From 2001 Report To Efforts To Find A Job, McQueary Tells His Story
by Geoff Rushton
Former Penn State football assistant coach Mike McQueary took the stand Friday to testify in his whistle-blower and defamation lawsuit against the university.
The 42-year-old, who has spent most of his life in State College, became emotional at times, recounting the 2001 incident when he said he saw Jerry Sandusky abusing a boy in a locker room shower. He choked up a bit as he discussed the support he received from late head coach Joe Paterno, and expressed his anger at some of the decisions made about him by university officials.
“Right now as we sit here there’s a kid in some locker room or church that this thing is happening to and someone may know about, and that person is scared to speak up,” McQueary said, his voice rising near the end of direct examination by his attorney, Elliot Strokoff. “I’m not saying I handled it perfectly. I’ll point the finger at myself before anyone else. But you don’t do that to someone who tried to do the right thing. You don’t throw him somewhere because he’s threatened, like he’s the guy who did the acts. It’s not right.”
McQueary spoke about his failed efforts to find regular employment of any kind since he was placed on leave by Penn State until his contract ended.
“I learned from the best football coach to ever step on this land,” he said, seemingly fighting back tears. “For me not to be able to go to work as a coach or to work a cash register, that’s humiliating.”
McQueary, a former wide receivers coach, is suing Penn State on claims that former Athletic Director Tim Curley and Vice President Gary Schultz misrepresented how they would handle his 2001 report; that former President Graham Spanier’s statement of support for Curley and Schultz caused harm to his reputation; and that the cumulative effect of Penn State’s actions, including placing him on leave and not renewing his contract, was retaliatory and harmed his ability to find employment.
He began by giving his account of the night of Feb. 9, 2001, testimony he has given to an investigating grand jury as well as at the 2012 trial for Sandusky, who was convicted on 45 counts related to child sexual abuse.
He told of how he went to the staff locker room at the Lasch Footbll Building that night and upon entering heard “slapping noises.” As he arrived at his locker he looked over his shoulder into a mirror from which he saw the retired defensive coordinator and a boy “under a faucet with Jerry directly behind him, his arms wrapped around him in a severely inappropriate position.”
McQueary testified that he looked again and saw them in the same position, slammed his locker shut and began to walk to the door. He saw Sandusky and the boy, separated and looking at him.
On cross-examination, Penn State attorney Nancy Conrad asked McQueary if he asked the boy if he needed assistance. “No, I did not,” he replied.
He went to his office, called his father, John, and told him what he saw. He then went to his parents’ house where he says he cried while discussing the incident with his father. Family friend Dr. Jonathan Dranov also came to the house. Earlier this week he testified that McQueary was clearly shaken by what he had seen but only described to him the sounds he heard, and that he saw a boy in the shower and a man’s arm reach out to pull the boy back in. John McQueary’s testimony on Thursday affirmed his son’s.
“I realize it is tough, or maybe it is easy, for people to try to understand that situation but I promise you it is not an easy situation to express,” McQueary said.
As she did with the elder McQueary and Dranov, Conrad pressed Mike McQueary on whether he went back to make sure the boy was OK and whether he called police. In both cases he did not.
They agreed it should be reported to his supervisor, Joe Paterno, and McQueary did so at around 8 a.m. the following morning. Paterno told him he had done the right thing in reporting it, and that Paterno would tell others who needed to know.
McQueary said he didn’t know if anyone, including his own father, would believe him, and he said it was difficult to express what happened to Paterno, but that he got the message across. He said Paterno approached him several times afterward to ask if he was OK emotionally and if he needed anything.
Paterno informed Curley and Schultz, who met with McQueary a week to 10 days later in a small conference room at the Bryce Jordan Center. He informed them of what happened and he says they told him he had done the right thing, that it was serious and it would be investigated.
About a week later, Curley informed him that the administrators decided to inform Sandusky’s The Second Mile charity for at-risk youth, tell Sandusky he was not permitted to bring children from The Second Mile into Penn State facilities, and, McQueary believes though wasn’t sure, take away Sandusky’s keys.
Curley and Schultz contend McQueary never told them anything sexual had occurred and that the incident had been described as “horseplay.” They were charged with perjury stemming from their testimony about the incident to the grand jury as well as failure to report. The perjury charge against them as well as later charges of conspiracy and obstruction have since been dropped, but both men, along with Spanier still face failure to report and child endangerment charges.
Between 2001 and 2010, McQueary said he would leave the room or head in a different direction whenever he would see Sandusky around the Lasch Building.
He noted that in those intervening years, he told others about what he witnessed, including his girlfriend at the time it happened. He said he told equipment room staff who noticed his reaction to Sandusky that he had seen “something devastating that changed my life.”
