Originally written on Pitt Blather  |  Last updated 11/17/14

STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 7: Head coach Joe Paterno of the Penn State Nittany Lions stands on the field during warm-ups before a game against the Ohio State Buckeyes on November 7, 2009 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve read a ton of stories and opinions related to the Penn State cover-up that the Freeh Report showed. After a while some blurred with others. Tabs closed. Maybe even some stories missed.

Three pieces stand out for various reasons, so I’m going to explain, link and excerpt a bit of them here. If you have your own favorite put it in the comments so we can take a look.

First up is Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins. Ms. Jenkins was one of the last people to interview Joe Paterno before his death. That piece  was not exactly hard-hitting. But then how hard do you go after a dying man getting cancer treatments? She basically let him make his claims of not knowing anything. Now? She feels a bit used and pissed.

Joe Paterno was a liar, there’s no doubt about that now. He was also a cover-up artist. If the Freeh Report is correct in its summary of the Penn State child molestation scandal, the public Paterno of the last few years was a work of fiction. In his place is a hubristic, indictable hypocrite.

And that’s just the opening graph.

There’s nothing like feeling like you have been used to get the anger really flowing.

If Paterno knew about ’98, then he wasn’t some aging granddad who was deceived, but a canny and unfeeling power broker who put protecting his reputation ahead of protecting children.

If he knew about ’98, then he understood the import of graduate assistant Mike McQueary’s distraught account in 2001 that he witnessed Sandusky assaulting a boy in the Penn State showers.

If he knew about ’98, then he also perjured himself before a grand jury.


Paterno didn’t always give lucid answers in his final interview conducted with the Washington Post three days before his death, but on this point he was categorical and clear as a bell. He pled total, lying ignorance of the ’98 investigation into a local mother’s claim Sandusky had groped her son in the shower at the football building.

The knowledge of the 1998 incident. The way he was involved in the non-actions of the 2001 events.

I think back to the night Paterno was fired. Not the rioting in Penn State. But the quick little statement in front of his house where he ended with telling the sycophants to say a prayer for the victims of Sandusky. Did he ever say a prayer for them? Did he even feel anything when he would be at Lasch and see Sandusky there — perhaps with another boy in tow? Did he think about how he was letting it happen?

I doubt it. Like any coach, he probably compartmentalized it. Shoved it into some corner in his mind and didn’t think about it. How else do you deal with it? With seeing a monster like Sandusky every day and not doing anything?

Mike DeCourcy is one of the best national college basketball reporter/columnist out there. I don’t agree with all of his stances (esp. w. regards to kids being able to go from high school to the NBA), but he is always willing to engage and discuss. He was also a Pittsburgh newspaper guy who covered Penn State.

As appalling as their decisions appear to reasonable people, transparency was antithetical to Penn State’s approach over Paterno’s final decades. Secrecy was almost a sacrament.

With the proper credentials, a visitor at least can walk through Buckingham Palace. Paterno’s program kept the doors sealed shut.

I spent nine seasons covering Joe Paterno’s Penn State football program for The Pittsburgh Press, from 1984 through 1992. The Nittany Lions played twice for the national championship in that period and won the second time. During my first several seasons on the beat, I met some of the finest young men I can imagine. During my later years, I got to know none of the players as Paterno gradually turned what had been a guarded program entirely inward.

Paterno wanted complete control over the messages emanating from his program and went well out of his way to deflect any outside scrutiny of how it operated, whether from the media covering the Nittany Lions or from elsewhere on campus, as detailed in leaked emails written by Vicky Triponey, then PSU vice president of student affairs.

It has been noted that at least related to the way Penn State has managed to cover this up for so long, was because Pennsylvania’s open record laws specifically exclude four universities in the state. That disgraced ex-PSU President Graham Spanier very publicly battled to keep it that way back in 2007. Pitt is also one of those exempt schools and completely backed Spanier and Penn State. As did Temple and Lincoln.

Pitt must not only drop any opposition to being part of Pennsylvania’s open record laws, it needs to support the change.

Finally, a State College local, PSU alum and writer speaks of the so-called “grand experiment.”

This was my fundamental mistake. This was our mistake, as a community. The Grand Experiment began as a sales pitch, as a way for Paterno to elevate the standards of the university he loved by using football as the lure. And then at some point, the lure outweighed the catch, and the sales pitch drove motivations, and we were too myopic to see it. At some point, the little white lies that Paterno hid behind — that he would retire after five more years, that Bowling Green was, in fact, a formidable opponent, that the culture of football was in no way segregated from the culture of the university at large — ballooned into this, into a lie so unthinkable that it takes your breath away.

So much PSU arrogance has stemmed from their faith in the Grand Experiment — at least when it was convenient. That PSU was special, and they believed in doing it the right way. And when something like the 2007 incident where a horde of their football players went attacking people at an apartment party, well, that was the sort of thing that happened everywhere so stop making it such a big deal. They would repeat to anyone their mantra of “success with honor.” Over the last 14 years they have had some moments of success, but honor is something they cannot claim.

What stories stand out to you, and why?

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