Tag Archives: Penn State

Joe Paterno: Staying Too Long

Joe Paterno could have retired 20 years ago as one of the most successful college football coaches ever. Think about that as pundits (including me) pile on this morning with comments about JoePa’s death Sunday and about his career and many accomplishments.

Many of us stay too long: at a job whether you enjoy it or not, in a relationship that is comfortable, with a grocery store just because you know what isle the ketchup is in. Paterno stayed too long — although it’s understandable why. Here’s the statement released by his family yesterday:

“He died as he lived. He fought hard until the end, stayed positive, thought only of others and constantly reminded everyone of how blessed his life had been. His ambitions were far reaching, but he never believed he had to leave this Happy Valley to achieve them. He was a man devoted to his family, his university, his players and his community.”

Should Joe Pa have done more than just alert his “superiors” when informed about the allegations of sexual abuse of young boys involving Jerry Sandusky? Yes. The conversation with Penn State’s Prez and Athletic Director should have gone something like this: “Look ass hairs, here’s what I’ve been told. Check it out, right now. Inform the police and others, if true. And get back to me, asap.”

Nobody else at Penn State could have had that conversation. JoePa could have. He had no superiors — right up until the day when the Board of Trustees told him he was out. (See NYT, “Penn State’s Trustees Recount Painful Decision to Fire Paterno.”)

From USA Today:

“This is a tragedy,” he [Paterno] said. “It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.”

But the university trustees fired Paterno, effective immediately. Graham Spanier, one of the longest-serving university presidents in the nation, also was fired.

Paterno was notified by phone, not in person, a decision that board vice chairman John Surma regretted, trustees said. Lanny Davis, the attorney retained by trustees as an adviser, said Surma intended to extend his regrets over the phone before Paterno hung up him.

After weeks of escalating criticism by some former players and alumni about a lack of transparency, trustees last week said they fired Paterno in part because he failed a moral obligation to do more in reporting the 2002 allegation.

An attorney for Paterno on Thursday called the board’s comments self-serving and unsupported by the facts. Paterno fully reported what he knew to the people responsible for campus investigations, lawyer Wick Sollers said.

“He did what he thought was right with the information he had at the time,” Sollers said.

Yet sometimes you can do what is legally required, while still fumbling the ball ethically.

Here’s more from Sally Jenkins, writing in WaPo, “Joe Paterno dies, leaving a record for others to debate“:

Joe Paterno could outtalk anybody in that Brooklyn beat cop’s voice of his. But the lung cancer and the chemo had left him breathless, and what emerged in two days of conversations with him, the last interview he would give, sounded like a series of sighs. Some of them satisfied, some of them regretful, all of them aware that his life was drawing to a close and 85 years were being relentlessly and reductively defined.

Paterno studied his own end, and knew it wasn’t going to be storybook. So much for the old-fashioned narrative he had built, of bookish yet vigorous young men filling a stadium in the Alleghenies, men he had uplifted such as Franco Harris and Lydell Mitchell and Brandon Short, autumn leaves swirling softly over their heads.

“There’s the kind of stories I wish we could tell,” Paterno whispered.

But a modern grotesquery intervened, and there were too many other boys who allegedly had been damaged.

For most of his 61 years as a football coach at Penn State, Paterno built a record of thorough decency and good intention. He loved his wife, reared five nice children, taught his students well. He turned down big money for the role of a tenured professor, and strolled every day from his modest home to his unpretentious office. He acquired real power, and generally tried not to abuse it, and if sometimes he did, he covered for it by insisting on paying for his ice cream cones. He set out to prove that staying in one place could be as rewarding as climbing to the next rung. He meant to walk away sooner. He stayed too long.

JoePa stayed too long.

Still, he will be missed.


Giffords and Sandusky: Which Story Is More Important?

OK. I’ll admit it. By 10 at night, I’m generally sound asleep, with the TV still wide awake and providing background noise. So I missed the broadcasts last night on ABC and NBC with Gabrielle Giffords and Jerry Sandusky. At it’s too bad that the interviews were on competing networks at the same time because they provided a glimpse about what’s right with this country and what’s terribly wrong.

If I need to spell out which is which then you’ve been spending too much time worrying about Kim Kardashian and her made-for-TV wedding and subsequent divorce filing. Just sayin’.

