Attorney General, “Sandusky admitted showering naked with Victim 6, admitted to hugging Victim 6 while in the shower and admitted that it was wrong.” According to the mother of Victim 6, who reported Sandusky to authorities when her son told her they had showered together, the coach told her during the investigation, “I understand. I was wrong. I wish I could get forgiveness. I know I won’t get it from I you. I wish I were dead,” while detectives secretly listened to the conversation in another room

The article goes on to analyze and contextualize many of the revelations and developments of the entire scandal. It is worth reading.

Also worth reading is the conclusion drawn by Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal Constitution,

If we make a big deal about a college football program playing dumb when a recruit takes free shoes or tattoos, or his family lives in a house rent free, how can we look the other way when evidence screams that one of the nation’s most powerful universities enabled a pedophile?

How can we sit through something so sick and vile as the testimony in the Jerry Sandusky trial and conclude that this was a one-source scandal worthy of only one individual or entity suffering consequences?

Penn State should not be allowed to play another football game. It put sport, image and fundraising above everything else. That is what every cheater in college athletics does, and because of that it deserves the NCAA’s “death penalty.”

Southern Methodist University, one of the nation’s top academic schools, saw its football program given the death penalty in 1987 because it put athletic success above what so obviously was considered morally acceptable. Isn’t it now clear that Penn State did the exact same thing?

In fact, what the powers Penn State did was worse. Their actions involved not materialistic goods but defenseless victims who will suffer for the rest of their lives.

According to a 267-page report by former FBI director Louis Freeh, the four most powerful men overseeing the university and the football program – president Graham Spanier (since fired), athletic director Tim Curley (on “administrative leave,” under indictment for perjury), vice president Gary Schultz (suddenly retired, also under indictment) and the late coach, Joe Paterno (fired in what would be two months before his death) — knew far more about Sandusky’s sick perversions and abuse than they let on. They knew it far longer than they let on.

And here’s the punctuation, your honor: They “concealed critical facts,” according to Freeh.

There’s a term for that: cover-up.

“Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State,” Freeh stated.

We don’t need to know anything else.

I agree. I don’t need to know anything else. The role of the institution that is Penn State University in this awful tragedy is clear. Accordingly, there MUST be accountability and retribution and for their actions. The leaders and the people that compose the leadership and fabric of this institution have had their chance. Why should they ever be trusted again?

Does Penn State deserve the 'Death Penalty'

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46 Responses to Does Penn State deserve the death penalty for its abominable cover-up?

  1. Lumpy 07/12/2012 at 9:41 PM #

    I am also for shutting the program down. I know that most of the coaches and players that are there now had no idea what hideous things Jerry Sandusky was doing. And I know that shutting the program down doesn’t necessarily gain anything for the victims either. But the fact remains that people in power at Penn State University put the image of the football program above the welfare of children and allowed a child molester to retain his good standing with community and many more opportunities to keep on sodomizing kids all because he was a good defensive coordinator. Scorched earth policy. Sometimes the right punishment isn’t exactly justice, its just the punishment that fits the crime.

  2. hpack 07/12/2012 at 9:59 PM #

    This is the worst college sports scandal EVER! It is worse than boosters paying players, it is worse than coaches paying players, it is worse than academic dishonesty, it is worse than players getting in fights on Friday night, it is worse than players doing drugs, it’s worse than players selling drugs, it is worse than point shaving and gambling. This is a situation where a perverted monster, on the coaching staff, was allowed to continually sexually abuse children over the course of a decade or more, with the knowledge of the head coach, AD, and university president, so that no bad press would touch the football program. Many in the chain of command could have stopped the abuse but they felt the program to be more important. All this BS about character and integrity spouted by Joe Pa was put to the test and when when it really mattered (sports is a diversion, winning and losing don’t REALLY matter in the real world) was nowhere to be found. I think the program should be shut down for several years. If I were a PSU grad (and I came close to going there) I would hope that my administration could do the right thing on their own.

  3. highstick 07/12/2012 at 10:08 PM #

    I guess I’d bought in to the Penn State aura…Capeletti story and many friends and co-workers from PA..I thought Joe should have stepped down years ago though.

    But, I guess I got sucked into the “aura” and am kicking myself in the butt right now for sticking up for Joe when this stuff started. Sad that he either couldn’t or wouldn’t do something which makes his entire legacy ruined!

    What Sandusky did may not be within the purview of the NCAA, but the coverup from the school and the program sure seems to be an NCAA issue. If it isn’t, it should be..