In 2010, investigators for the Office of the Attorney General, acting on an anonymous tip, came to his home. He knew before they told him anything why they wanted to talk to him, and he says he readily agreed to help them.
McQueary would go on to testify to the grand jury about the 2001 incident and what he told Curley and Schultz. Earlier this week, OAG investigator Anthony Sassano called McQueary “the linchpin” in the cases against Sandusky and the administrators. Former Deputy Attorney General Jonelle Eshbach, who oversaw the case during the investigation, said on Monday that the investigation “kicked into high gear with the arrival of Mike McQueary.”
In October of 2011, Eshbach called McQueary and told him the investigation was coming to an end and charges would be filed. He was surprised to learn there would be charges against Curley and Schultz. McQueary said he immediately went to then-Associate Athletic Director for Football Fran Ganter to make sure Curley was aware.
“Tim Curley is a good person, a good man. And I wanted to get the word to him that he was in trouble,” McQueary testified.
McQueary later testified that he still believes Curley and Schultz are good people.
“There’s one truly bad person in this,” he said. “Some good people have gotten involved in this, and I’m not exactly happy with how they handled this, but they’re good people.”
The grand jury presentments against Sandusky, Curley and Schultz were issued on Nov. 5, 2011, and in the account of Victim 2, the boy in the shower, McQueary was not identified by name as the witness, only as a graduate assistant.
Later that same day, Penn State issued a statement by Spanier, initially drafted on Oct. 28, expressing support for Curley and Schultz and his belief “that the record will show that these charges are groundless…” McQueary’s lawsuit contends that the statement implied that it was the administrators, not McQueary, who were being truthful about what was reported in 2001.
“That calls me a liar,” McQueary testified.
Conrad, however, continued to point out, as she did during the testimony of Spanier and others who had seen the statement in advance, that it makes no reference to McQueary. Spanier and others, including former Board Chair Steve Garban who testified on Friday morning, have testified that they did not know McQueary was the unnamed grad assistant and that the statement was Spanier’s opinion based on having known and worked with Curley and Schultz for 16 years.
Conrad again exhibited emails from McQueary to Eshbach in which he said “national media and public opinion has ruined me in every way,” as Penn State argues that it was McQueary’s own actions and outside perceptions that tarnished his reputation.
In the days that followed, after McQueary’s name became known – he said he learned he had been publicly identified when he saw his face on television in an airport as he was flying back to State College on Nov. 6 – McQueary says he received no support from university administrators.
“They had already begun process of throwing me under bus,” McQueary said. “The only ones to support me were Coach Paterno and my friends in the office, but certainly no one at a higher level.”
McQueary said that on the morning of Nov. 9, after Paterno had announced his intent to retire at the end of the season and before he was relieved of his position by the Penn State board, Paterno again told him he had done the right thing.
“He said ‘You didn’t do anything wrong,’” McQueary testified. “He said ‘Don’t trust Old Main (the university’s administration building)…. make sure you have a lawyer. You did the right thing.’ He was very unselfish about all of it. He was good to me.”
The following day interim coach Tom Bradley said during a morning press conference that he expected McQueary to coach in that week’s game against Nebraska. Later that day, however, he was informed by acting Athletic Director Mark Sherburne that university administrators decided he shouldn’t coach in the game and that he and his family should leave town for the weekend.
A draft announcement said Bradley and McQueary had come to the decision, but McQueary and his attorney reviewed it and said the announcement should say the decision was made by the university.
Penn State says the decision was made to keep him out of the game for his own safety and that of his family’s after threats were made against him. McQueary contends that it was the beginning of the university’s retaliation against him for cooperating with prosecutors.
The next day while he was out of town with his wife and daughter, McQueary received a call from Sherburne who told him he was being placed on administrative leave, that they would meet that Sunday to discuss the details and that he did not need a lawyer.
At that meeting, Sherburne read to him the specifics of his paid leave, with university counsel Cynthia Baldwin and athletic department human resources manager Erikka Runkle also in attendance. He was told his contract was set to expire on June 30 and no decision had been made about his future status.
He also was told he could not enter athletic facilities on campus, which he said angered him as much as anything related to the leave.
“They tell me ,a guy who turns in a pedophile… cannot come into the facilities, and they let that guy come around for years after being caught not once but twice,” McQueary said. “You tell a guy who turns a guy in not to come around. I understand university red tape, but that is wrong.”
He said he never paid attention to the type of contract he had — a “fixed-term appointment” that requires annual renewal — and he did not recall receiving notice it had been renewed in past years.
He said he was not offered an interview with new head coach Bill O’Brien, though Conrad noted O’Brien chose to bring in his own staff members, one being wide receivers coach Stan Hixon, with whom O’Brien had worked at Georgia Tech.