So which is the more important story? One about an American hero who took bullets in the head from a lunatic while she was meeting with her constituents in what is the very essence of our form of representative democracy. Or one about a former football coach who at best admits that he enjoyed showering and horsing around with young boys.

Here’s from WaPo, “NBC ambushes ABC’s Gabrielle Giffords chat with Jerry Sandusky interview“:

NBC News announced late Monday its intention to nuke ABC News’s interview with Rep.Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz) with an interview of its own — between Bob Costas and former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky, in which Sandusky admits to “showering and horsing around with young boys” but insists he is “innocent of those charges.”

Joe Paterno’s one-time defensive coordinator, and founder of a charity to help at-risk youth, has been charged with 40 counts of sexually abusing eight boys dating back as far as 1994, A grand jury report detailed claims of alleged sexual encounters with young boys in Sandusky’s house, in hotels, and in Penn State locker rooms.

So while Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly chat with Diane Sawyer about how humor and determination were key to Gabrielle’s recovery after being shot in the head in January — over on NBC’s new newsmag “Rock Center with Brian Williams, Sandusky will be telling Costas: “I could say that I have done some of those things. I have horsed around with kids I have showered with after workouts. I have hugged them, and I have touched their legs without intent of sexual contact.”

“I shouldn’t have showered with those kids,” he’ll also concede, when pressed by Costas, in his first interview since the sex abuse scandal accusations.

Giffords’ hasn’t got a chance, ratings-wise. November sweep competition sure can be brutal.

This morning, most of the Talking Heads on the early-morning news shows were focused on Sandusky and the Bob Costas interview.

Hate to say it, but while Sandusky and the scandal at Penn State that touches on a whole host of legal and ethical issues will hold the public’s attention for much longer than Kim’s marriage, there’s nothing that the former defense coordinator can say that could possibly overshadow the inspiring message of Gabby Giffords.

Penn State: What’s Next?

I actually watched part of the Penn State football game Saturday afternoon. And the university — mostly by way of the actions of the players on both teams, coaches, fans and members of the community — handled the situation well. It could have been a debacle. And, if fact, it would have been if the university had allowed the game to become a memorial to Joe Paterno.

Here’s from an NYT article, “100,000 Fans Cheer at Penn State, but Mood is Numb“:

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — The tone for a Saturday football game under a bright sun was born in the darkness of a Friday night vigil at the epicenter of the Penn State campus. Spread across a grassy plain yards from the streets where demonstrators clashed with the police days earlier, several thousand students gathered holding lighted candles, a quickly organized rally in support of sexual abuse victims that concluded when a university bell tower chimed 10 times to mark the hour.

About 12 hours later, more than 100,000 fans descended on Beaver Stadium for Penn State’s game with Nebraska, arriving in a mood that was less than celebratory and noticeably subdued. For decades, fall Saturdays at Penn State have provided a chance to see Joe Paterno lead one of the nation’s most successful football programs. On this day, however, it was an opportunity to witness the extended university community wrestling with its conscience. The ritualistic tailgating went on as usual — adults drank beer and children threw footballs back and forth — but the numbing effects of a wrenching week of shock, scandal, resignations and recrimination were evident at every turn.

Now for Penn State, what’s next?

Here’s an interesting perspective in the NYT, “Some Lessons in Damage Control“:

While the turmoil at Penn State has been the academic equivalent of a Category 5 storm, it will probably not have much long-term impact on the university, experts say.

Certainly, it will take years, perhaps a decade, to resolve the fallout from the sexual abuse scandal that has engulfed the football program — including the university’s own investigation, the likely lawsuits and possible action by the Department of Education and the N.C.A.A. And there may be months of new revelations, resulting in hitches in fund-raising, athletic recruiting and even admissions.

But citing other universities’ experiences with crises, many higher education officials and crisis-management specialists predict that the effects will not last a year.

“From other situations where universities have had what I’d call Category 5 crises, like the Texas A&M bonfire collapse or the Virginia Tech shootings, history suggests that even if there are short-term effects on donations, applications or recruiting, they fade fairly quickly,” said Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president at the American Council on Education.

In 2007 at Virginia Tech, where Seung-Hui Cho’s horrific shooting rampage left 33 dead and prompted a barrage of criticism of the university for neglecting to notify the whole campus as soon as the first two victims were killed, both admissions and fund-raising were actually stronger the following year, and have only strengthened since.

