Lurid allegations might even bring down Paterno
Penn State’s football faithful should be worried this week about their upcoming home game against No. 19 Nebraska—about the Cornhuskers’ famous Midwestern physicality and a quarterback who can rush as well as he passes.
How quaint those concerns seemed Monday.
In a nationally televised news conference, Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly described the allegations of child sexual abuse against a former Penn State assistant coach that are threatening the reputation of a program famous for cultivating both winning ways and men of character—and perhaps even threatening the legacy its iconic architect, 84-year-old head coach Joe Paterno.
The accused coach, Jerry Sandusky, 67, served as Paterno’s defensive coordinator for 23 years before retiring in 1999. He was arrested Saturday on suspicion of sexually abusing eight boys from the late 1990s to 2009.
The lurid grand jury report describes a predator who allegedly used the razzle-dazzle of big-time athletics—including his access to Penn State facilities—to lure male victims as young as 8 years old.
“This is a case about a sexual predator accused of using his position within the community and the university to prey on numerous young boys for more than a decade,” Kelly said.
She noted another facet of the ongoing investigation that was “equally significant” : the allegations that two top Penn State administrators—Athletic Director Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, a senior vice president for finance and business—lied to a grand jury about the case and failed to report suspected abuse, raising the possibility that the administration at the 44,000-student school sought to protect the program’s vaunted reputation at all costs.
“I’m a HUGE Paterno fan, but this just doesn’t wash at first glance,” said Pete Anthan, who graduated from Penn State in 1989 and who posted his reaction on the school’s Facebook page. “I am disgusted. I am ashamed of my university. Whether guilty or not, the fact that this all was met with a shrug is incomprehensible.”
Sandusky faces various criminal charges, including multiple charges of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse. He was released Saturday on $100,000 bail.
Schultz and Curley appeared in court in Harrisburg, Penn., on Monday and were freed on $75,000 bail each after surrendering their passports. Curley asked to be put on administrative leave Sunday to have the time to defend himself. Schultz’s retirement was also announced.
Lawyers for all three men say they are innocent.
It is unclear what all of this will mean for Paterno, a 62-year veteran of the Penn State football program, who holds the record for most wins in Division I history, and is one of the few working coaches on a par with such gridiron legends as Vince Lombardi and Paul “Bear” Bryant.
Kelly said Monday that Paterno is “not regarded as a target” of the investigation at present. She noted that Paterno followed state law in reporting an alleged abuse incident involving Sandusky to his Penn State superiors in 2002.
Paterno, in a statement, lamented the possibility that young people may have suffered. “If this is true, we were all fooled,” he wrote.
He also defended his actions, saying he alerted “university administrators”—identified in the grand jury report as Curley and Schultz—after an assistant coach told Paterno he had witnessed an incident in the football team’s showers.
According to the 23-page grand jury report, what the assistant coach had seen was “a naked boy … whose age he estimated to be 10 years old, with his hands up against the wall,” and a “naked Sandusky” forcing him to have sex.
Paterno said that the coach who witnessed the incident never went into such specifics with him, though Paterno said it was clear the assistant coach had seen something “inappropriate.”
The assistant coach said he was never questioned by university police or other law enforcement until he testified before the grand jury in December 2010.
Curley told the grand jury that the assistant portrayed what he saw as “horsing around” and Curley denied that the assistant described seeing Sandusky having sex with the boy. “Absolutely not,” Curley testified, according to the grand jury report.
Even if Paterno did nothing wrong legally, some observers Monday were criticizing him for failing to do more than just alert administrators, given the six-decade moral and ethical foundation he has built at Penn State with the credo “Success with Honor.”
“Paterno gave himself deniability by pushing the problem up the chain of command,” wrote Philadelphia Inquirer sports columnist Bob Ford, “but there’s a big difference between being not guilty and being innocent.”
While Paterno’s rolled-up pants and coke-bottle glasses became the national face of Penn State, he also made significant contributions to the culture and tone of the massive central Pennsylvania school. He assumed the head coaching mantle in 1966, embarking on what he called “The Grand Experiment”—an effort to win football games with character, and with an emphasis on academics.
Paterno, who majored in English at Brown University, fielded teams inspired by his quotations from Browning and Thomas Aquinas. They won national championships and bowl games, and, perhaps most famously, they graduated. The Sporting News reported this week that Penn State football’s graduation rate stood at 87 percent—tied with Stanford among teams in the top 25.
Sandusky played for Paterno as a defensive end in the 1960s, beginning his Penn State coaching career in 1969. For years, he was considered a potential successor to Paterno, but he retired from the game in 1999, focusing on the Second Mile, a charity to help disadvantaged children.
Often, the grand jury report alleges, he offered the children perks—tickets to Philadelphia Eagles games and trips to preseason practices—or lavished them with gifts, such as golf clubs, gym clothes and even cash.
The grand jury report also alleges unwanted physical encounters: back rubs in bed, hair-washing in after-hours locker rooms, forced sex.
Some of the alleged incidents occurred while he was a coach, and some after, when he had unfettered access to Penn State campus facilities.
A statement posted Sunday on the Second Mile website said that its CEO, Jack Raykovitz, was contacted by Curley, the Penn State athletic director in 2002, and that Curley told Raykovitz that “an individual had reported to Mr. Curley that he was uncomfortable about seeing Jerry Sandusky in the locker room shower with a youth.”
“Mr. Curley also shared that the information had been internally reviewed and that there was no finding of wrongdoing,” the charity’s statement said.