Can Joe Paterno be defended anymore?
John Gonzalez and Dave Jones of the Harrisburg Patriot-News discuss the Freeh Report and what it means to Joe Paterno’s legacy along with the PSU culture. 7/12/12
Freeh Report: Did Joe Paterno conceal the abuse?
Louis Freeh on if Joe Paterno used his power as head football coach to concealed reports of the rapes. 07/12/12
Paterno from child care
The president of Nike Inc. said Thursday he has decided to change the name of the Joe Paterno Child Development Center, a child care facility at the company’s headquarters outside Portland.
Chief executive Mark Parker said he was deeply saddened by the news coming of the Louis Freeh investigation on the child sex abuse scandal at Penn State. Freeh says Paterno and other top school officials disregarded the welfare of Jerry Sandusky’s victims as they failed to report abuse allegations against the longtime assistant coach.
“It is a terrible tragedy that children were unprotected from such abhorrent crimes,” Parker said.
Nike founder Phil Knight, who defended Paterno at the coach’s memorial service, said “it appears Joe made missteps that led to heartbreaking consequences. I missed that Joe missed it, and I am extremely saddened on this day.”
Knight said Paterno strived to put young athletes in a position to succeed in sports and in life.
“My love for Joe and his family remains,” Knight said.
Nike has not released a new name for the Joe Paterno Child Development Center, which opened in the early 1990s and was remodeled in 2008. Company officials did not respond to requests for more information about the center or its new name.
The company is known for naming its buildings after sports figures including Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson, Nolan Ryan and Mike Schmidt. Nike’s headquarters is located on Bowerman Drive, named for Bill Bowerman, Knight’s track and field coach at the University of Oregon who co-founded the athletic-wear giant.
After Jerry Sandusky was initially arrested, Joe Paterno issued a statement. In it, the former Penn State head coach said he wished he “had done more” to prevent what happened. Now we know he could have done more, quite a bit more, but knowingly failed to do so.
In November, Penn State’s Board of Trustees empowered former FBI director Louis Freeh and his law firm to conduct an independent investigation concerning the university’s involvement with, knowledge of, and culpability stemming from Sandusky’s criminal sexual activities. (Sandusky was recently convicted on 45 of 48 counts and is awaiting sentencing.) You can read the full findings here. The report is beyond damning – for the university, its most powerful leaders, its carefully crafted and once-pristine image, and particularly Paterno.
Anyone who previously believed that the former head coach had limited knowledge of Sandusky’s criminal sexual deviance – anyone who thought Paterno did what was required of him by alerting administration officials after Mike McQueary told him of an incident involving Sandusky and a young boy in the showers at the Lasch Building in 2001 – will be disabused of that notion upon reading the full and lengthy report.
According to the investigation, “four of the most powerful people at The Pennsylvania State University” – former President Graham Spanier, former Senior Vice President Gary Schultz, former Athletic Director Tim Curley and former head coach Joe Paterno – “exhibited a striking lack of empathy for Sandusky’s victims.” Worse, those men “concealed Sandusky’s activities from the Board of Trustees, the University community and the authorities.”
The actions of those individuals – Spanier, Schultz, Curley and Paterno – empowered Sandusky to take potential victims to “the campus and football events” and allowed him to “have continued, unrestricted and unsupervised access to the University’s facilities and affiliation with the University’s football program. Indeed, that continued access provided Sandusky with the very currency that enabled him to attract his victims. Some coaches, administrators and football program staff members ignored red flags of Sandusky’s behaviors and no one warned the public about him.”
The motivation, according to the findings of the investigation, was simple and unconscionable: “avoid the consequences of bad publicity.”
The evidence in the report shows that all four men knew of Sandusky’s deviant sexual behavior as early as 1998. In an e-mail to Schultz that year, subject line “Jerry,” Curley asked “anything new in this department? Coach is anxious to know where it stands.” The report states that “the reference to Coach is believed to be Paterno.’”
That stands in direct contrast to what Paterno said during his grand jury testimony. Paterno was asked whether, other than the 2001 shower incident, he was aware “in any way, through rumor, direct knowledge or any other fashion, of any inappropriate sexual conduct by Jerry Sandusky with young boys?”
Paterno responded: “I do not know of anything else that Jerry would be involved in of that nature, no. I do not know of it. You did mention – I think you said something about a rumor. It may have been discussed in my presence, something else about somebody. I don’t know. I don’t remember, and I could not honestly say I heard a rumor.”
That does not appear to be the case. Call it a tweak of the truth or an outright lie or whatever you like, but the report indicates that Paterno not only knew about Sandusky’s behavior as early as 1998 but also later helped enable a monster’s heinous crimes.
According to the report, following the shower incident, Spanier, Curley and Schultz agreed on Feb. 25, 2001, to tell the chair of the Board of the Second Mile about Sandusky’s conduct, report it to the Department of Welfare, and tell Sandusky to stop bringing children to Lasch building.
Just two days later, however, Curley emailed Schultz and Spanier and wrote that he had changed his mind about the plan: “After giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe yesterday, I am uncomfortable with what we agreed were the next steps.”
Those interviewed during the Freeh investigation described Curley as “loyal to a fault” to Paterno and as Paterno’s “errand boy.” They also said “Paterno’s words carried a lot of weight” with Curley and that Curley would “run big decisions by Paterno.”
The conclusion, according to a statement Freeh issued in conjunction with the report: “Based on the evidence, the only known, intervening factor between the decision made on February 25, 2001 by Messrs. Spanier, Curley and Schulz to report the incident to the Department of Public Welfare, and then agreeing not to do so on February 27th, was Mr. Paterno’s February 26th conversation with Mr. Curley.”
To eliminate any possible confusion, could Paterno have stopped Sandusky?
“It’s a very strong and reasonable inference that he could have done so if he had wished,” Freeh said.
It was a staggering statement. Everything we thought we knew about Paterno must now be measured against his sad, unthinkable, unpardonable failure to stop Sandusky from hurting more children.
What we know now is that Paterno was very much part of a conspiracy to protect the university and the football program against “bad publicity.” At the least, the Freeh findings state that Paterno, Curley and McQuery were “obligated to report the 2001 Sandusky incident to the University Police Department for inclusion in Clery Act statistics” but that “no record exists of such a report.”
After the decision in 2001 not to report Sandusky, Spanier dispatched an email to Curley and Schultz. The language in the missive is shocking in its candor – as is the pronounced disregard for anything but immediate spin control.
In the craven email, Spanier wrote that the “only downside for us is if the message isn’t ‘heard’ and acted upon, and then we become vulnerable for not having reported it. But that can be assessed down the road.”
We are well down that road now – a dark and twisted path – because four men conspired to conceal the truth and, in the process, protected a serial pedophile. One of those men was Paterno. There is no denying that any longer.
E-mail John Gonzalez at email@example.com