“It might sound trite, but prospective students and their families saw on TV a united student body and incredibly supportive alumni population working together with strong university leadership,” said Larry Hincker, associate vice president for university relations at Virginia Tech. “It was painful and stressful, but the institution kept moving in the right directions, dealt openly with problems and shared our experiences with others.”

Duke University was shaken in 2006 by rape accusations against three players on the men’s lacrosse team; the charges were dropped the next April, but not before the campus and its athletes endured a firestorm of negative publicity. Early decision applications in the fall of 2006 dipped somewhat, but there was no dip in regular-decision applications, and in the spring of 2007, when high school seniors were making their choices, the university’s yield was actually higher than in the previous year.

“In all the information sessions I did that season, there was only one time when anyone raised a question about it,” said Christoph Guttentag, Duke’s admissions director. “Most people saw it for what it was, which was an issue that wasn’t going to have any significant effect on their child’s career at Duke.”

For many, the Wednesday night scenes of Penn State students rioting in support of Joe Paterno, the football coach who was fired that evening, brought to mind student protests after the September 2000 firing of Bob Knight, the hot-tempered longtime Indiana University basketball coach. On learning that Knight had been dismissed, thousands of student protesters marched on the president’s home. There was an effigy burning and other small fires, and some students were arrested.

Some alumni then withheld their donations. Although Indiana had robust overall donations the year of the firing, giving to athletics that year dropped to about $7 million, from about $8 million the previous year.

“Bob Knight was a polarizing figure,” said Mark Land, a spokesman for Indiana University. “There were people who thought he was unfairly treated, but there were also people who said, ‘I will never give as long as you employ him.’ ”

Of course, the scandal may play out differently at Penn State, especially given how long prosecutors say the sexual abuse went on.

“I’ve not seen anything on this scale, where the leadership’s been on notice for 10 years that something was going on, and took no action,” said Harlan Loeb, who is in charge of the United States crisis and risk management practice at Edelman, a public-relations firm. “That has to have a big effect on trust and reputation.”

Well, we’ll see. Something tells me it is going to take considerably longer than a year for happy times to return to Happy Valley. It took my alma mater and former employer Kent State more than 30 years to move on from the events of May 4, 1970, when four students were killed by the militia on that campus. Just because the national news media packs up and goes home doesn’t mean that the story is over for those directly or even indirectly involved.

And I recall a former associate at BFGoodrich who had this perspective anytime we were involved in a tough situation, a crisis real or imagined. He said it was like being pecked to death by a duck.

Folks, the ducks have descended on Penn State.


Beyond Penn State: Education, Skills and Jobs

Without question, the media shit storm involving the alleged horrific illegal acts at Penn State and the subsequent failure of leadership and ethical behavior will continue long after the Nittany Lions play their final home game of the season Saturday against Nebraska.

And if I’m home and awake, I’ll be in front of the TV. Hey, I enjoy rubbernecking at the scene of an accident along with just about everyone else. But let’s hope that there is no violence or other acts that turn the game into a debacle for the university, students, alumni and community.

I also expect that there will be more revelations about this scandal — and something tells me this is going to turn even more negative for Penn State before this reaches a conclusion in a courtroom. So barring new developments, I’ll add just one new story, from the NYT, “Should Penn State Cancel Its Season?

You decide.

I’m going to return to an issue that I have opined about previously, one that I believe should be getting more attention, not less. It’s about the quality of education in this country, the harm that is being done by undercutting teachers and teaching as a profession, and what all of this means to our nation’s economic prosperity and future.

Here’s from a very thoughtful blog post on The Huffington Post by Jared Bernstein, “Thinking About Education, Skills and Work“:

Too often, economists and policy makers have one recommendation to fix everything: more education. And truth be told, I’m pretty much on board, but there are important nuances that tend to be left out of the discussion.

-Particularly when it comes to K-12, public policy often seems to be asking school teachers to fix all of society’s ills, while beating up on them for a) not all being above average, b) being in unions, and c) resisting accountability. The fact is, kids increasingly arrive at school beset by a wide range of social problems generated by poverty and inequality. That’s never an excuse for not having the best public system we can have, but don’t expect it to solve problems beyond its scope-especially when instead of retaining and improving the quality of teachers’ jobs, we’re laying them off.

-Do unions protect lousy teachers? I’m sure some do some of the time, and I’m sure you see that same dynamic in the private sector. I can tell you for a fact that the leadership of today’s teachers’ unions stand firmly against tenure for undeserving teachers. But I can also assure you that some (not all) of the union bashing isn’t about better education. It’s about union bashing.

