PSU Scandal: Three Questions

Here are the three questions I keep mulling over when it comes to the Penn State scandal. I admit that they're pretty raw and ultimately as more details come out, I'm sure I'll adjust my opinions. 1. Why did no one call the police?

I understand that Curley and Schultz are going to come out of this looking the worst, but someone involved in this whole mess needed to make sure the police were notified. The graduate assistant who witnessed Sandusky and a child together, the janitor who also witnessed something (I hear that he now has dementia--whatever that means for his ability to report this to the police), Joe Paterno, Schultz, Curley, and anyone else who was privy to this information. If you believe that the five people I just listed are the only people who knew about this situation, you need to cancel your appointment with the Mad Hatter in Wonderland and join us back in reality.

I can see no valid excuse to not have reported multiple incidents to the authorities. These are grown men, highly educated men, men in prominent roles in a prominent organization. They have the common sense to know that the right thing to do was to report this to the authorities. Something is afoot.

2. What, indeed, was Joe Paterno's responsibility?

JoePa, obviously, is going to be a hot topic in this scandal. I want to be clear--I'm not saying JoePa had malicious or consciously shady intentions in this scandal. I'm also not saying that he didn't, either. I can't move past a few snags in this story, though.

First of all, Joe Paterno knows Jerry Sandusky. They coached together. Sandusky was still very much a presence and personality on the PSU campus and in the sports facilities until he was banned from campus by Curley. Paterno and Sandusky have a relationship. So when a graduate assistant comes up to Joe and tells him, "Joe, I think I saw Jerry doing something sexual with a kid in the locker room," are we really supposed to believe that Joe could simply pass this information to his authorities, wash his hands, and go whistling off to work, oblivious of the outcome? He was personally vested in how that outcome unfolded--for his friend Jerry, for the reputation of Penn State, and for his own reputation. I don't say this to implicate him in a cover-up. I say this to point out the absurd naivete it would take to believe that Saint Joe, good ole' Joe, passed the information up and could walk away not having done or known anything else about what happened to Sandusky.

Secondly, if someone came up to Paterno and said (as used above), "Joe, I think I saw Jerry doing something sexual with a kid in the locker room," THAT ALONE was explicit enough detail to be seriously concerned. That alone was enough detail to take the appropriate actions which, as stated previously, included going to the police. Not only that, if someone relayed that scenario to me, how could I possibly not ask the graduate assistant for more details? How could Paterno not actually want to know more about this very serious allegation that took place in his own facility? When Paterno brought up how he wasn't told of any explicit detail, that said one of two things to me--either he is hiding something, or he is alarmingly senile.

I've read a lot this week about legal responsibility and moral responsibility. I have to agree--in this case, there is a deeper responsibility as a person and especially a leader of the magnitude of Paterno to ensure justice was pursued here. Paterno wasn't informed of a pseudo-crime committed by some random person in some random part of the city. Paterno was informed of a disgusting crime committed by a person he knows very well in the building he works in. Can anyone with any understanding of how serious this crime is really say that reporting this to his boss and washing his hands was the right thing to do?

3. Why did Graham Spanier release the statement he did on Saturday?

People are calling for Joe Paterno's head. Or his job, at least. I'm surprised more people aren't clamoring for Spanier's. Spanier's press statement on Saturday was curious, to say the least. In a fairly to-the-point statement, he expressed his "unconditional support" for and "complete confidence" in Curley and Schultz. For the life of me, I don't know why Spanier would do this. Unless Spanier has been in the same room with both of these men every waking moment as they handled these situations, I don't know how he can express such extreme confidence in them. I have two takeaways from his statement. The first is that this statement was an extremely unwise decision. Pointing out the disturbing nature of the allegations was appropriate; expressing that he and the rest of the university would wait for the situation to be resolved by legal system would have been more appropriate than blindly supporting Curley and Schultz. If they are found guilty and the situation hits the fan, Spanier is going to look bad. Very bad. Not only does it come off as unwise, the statement inevitably raises eyebrows. I can't help but be suspicious of the man now.

I would love to find out that this was not a widespread cover-up or conspiracy. I'm still reserving my judgment in that regard. But the actions of all the authorities involved so far have, at the very least, given us legitimate cause to be pretty darned suspicious and overwhelming reason to be disappointed.