  4. Lunatic Fringe 07/12/2012 at 10:14 PM #

    I also believe the board of trustees should be shown the door. An issue like this is far from a secret from guys in their position especially in a small community like State College.

  5. ancsu87 07/12/2012 at 11:28 PM #

    “I agree. I don’t need to know anything else. The role of the institution that is Penn State University in this awful tragedy is clear. Accordingly, there MUST be accountability and retribution and for their actions. The leaders and the people that compose the leadership and fabric of this institution have had their chance. Why should they ever be trusted again?”

    My understanding is all four of the people are gone…Joe Paterno is dead and the others are gone …. if you follow the guidance above then the USA and its people who owned slaves should never be trusted again. The Germans should never be trusted again. Why punish those who have come into a mess afterwards? I don’t see that the university should be punished. The specific individuals should be punished since they moved on. If they were still in those positions then they would deserve the punishment. Besides the fact that dead men cannot speak for themselves.

  6. wolfpack4ever 07/13/2012 at 12:18 AM #

    The actions of Sandusky were hideous and he will probably be picking up soap for lots of other inmates until the day he dies. He will meet a just and mighty God after a fellow inmate probably ends his time on earth with a crudely formed knife.

    All Penn State employees that knew of this activity by Sandusky need to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. All need to be sentenced the maximum terms allowable.

    However, this all was criminal actions. This is not the NCAA’s fight. I do not see them taking action. College football is the holy grail and cash cow for the NCAA. Too much TV money is involved to shutdown a university football program now.

    Maybe Penn State will do the right thing now and self impose penalties. However, the world we live in proves daily that you cannot legislate morality. Whether it be Wall Street, government policy, or the next yet to be determined public fiasco, no amount of law or regulation seem to be a deterent.

    It is either in a person’s heart and soul to do the right thing or not. May the Lord have mercy on what our once great country has become.

  7. GAWolf 07/13/2012 at 6:23 AM #

    Agreed. The moral sections of the “Constitution” do not really change my opinion on that. People should go to jail… it’s bigger than sports. Period. It’s just not a sport issue.

  8. TruthBKnown Returns 07/13/2012 at 7:19 AM #

    it’s bigger than sports. Period. It’s just not a sport issue.

    You’re right, it is. But I contend it is ALSO a sports issue. There were two problems here — #1 was the obvious one where Sandusky was committing heinous crimes against children. But there is a second one, the cover-up that was done in order to shield the football program.

    People should go to jail, AND the NCAA should hold them responsible for covering this up to protect the football program.

  9. Wulfpack 07/13/2012 at 7:40 AM #

    If the NCAA says it is their fight, then it is their fight. The NCAA can pretty much do whatever it wants. That’s essentially what Mark Emmert’s quote said about the situation. Here is the quote:

    “Well we have rules and bylaws that — while they were never written to address anything quite like this of course — they speak directly to the control that institutions have to maintain over their athletic departments and their programs. And they speak very directly to ethical behavior of people in those programs and we’ll apply those bylaws, and if the allegations hold up, then we’ll act accordingly.”

    Control. Ethical behavior. The NCAA could have never foreseen something as sick as this occuring on one of their campuses – heinous crimes that were covered up to protect a football program (not my words, that’s what the report found). So my take is, if the NCAA wants to take action and make an example of PSU, it will.

  10. wilmwolf80 07/13/2012 at 7:54 AM #

    Here’s my question. For many years I’ve had the belief that Paterno wasn’t really in control of the program. He seemed to be a figurehead, propped up to keep the glory of the hallowed program intact. I don’t think he was incompetent, but he certainly seemed at times to be in the early stages of dementia. Is there any possibility that he simply didn’t understand the ramifications of what was going on? I’m certainly not making excuses, because I think the actions of all of them were despicable.

  11. Classof89 07/13/2012 at 10:52 AM #

    Unless something has changed, NCAA would have to change their rules to levy the Death Penalty in this sort of situation, which then gives them a “fair notice” defense. As I understand it, Death Penalty was given to SMU for having a certain number of “Major Violations” within, I think, a five year period. Death Penalty does NOT apply to one instance of a particularly heinous cover up. One characteristic of our free and open society is that we don’t change the punishment for a particular criminal after the fact because we are particularly revulsed by that one particular perpetrator…

  12. Pack Mentality 07/13/2012 at 3:05 PM #

    I’m sure a lawyer could argue that continually covering up child rape to gain a competitive advantage on the football field can be translated to multiple major violation.