-Re higher education, the consensus among economists tends to be that there’s a large skills mismatch between employers’ demands and the skills of the workforce. I don’t buy it. The data from the BLS on occupational skill demands now and in the future actually matches up pretty cleanly with the supply of skill, at least at the level of educational attainment. Yes, employers constantly say they can’t find skilled workers, but that’s kind of the point… they constantly say it. If it were true, you’d see it in a more quickly rising compensation premium to workers with higher levels of education. And you don’t really see that type of acceleration. (Note: the emphasis on “acceleration” is important here–the fact that college workers are paid more than high school workers isn’t the issue–unmet skill demands imply an increasingly rising premium, and the college premium has actually decelerated in recent years, as this slide from EPI reveals-it shows the regression-adjusted college premium as flat since the latter 90s for women and rising more slowly for men.)

-But here’s the thing: I still think we’d have a better economy/society with higher levels of educational attainment… I’m quite certain, in fact. It’s wrong to think that the jobs of the future all will demand wicked high skill sets–we’re going to need lots of home health aides, cashiers, security guards, equipment technicians, child care workers, along with high-end engineers. But to have smarter, better educated people in all of those jobs makes all the sense in the world. We want our child care workers and home health aides to be highly trained–not as Ph.D.’s in robotics, but in their fields.

-The way to understand the nexus of education and the economy/jobs is thus not in the traditional skills mismatch framework. That’s way too vague and disconnected from what’s happening on the ground. Instead, think of an old-fashioned production function where better inputs generate better outputs. Human capital is one of those inputs. The way forward is thus not to just willy-nilly advocate for greater college attainment. It’s to take a clear-eyed look at education and job/career training needs across the life-cycle. The future surely requires kids with STEM training; it also requires health technicians with AA’s who can keep that MRI percolating the way it’s supposed to. And child care workers who thoroughly understand how kids learn, and home health aides who know a lot about gerontology.

Clearly, we have to improve the quality of education in this country. And we need to focus on how we keep young people in school and have them prepared and ready to continue their education or enter the workforce.

I’d feel better if the football factories were spending more of their time trying to solve this issue and less of their resources and energy trying to fill stadiums every Saturday in the late summer and early fall.


Would You Have Fired Joe Paterno?

I expect I’m about to pull a Rick Perry and “step in it,” but I believe the Penn State Board of Trustees made the difficult but correct decision last night to fire Joe Paterno.  University prez Graham Spanier got the hook as well.

Here’s why.

First, by all accounts at this point, JoePa didn’t violate any laws, but it appears he violated his own ethical standards for character, trust and integrity.

When Mike McQueary, then a grad student and former Nittany Lions quarterback and now an assistant coach, first told Paterno what he alleges he witnessed in a shower between Jerry Sandusky and a young boy, the head coach could have ended the matter. If JoePa for whatever reason didn’t want to contact the police, he could have forced the athletic director or the university prez to make the call. Apparently he didn’t. And in the void of moral leadership among the senior-level bureaucrats at Penn State, that made a big difference.

This also begs the question of why McQueary didn’t confront Sandusky personally. That, I guess, is a story for another day as more revelations and details about this scandal will most certainly emerge.

Second, Paterno announced his own retirement yesterday, saying that he would coach until the end of the season. The rub in that is apparently he issued a statement without first discussing the matter with the Board of Trustees. These kind of boards — whether in business or education — are slow to react to anything and tend to review and study problems until the goalie in Hell puts on ice skates. But experience shows they don’t like to be pushed into a corner.

Third, from the university’s point of view, Saturday’s final home game in Happy Valley against Nebraska is going to generate a media shit storm. But it would have been an even bigger debacle if the Board members let it become a memorial to Joe Paterno. Sorry, folks. But the allegations of rape and the inability of university administrators to protect children from by all accounts a sexual predator trump football and legacies here. Note to self: Let’s see if Mike McQueary is on the sidelines. Sigh.

Not happy days in Happy Valley.

Joe Paterno: Last Home Game at Penn State?

When the Nittany Lions take the field Saturday against Nebraska, will it be the last home game as coach for Joe Paterno? My guess is yes. And if that happens, it’s a shame that JoePa with all his many accomplishments will go out with his legacy tarnished.

