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The Cover-Up, Its Agents, and Its Motives

“If that’s the culture at the bottom, God help the culture at the top,” declared Judge Louis Freeh at a press conference in Philadelphia this morning.

Freeh was referring to an incident in fall 2000, when a janitor “observed two pairs of feet in [the] same shower…and later saw Jerry Sandusky and a young boy, around the age of 12, exit the locker room holding hands” (p. 65). The unnamed janitor did not report this incident for fear of his job. “[I]f he [Paterno] wanted to get rid of someone, I would have been gone,” he told the Freeh investigators. “[F]ootball runs this University” (p. 65).

The culture all around at Penn State was not conducive to justice being served in any of these cases. When McQueary reported the incident he saw to Joe Paterno, the coach relayed what he said to a reporter: “I said you did what you had to do. It’s my job now to figure out what we want to do” (p. 68, emphasis added).

Tim Curley is described by some in the report “as ‘loyal to a fault’ to University management and the chain of command, someone who followed instructions regardless of the consequences, and someone who avoided confrontation.” One official even called Curley “Paterno’s ‘errand boy'” (p. 75). True to his non-confrontational personality, Curley, with Spanier’s approval, declined to report Sandusky to the authorities, and to go so far as to suggest to Sandusky that he seek professional counseling.

The report refers to the use of the word “humane” in Curley and Spanier’s email exchange (pp. 74-76). And as Freeh remarked this morning, “Although concern to treat the child abuser humanely was expressly stated, no such sentiments were ever expressed by them for Sandusky’s victims.”

The misplaced sympathy appears throughout. The report states that no one in a position of authority at Penn State ever attempted to identify Victim 2, whom McQueary witnessed on February 9, 2001. They declined this even when Sandusky offered to give Curley the victim’s name (p. 77).

Recall that Graham Spanier’s statement, issued on November 5, 2011, regarding the indictments against Curley and Schultz was one offering his “unconditional support.” But Spanier went even further, when he replied to Curley about his decision not to report Sandusky to the authorities:

Tim: This approach is acceptable to me. It requires you to go a step further and means that your conversation will be all the more difficult, but I admire your willingness to do that and I am supportive. (p. 75)

The report particularly underscores Spanier’s inaction and concealment of facts.  Seemingly, he tried to contain the situation himself, involving as few people as possible, to save the image of the University. After being notified by University counsel Cynthia Baldwin on January 11, 2011, that Spanier, Curley, Schultz, and Paterno had been subpoenaed to testify in front of the grand jury, Spanier maintained to Baldwin that “things would be fine” (p. 84).

The report states that Spanier was not forthcoming to the Board of Trustees with information regarding the grand jury investigation into Sandusky and Penn State officials. Even after charges were brought, Spanier diminished their significance to the Board. The report states that  for this reason, the Board was not adequately prepared to deal with the allegations, and was why their response to the charges, and the firings of Spanier and Paterno were handled so poorly.

The key figures in the report are Graham Spanier, Joe Paterno, Gary Schultz, and Tim Curley. And it appears that they had a tremendous amount of confidence in themselves to effectively contain the situation. But what is clear is that their final motivations were not that something deeply wrong had occurred, but instead that they must save the image of Penn State football and preserve it as it was known before 2011.

They seemed to think that it would all go away. It didn’t. And, for the victims’ sake, one must feel thankful that it didn’t go away.

About the Author

Dan McCool

Dan is a senior and has been writing for Onward State since January 2010. Did you miss him? Nah, neither did we. He's returning after a semester abroad in England and will be serving as Arts Editor. Favorite things in life include references to The Big Lebowski.


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