As the jury foremen rendered the verdicts against former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandsusky on Friday night, the anticipated and expected verdict was finalized as he was convicted on 45 of the 48 charges he faced. With everything from endangering the welfare of a child to indecent contact with a minor to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, Sandusky was facing a mountain of charges stemming from his abuse dating all the way back to the 70′s in some accounts. With his convictions he faces anywhere from 60-442 years in prison, but at the end of the day those numbers really come down to one thing: Jerry Sandusky will spend the rest of his life in prison.
For many that is not enough and for all the victims and their families that certainly won’t erase any memories or make them feel better about the years of torment and abuse they encountered. Still, the fact Jerry Sandusky won’t be able to cross paths with any more children is a nice consolation prize. A man worthy of far more than a life sentence spent years preying on young kids and finally tonight it came to a conclusion in the same county it all started.
But I’m not here to talk about the Jerry Sandusky case anymore. There’s articles all over the internet with far more informed and knowledgeable people who covered the case that can break down all those details and questions you may have. Instead I’m looking at Penn State and as soon as tonight’s verdict became official I shut off that chapter of the story and focused on the next and perhaps final chapter of this horrific story: What becomes of Penn St. football?
On the night Joe Paterno was fired from his position of head coach I wrote my thoughts on his tenure and role and pretty much wanted to see how the events played out. I think as we’ve learned from cases like Bernie Fine and Casey Anthony, not everything we expect comes to light and people aren’t always guilty (at least in the court of law). So I said give it time and let the facts play out. Between then and now Joe Paterno passed away, Penn St.’s reputation has taken a major hit not only as a football program but as a school and now we’ve seen the man behind all of it convicted. In the case of this trial we’ve learned many things, but the one thing I’ve waited all along to know and still wonder, is who knew what?
I still believe a near-70 year old man in charge of a football program has a hard time understanding everything that was going on and was capable of doing something about it. Throughout this trial no new information came to light from victims or Sandusky that would lead me to believe Paterno knew more than he let on. In his sick, twisted ways, Sandusky seemed to do a good job of ducking the public eye except for Mike McQueary. Despite all the smoke surrounding him and the dozens of incidents, there was nothing to our knowledge outside this shower incident that anyone witnessed. In the end too many people suffered as a result of these misfortunes. But just because we don’t have knowledge of it doesn’t mean it didn’t exist.
So what happens to Penn St. now? The prominent faces of this scandal are all gone. Sandusky will rot in a cell till his final days. Joe Paterno has passed on. Graham Spanier was forced out as President. Gary Schultz and Tim Curley currently face perjury charges for their role. Mike McQueary will probably never coach at another football program at the FBS level. Tom Bradley, the longtime assistant who took over as Paterno’s replacement on an interim basis was not retained. Bill O’Brien will take over and be asked to lead a program that was hit in the gut with one of the most heinous crimes in the country’s history.
So what happens now? We really don’t know a whole lot about the involvement of Penn St. administrators, Paterno, assistants, former players, etc. However one thing we know for a fact at this point (from a legal standpoint) is Jerry Sandusky is guilty of these crimes. As a result one has to conclude Penn St. must face sanctions and I think they have to be huge. It must be remembered that the NCAA does not follow the laws of this country. There’s a number of violations they have at their discretion to hand down to Penn St. and they must swing that hammer hard. Harder than Miami. Harder than SMU. Harder than Southern California. Harder than North Carolina.
Penn State may not have committed recruiting violations. They may not have given benefits to players. Those things should be slaps on the wrist compared to this. Penn State had a predator roaming their university for years and somehow nothing came from it. I said in the writeup on Joe Paterno and the firing that I don’t expect a 70-year old man to babysit and watch out for a man like Jerry Sandusky. I said he reported what he knew to his superiors. I’m still not sure I feel any differently. I can’t get inside Joe Paterno’s head to understand how he comprehended what Mike McQueary allegedly told him.
I don’t even know what Mike McQueary told him. I know what he allegedly told him. However, based on Mr. McQueary’s own admission he witnessed this act and did nothing (which he recanted once ridiculed). I don’t know what to believe from that man. Still, it can’t be ignored this all happened under Joe Paterno’s watch. Maybe his age is to blame and he shouldn’t have been coaching. Maybe he underestimated what he was told. I simply don’t know.
There’s way too much smoke surrounding this whole incident. With the guilty verdict rendered and it confirmed that all these accusations are indeed the truth, with no recants such as in the Bernie Fine case, Penn State needs to get hammered. Postseason ban, loss of scholarships, fines, if I can come up with more things I’ll come back and edit this. The NCAA HAS TO send a loud message now. This isn’t an NCAA crime. It’s a crime on humanity.
Someone had to know. Mike McQueary wasn’t the black sheep who was all alone. Some people knew. I don’t know who those people were and frankly I don’t care. This was allowed to happen because a college town and culture of football cared more about the integrity of their school and program than silencing a predator. “If I don’t acknowledge it then it will go away.” That’s the approach some took to these events. I realize the current Penn St. team and coaching staff weren’t there. I realize just about everyone involved with the team now will face the music for their predecessors. It’s been mentioned numerous times in other cases the injustices of that.
However, the bigger injustice would be not doing everything we can as a culture and for the NCAA an institution to prevent something like this from happening. It could easily have been prevented. This could have been tackled years ago. Instead this man was allowed to go on and molest for decades. No amount of wins, bowls, titles, NFL draft picks is worth the black mark that comes with this scandal. Penn State may never distance itself from this. How can it? I can’t imagine any point of my life where I won’t think Jerry Sandusky sex scandal when I hear Penn State football.
It’s unfortunate those who had nothing to do with this will be the ones punished but it needs to happen. Do the right thing NCAA. CRUSH Penn St. for their lack of institutional control. Make up new statutes if you have to. Do whatever it takes to make it clear this not only can’t happen but WON’T happen again.
It’s time to be the voice for college athletics that was never there for the victims.