But it’s even more shameful that apparently nobody at Penn State stood up for the young boys who allegedly were being attacked for years by a sexual predator. Hey, these are horrific accusations and they go way beyond the usual misconduct at the football factories of under-the-table payments by alumni, cheating, selling championship rings and so on.

As I opined Monday, here’s a textbook example of where doing the legally correct thing isn’t always the ethically or morally right thing to do.

OK. In an ideal world everyone would chill and relax — and wait for the legal process to be completed. Then we’ll know who is guilty and who is innocent. But that ain’t going to happen. The Penn State Board of Trustees will meet Friday and I’ll be surprised if the moving van doesn’t pull up at university president Graham Spanier’s house shortly thereafter.

Here’s the statement from the Board of Trustees:

The Board of Trustees of The Pennsylvania State University is outraged by the horrifying details contained in the Grand Jury Report. As parents, alumni and members of the Penn State Community, our hearts go out to all of those impacted by these terrible events, especially the tragedies involving children and their families. We cannot begin to express the combination of sorrow and anger that we feel about the allegations surrounding Jerry Sandusky. We hear those of you who feel betrayed and we want to assure all of you that the Board will take swift, decisive action.

At its regular meeting on Friday, November 11, 2011, the Board will appoint a Special Committee, members of which are currently being identified, to undertake a full and complete investigation of the circumstances that gave rise to the Grand Jury Report.   This Special Committee will be commissioned to determine what failures occurred, who is responsible and what measures are necessary to insure that this never happens at our University again and that those responsible are held fully accountable. The Special Committee will have whatever resources are necessary to thoroughly fulfill its charge, including independent counsel and investigative teams, and there will be no restrictions placed on its scope or activities.   Upon the completion of this investigation, a complete report will be presented at a future public session of the Board of Trustees.

Penn State has always strived for honesty, integrity and the highest moral standards in all of its programs. We will not tolerate any violation of these principles. We educate over 95,000 students every year and we take this responsibility very seriously. We are dedicated to protecting those who are placed in our care.   We promise you that we are committed to restoring public trust in the University.

Prez Spanier — you might as well start packing the dishes.

And JoePa will be next — although I expect the trustees will orchestrate some exit strategy that lets him retire after the season — which might very well include a season-ending game in the Rose Bowl.

In the meantime, of all the words that have been written and said about this tragedy — for the young boys involved, their families and for the adults who should have protected them — here’s an article in the NYT by George Vecsey, “The Dangerous Cocoon of King Football“:

Really, we need to do something about big-time college sports.

The horrendous scandal at the most prominent public college in Pennsylvania has been aided and abetted by the oppressive status of King Football.

Officials at Penn State did not want to know that, according to prosecutors, boys were being abused by a trusted member of the football family. Perhaps the subject was too queasy for them. Besides, it would get in the way of entertaining the masses, which is what the sport is for.

Football is the central fact of life in the state. When a large male newborn is on display in the hospital nursery, people make loving jokes about sending him out to JoePa to play linebacker. Not so funny at the moment, is it?

Apparently, young boys were brought to the massive football program by Jerry Sandusky, who was first a major assistant coach and later an emeritus member of the football “family.” Some family. The guy had keys to the facilities, with enough freedom to take showers with the boys, and, if we believe the warrant for Sandusky, jeopardize the balance of their lives.

People saw. People knew. A few people even talked. But ultimately it got swept under the rug for years because of the rush to Saturday, those autumn game days when people funnel into Happy Valley for the biggest thing in the state.

Penn State is expected to win all 12 games every season, and when it doesn’t, the boosters boo and whine and agitate, just as they do at 50 or 100 other major football foundries at all the other Happy Valleys in this land of skewed values.

It takes a yearlong effort to produce the gigantic shows to keep people happy. Who wants to hear bad news about a well-known assistant who runs a charity for underprivileged youth — but might have a dark side to him? Get with the program. That’s what these monstrosities are called, programs. They loom over the rest of the campus.

The legalities of all this are going to have to play out. We do know that Sandusky was arrested on 40 counts of abusing boys over 15 years. The athletic director, Tim Curley, took an administrative leave Sunday night so he could defend himself; and Gary Schultz, the senior vice president for finance and business, resigned Sunday night. Both were charged with perjury for their testimony to a grand jury investigating Sandusky.