McQueary’s contract expired on June 30, 2012 but he said he did not learn he was no longer employed by Penn State until then-President Rodney Erickson mentioned it in reply to a question at a press conference following the release of the Freeh Report.
McQueary testified he had never personally inquired about his contract status before then.
In a deposition read into the record Thursday, former Athletic Director Dave Joyner, who took over the role from Sherburne, said McQueary’s contract was not renewed because the university had no work for him after O’Brien chose to bring in his own staff.
Strokoff went through several jobs for which McQueary would have been qualified that were available in the spring and summer of 2012, including an administrative support assistant position in the athletic department and the head golf coach job at Penn State Harrisburg (McQueary said he has achieved part of the qualification to become a golf pro). He also suggested he would be qualified for other administrative and staff positions around the football program.
Under questioning by Conrad though, McQueary said he did not apply or express interest in any of those jobs.
McQueary and other assistant coaches had clauses in their contract to receive 18 months of severance should they lose their jobs as the result of a coaching change. The other assistants not retained by O’Brien began receiving theirs in January after they were terminated. But McQueary remained on the payroll through June, and through mid-August he did not receive any severance.
At that point, he says he was worried and cashed in his retirement plan. By late September he received the first of his severance payments, which included back pay. He also was initially informed he would not receive full medical benefits, but that was reversed in October 2012.
But by the time those severance payments ended, McQueary had no luck in finding new employment. He applied for an array of coaching jobs at the college level and in the NFL and reached out to friends and former colleagues.
He was prepared in 2013 to take an assistant coaching job at Savannah State for $1,200 a month for four months but was told shortly before he would begin that an offer would not be extended. Earnest Wilson, the head coach at the time, said in a deposition read Thursday that he wanted to hire McQueary, but that the school’s athletic director thought it would be a distraction.
He noted that when Penn State alumnus Al Golden was hired as head coach at Temple in 2006, McQueary’s friend Matt Rhule, a former teammate and friend from State College Area High School and Penn State, asked McQueary to reach out to Golden on his behalf. Rhule was hired as an assistant coach at Temple that year.
When Rhule took the Owls’ top job in December 2012, McQueary reached out for a job. Rhule told him in an email he knew McQueary would do a good job but that he had retained or hired offensive staff. “Unfortunately it’s not going to work out.”
McQueary said Rhule later told him Temple administrators were concerned about McQueary’s lawsuit and negative publicity. Conrad said Rhule is expected to testify next week that he simply did not believe McQueary was qualified.
“People I’ve thought were friends turned out not to be, like Coach Rhule,” McQueary said when Strokoff questioned him about how the aftermath of is testimony against Sandusky and losing his job at Penn State has affected him.
Conrad questioned McQueary’s efforts to find coaching jobs, noting a list of schools for which she said it appeared he made no follow-up efforts. She pointed out one cover letter where he misspelled “coach.”
Penn State argues that McQueary spent his entire career at one school and under one head coach and failed to develop the network of contacts needed to succeed in coaching. The university also says the perception that McQueary didn’t do enough to stop Sandusky is his own doing, not the school’s.
McQueary, who has a health policy administration degree from Penn State, also detailed his efforts to find other employment in fields for which he believes he has transferrable skills. Those included positions in medical, pharmaceutical and insurance sales, human resources recruiting and as a golf pro.
Conrad questioned if he had any experience in those fields, and McQueary said his work as a coach and recruiting coordinator required sales skills and the needed competitiveness and motivation. He also said his college major required a set of business courses.
None of those efforts have been successful. He also did not get a job as a sales clerk at a State College pro shop.
In August, he applied for a job as a sales clerk or shift manager at a State College Rite Aid. He did not get it.
In the years since he left Penn State, McQueary’s tax returns show he has made just a few thousand dollars a year. Most of that income came from work taking care of two medical business properties, a job his father got for him. He said it involved duties such as cleaning windows, picking cigarette butts out of flower beds and sweeping parking lots.
Last year, he was hired as an independent consultant by pro agent Brent Senior to prepare former Penn State basketball player Ross Travis, who had never played college football, for the NFL Draft. He was paid $750 for 15 hours of work.
Travis was not drafted, but signed as an undrafted free agent with the Kansas City Chiefs and remains a contributing member of the team’s roster.
McQueary said he now lives with his parents and sleeps in his childhood bedroom, telling himself each night that things will work out.
“To be frank with you, I want to move out of State College,” he said.
Cross-examination of McQueary had yet to conclude when Judge Thomas Gavin adjourned for the day at about 5:15 p.m. on Friday. McQueary’s testimony will resume Monday morning.