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The Penn State Scandal

There are some topics we generally don't discuss here at Dawg Sports.  Our focus has always been first and foremost on University of Georgia Athletics and there are some topics that as civilized people we just don't discuss in public or polite company.  Unfortunately, events have taken place this week at Pennsylvania State University and subsequently received much media attention and so they bear addressing.

These are difficult subjects, they are sensitive subjects and there is no easy way to address them.  I will do the very best that I can to handle this topic with the sensitivity and civility it deserves.  I want to start out by saying  what we have here is not a conviction, it's not a confession, it's not irrefutable proof of wrong doing.  What we have is allegations, we have reports, we have a legal case that is working its way through the legal system. 

As you have undoubtedly heard by now, the report is the former Defensive Coordinator for the Pennsylvania State Nittany Lions, Jerry Sandusky is alleged to have sexually abused a number of young boys over a period of several years, both during his tenure at Penn State and after his retirement.  The reports indicate Mr. Sandusky continued to have use of the facilities at Pennsylvania State after his retirement.  He used the facilities while working with The Second Mile, a non-profit organization he founded in 1977 to work with disadvantaged youth.  The allegations as we understand them are Mr. Sandusky was seen by, then graduate assistant Mike McQueary, actively assaulting a young boy in the Nittany Lions team locker room showers on March 1, 2002.  Further, the indictment against him suggests Mr. Sandusky may have abused young boys as early as 1994.  According to the media reports, Mr. McQueary stated in his Grand Jury testimony that upon witnessing the sexual assault, he "left immediately and first contacted his father before calling [Head Coach Joe] Paterno the next morning and then meeting at Paterno's home."  Mr. Paterno in turn notified his superiors of the report he received, working up the chain of command. 

There is a whole lot of blame being laid in a whole lot of places and there is certainly more than enough to go around.  Some have called for Joe Paterno to step down or be fired immediately.  Joe Paterno is 84 years old and is in his 45th year as the head coach for the Pennsylvania State Nittany Lions.  He is the winningest head coach in FBS College Football - currently at 409 wins.  By all accounts he has run an ethical, clean program.  This is certainly a very serious black mark on the program, if the allegations prove true.  Jerry Sandusky's 30 year tenure at Penn State began in 1969 and ended with his retirement in 1999.  

Let me be clear about one thing.  The person responsible for Mr. Sandusky's actions and conduct is Mr. Sandusky.  It is not Joe Paterno, the administration of Pennsylvania State University, or Mr. McQueary. It is most certainly not the children, the parents or the Second Mile organization.  The only person responsible for Mr. Sandusky's conduct and decisions is Mr. Sandusky.  If these allegations are proven true, then it is Mr. Sandusky first and foremost who should be held accountable for those actions. 

Secondly, there is Mr. McQueary.  A man who witnessed an ongoing sexual assault on a child and by his own account, turned and left the building.  I have a problem with his course of action.  If you witness an active assault on another human being, male or female, adult or child, regardless of race, religion, creed, nationality, ability, or disability, I believe you have a moral obligation to step in and take action.  There is a proper course of action in this situation.  You step in to protect the child then you report the abuser to law enforcement.  There is no excuse.  There is no reason.  There is nothing that will explain walking away and not stepping in to protect a child who is being actively assaulted.  Walking away, in my opinion, is as morally reprehensible as the activity itself. 

The actions of the administration are another matter.  These are not people who witnessed an active assault.  They did not walk into the room and witness Mr. Sandusky engaging in unlawful activity.  They received a report.  They did not receive a video tape.  They were not personally knowledgeable.  The fact is an abuser does not look like an abuser.  I can assure you without doubt in my mind that at some point in time you have met an abuser and you didn't know it.  They do not wear black hats.  They do not stand out in a crowd.  They do not wear a sign that says I am a child molester.  They are your friends, your neighbors, your co-workers, your church members and you can't tell them apart.  They are charming, personable, pleasant people.  They are also exceptionally good at manipulating and conniving people.  That's how they lure victims.  They don't look creepy.  They don't make the hair on the back of your neck stand up when they walk into the room.  They don't look at you and say I am going to abuse your son or daughter when you send him or her to my camp.  According to RAINN, every two minutes someone in the US is sexually assaulted.  44% of victims are minors.  60% of the assaults go unreported.  In 93% of sexual assaults against juveniles, the victim knows their attacker.  More often than not, abusers are not strangers.  Instead they are trusted adults.

Before we condemn the actions of Mr. Sandusky's superiors at Penn State, consider what you would think if someone accused a friend or coworker of yours of assaulting a child.  Most folks would not want to believe the allegation could possibly be true.  False accusations are not unheard of.  Add to that seed of doubt a charming, personable denial and it becomes easier to see how one might have sufficient doubt to allow the accused to resign rather than calling law enforcement or child protective services. 

Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley and Sr. Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Shultz have each been charged with perjury and failing to report suspected child abuse.  According to the indictments against them, they are accused of both failing to tell the police and subsequently falsely telling the grand jury Mr. McQueary did not inform them of the inappropriate conduct.  Tim Curley is now on administrative leave and Gary Shultz has retired.  Certainly the stigma will never disappear.  The families of Sandusky, McQueary, Curley and Shultz also live with the shame of the accusations and the nightmare of the media attention, despite no indication of any wrong doing on their part.  Like the children, they are innocent, and yet they suffer as well. 

There is nothing that can be said to explain why any adult would do such a thing to a child.  We know bad things happen in our world.  Allegations like this make many of us hold our children tighter and keep our firearms well-oiled.  In this case, it seems likely a whole host of adults let down at least 20 separate children who have reported being assaulted by Jerry Sandusky from 1994 to 2009.  If convicted of these charges, it is likely Mr. Sandusky will spend the rest of his days in prison.  He is now 67 years old and facing 40 separate charges in the grand jury indictment.

For the children and their parents, they will never forget.  Hopefully, they will find love, support, peace, healing and justice.  Certainly the continuing media coverage does not accelerate their healing.  There are no easy answers and no simple solutions.  As bystanders, we can only offer up our prayers for all concerned and hope the media allows the victims the privacy and respect they deserve.

EDIT:  I was extremely remiss writing this last night and for that I apologize.  I should have also said this: 

To the alumni, students, fans, & athletes of Penn State - YOU have done nothing wrong in any this and YOU have nothing to be ashamed of.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the affected children and their families as well as all of you.