That leaves Joe Paterno, the 84-year-old coach, the icon, the benefactor, and most important, the winner of 409 football games, the most by any coach at this highest level. Apparently, Paterno knew about his former assistant in 2002 and went to Curley and then he went back to supervising practices and giving news conferences and recruiting large young men to play football for the program. Paterno is an admirable man. I like to write about the high graduation rates of his players and his occasional reminiscences of being a teenage vendor in a Brooklyn ballpark named Ebbets Field. So we’ve all got our soft spots. The attorney general said Monday that Paterno is not a suspect in this case, so I would think he deserves a polite retirement at the end of the season.

But I also think, these Penn State people are fathers and uncles and brothers. Did they not worry about these children being brought onto their campus?

The problem would seem to be a gerontocracy of the soul, too many people who have been in the same place too long. Paterno has been at Penn State, as an assistant and the head coach, for 62 years, a record. Graham B. Spanier, the university president, was a faculty member and an administrator there from 1973 to 1982 and returned to lead the university in 1995; Curley graduated from Penn State in 1976 and has been the athletic director since 1993; and Schultz graduated from Penn State in 1971 and has worked there ever since. Ultimately, they all serve the monster that rises on 12 Saturdays a year.

The question is, if Paterno heard some ugly stuff about Sandusky in 2002, it is now 2011, and he seems to have not done anything about it since. Maybe he didn’t invite the guy to his house anymore. That I don’t know. But as far as alerting people to the possible predator tendencies of his former assistant, Paterno seems to have been silent. He had a game to coach. He had players to recruit.

For an essentially good man, this is worse than the way Woody Hayes went out. Hayes was a bombastic legend at Ohio State, but in his dotage he leapt off the sideline and punched an opposing player in a 1978 bowl game. End of career.

And Hayes went out better than Jim Tressel, the most recent coach at Ohio State, who resigned after people figured out he was lying to cover up for some players who were selling their rings and trophies for tattoos. It wasn’t the violation as much as the cover-up.

This seems to be a common malady for big-time coaches. They get so puffed up with trying to go undefeated that they lose sight of reality. Just to run this kind of program demands moral blinkers.

What happened at Penn State, of course, is not just about football. It’s about what happens when people in positions of authority fail to conduct themselves with the highest standards of character, integrity and ethical behavior.

If Saturday is Paterno’s last home game as the head coach at Penn State, I hope that people remember his many contributions to his players, to the community, to students and to the university. But I hope they also consider that regardless of your job or position, you really can’t just call a timeout when it is convenient and walk way from your ethical and moral responsibilities.

Paterno and Penn State: Say It Ain’t So, Joe

Well, something tells me these aren’t happy days in Happy Valley. Jerry Sandusky, the long time assistant coach, former Penn State defensive coordinator and at one point someone considered to be the heir apparent to JoePa, has been accused by prosecutors of sexually abusing young boys over a period of 15 years or so.

This story exploded on the Internet and via mainstream print and TV media over the weekend. And while I was chasing the treadmill belt at 5:30 a.m. this morning, the story dominated the early-morning TV news broadcasts. Here’s a good overview of the particulars from Deadspin, “A Guide To The Child Abuse Charges Against Jerry Sandusky, And To Penn State’s Alleged Willful Ignorance.

Sandusky says he is innocent. We’ll see.  But the allegations have already resulted in the athletic director taking a leave of absence and a senior administrator resigning. Both face criminal charges, accused of lying to a grand jury. Both through their lawyers maintain they are innocent.

And this situation has the potential to shred the legacy of Joe Paterno. This is the coach who for decades has stood for more than football at one of the biggest football powers in the country. But while other coaches and programs — remember Jim Tressel at Ohio State? — imploded, JoePa during seasons good and bad has remained a bedrock for character, integrity, honesty and ethical conduct. We’ll see.

I guess you could argue that this situation doesn’t have anything to do with the game of college football as played on the field during a dozen or so weeks during the year. As best I can tell, none of the alleged victims were connected to the football program. And Sandusky resigned as a coach a decade ago, although he has retained a close association to the athletic department.

Here’s from an AP story published in WaPo:

“This is a case about a sexual predator who used his position within the university and community to repeatedly prey on young boys,” state Attorney General Linda Kelly said Saturday.

Paterno, who last week became the coach with the most wins in Division I football history, wasn’t charged, and the grand jury report didn’t appear to implicate him in wrongdoing.

In a statement issued Sunday night, Paterno said he was shocked, saddened and as surprised as everyone else to hear of the charges.