  13. highstick 07/13/2012 at 5:51 PM #

    Wilmwolf…that’s sorta where I was with Joe too and it’s a shame if that is the truth. I even tried to justify that this was just one of those “generational issues” that Joe just couldn’t bring himself to believe or talk about.

    Granted that sounds strange, but there were just some taboo things that some of the “older” generation just didn’t want to even talk about…I guess a puritanical type issue. Sure does sound funny for me to be talking about an “older generation” but we’re talking about people who were born just after the turn of the 20th Century.

    But, there is really no excuse given the facts that are out there now…

  14. ryebread 07/14/2012 at 12:22 AM #

    I’ve said it since I first read the indictment. Joe Pa absolutely knew and spearheaded a massive cover up. It’s all coming to light now, but there’s no positive legacy left from him in my mind. If there’s a hell, he’s burning in it (and not just for this).

    If I were a Penn State alum, I’d be leading the charge to have everything related to him removed. Rip the statue down. Take his name off the library.

    As for the football program, shut it down for 5 years. Give the kids free rides to the school. If some of them think that the NFL is their future and want to play elsewhere, let them transfer immediately. I wish no ill will towards the current kids because they didn’t cause this.

    The school though? Yep, they should suffer.

    Only if the consequences get real will people start getting serious about the rules. The NCAA needs to make an example out of a big fish, or they might as well call college football and basketball the minor leagues.

    Wilmwolf: Sorry, but Joe Pa knew. He also knew about the beatings that happened to some regular students by his players under his watch. I watched an interview of him about that very topic. There were a lot of things bad about the last 15 or so years of Paterno’s tenure at Penn State, and the number of Ls was the smallest part of that.

    The man didn’t have dementia. The man had a massive ego and wanted nothing more than to pass Bobby Bowden, regardless of how little he actually was doing. He ran Penn State football much like Dean Smith did UNC basketball. The difference is that he didn’t step aside and do it from behind the scenes during his waning years, though ironically that’d have probably been the best thing for him.

  15. reef2244 07/14/2012 at 12:33 AM #

    If the NCAA decides not to punish the football program because Paterno et al are out of Penn State I believe that every win Paterno had since 2001 should be vacated. If this comes out in 2001 when the heat was on to force Paterno out after 2 sub-par seasons he would have been fired. Paterno protected his job and his program at the expense of children. His punishment should be the record he wanted so badly should be taken away. If the NCAA does not suspend the program the new President and Board should, as an act of conciliation to the victims. Also, if there was ever a program that needed some time away from the spotlight it is Penn State football.

  16. Wulfpack 07/14/2012 at 4:00 PM #

    “If I were a Penn State alum, I’d be leading the charge to have everything related to him removed. Rip the statue down.”

    You know who agrees with you? Bobby Bowden! Did you see his quotes? You can tell he ain’t fond of JoePa. Bobby’s always been a gentleman and for him to say something like that, you know he has to be PO’d.

  17. Pack78 07/14/2012 at 5:02 PM #

    Anybody heard any more opining from Coach K on this subject?

  18. stat1124 07/16/2012 at 7:06 PM #

    I think Penn State deserves at least a two year ban for what has transpired. Again, I will go by the NCAA bylaws only which are being questioned as we speak. If Penn State is in violation of the major bylaws, it definitely can find itself under the death penalty. If you aren’t familiar with which bylaws the NCAA are looking at, you can check my article where I go into more detail about each bylaw the NCAA has questioned Penn State about.

  19. Wulfpack 07/17/2012 at 8:44 AM #

    Here is Emmert’s new take on the matter:

    NCAA president Mark Emmert has not ruled out drastically punishing Penn State football in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

    “This is completely different than an impermissible benefits scandal like happened at SMU, or anything else we’ve dealt with,” Emmert said. “This is as systemic a cultural problem as it is a football problem. There have been people that said this wasn’t a football scandal.

    “Well it was more than a football scandal, much more than a football scandal. It was that but much more. And we’ll have to figure out exactly what the right penalties are. I don’t know that past precedent makes particularly good sense in this case, because it’s really an unprecedented problem.”

  20. hball57 07/17/2012 at 5:20 PM #

    Let me chime in. It is a moral issue, a human decency issue and a criminal issue. I believe a sports entity trying to jump in cheapens the issue rather than enhances it. If the situation is settled in court, it should be settled!

  21. Wulfpack 07/17/2012 at 5:46 PM #

    “If the situation is settled in court, it should be settled!”

    Where has anything been “settled in court”? Tell that to the victims.

    The NCAA getting involved does not cheapen the issue. It sets a standard that frankly, I think is worth setting. This kind of crap cannot be tolerated.

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