“If this is true we were all fooled, along with scores of professionals trained in such things, and we grieve for the victims and their families. They are in our prayers,” Paterno said in a statement issued by his son, Scott.

Under Paterno’s four-decades-and-counting stewardship, the Nittany Lions became a bedrock in the college game, and fans packed the stadium in State College, a campus town routinely ranked among America’s best places to live and nicknamed Happy Valley. Paterno’s teams were revered both for winning games — including two national championships — and largely steering clear of trouble. Sandusky, whose defenses were usually anchored by tough-guy linebackers — hence the moniker “Linebacker U” — spent three decades at the school. The charges against him cover the period from 1994 to 2009.

But here’s the rub for Paterno. He may have done the legally correct thing, but did he do the ethically right thing? Many times there is a big difference. (For those of you who recall the days when I was teaching a class in media ethics at Kent State, consider the points in Rushworth Kidder’s “How Good People Make Tough Choices: Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living.”)

Here’s from the NYT, “In Penn State’s Sex Abuse Case, a Focus on How Paterno Reacted?“:

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — On Saturday, March 2, 2002, according to Pennsylvania prosecutors, a Penn State University graduate student went to visit Joe Paterno, the university’s football coach. The student had a horrific story to tell: the night before, the graduate student had witnessed one of Paterno’s former coaches sexually assaulting a 10-year-old boy in the football facility’s showers.

Paterno, according to the prosecutors, did not call the police. Instead, the next day, he had the university’s athletic director visit him at his home, a modest ranch house just off campus in State College. According to prosecutors, Paterno told the athletic director of the report regarding the former coach, Jerry Sandusky.

The authorities then say nothing about what, if anything, Paterno did in the subsequent days or weeks. They do not say whether he followed up on the allegation or whether he ever confronted Sandusky, a man who had worked for him for 32 years and who, even after retiring, had wide access to the university’s athletic facilities and students.

What prosecutors do contend in detail is that Sandusky went on to abuse at least one and perhaps any number of other young boys after Paterno and other senior officials at Penn State were told of an assault in 2002.

Sandusky, 67, was arrested Saturday and charged with 40 counts of sexually abusing children over 15 years, including his time as an assistant at Penn State. He was specifically accused of having assaulted the young boy in 2002. All the accusers were boys Sandusky had come to know through a charity he founded, the Second Mile, for disadvantaged children from troubled families.

The university’s athletic director, Tim Curley, and another senior administration official have been charged with lying to a grand jury about what they had been told about Sandusky’s conduct, and they are expected to surrender to the authorities Monday morning. While their lawyers have maintained they will be exonerated, and Sandusky, through his lawyer, has maintained his innocence, both men stepped down from their positions at the university late Sunday.

Earlier Sunday, Paterno issued a statement insisting that the graduate assistant had not told him of the extent of the sexual assault that he said he witnessed, only that he had seen something inappropriate involving Sandusky and the child.

“As Coach Sandusky was retired from our coaching staff at the time, I referred the matter to university administrators,” Paterno said in the statement.

“I understand that people are upset and angry, but let’s be fair and let the legal process unfold,” Paterno said.

Paterno’s son Scott said in an interview Sunday that Paterno never spoke to Sandusky about the allegation, and that he never seriously pursued the question of whether any action had been taken by the university or any other authorities against Sandusky.

“From my imperfect recollection, once he referred it off, I do not believe he had a second conversation about it,” Scott Paterno said of his father and how he handled any follow-up on the allegation. He added: “The appropriate people were contacted by Joe. That was the chain of command. It was a retired employee and it falls under the university’s auspices, not the football auspices.”

It appears prosecutors believe that Paterno, whatever his personal sense of obligation to inquire or act further, met his legal requirement in reporting the graduate student’s allegation to his direct superior, Curley.


Let’s consider this sentence from the NYT story again:

“From my imperfect recollection, once he referred it off, I do not believe he had a second conversation about it,” Scott Paterno said of his father and how he handled any follow-up on the allegation.

I’m sure that many more details of this story will emerge in coming days and weeks. So it really is unfair to rush to judgement about guilt or innocence — or about Paterno’s conduct.

But if Scott Paterno’s view of the world is accurate, then sorry folks, JoePa has to go.

Legally correct. Yes.

Ethically right. No.

It’s a matter of character, honesty and integrity.