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ESPN’s ‘Betsy & Irv’ Explores Human Side Of Todd Hodne’s Crimes

Two weeks after the release of the detailed investigation of Todd Hodne, a former Penn State football player whose record of sexual assault and violence went “untold” for more than four decades, ESPN released “Betsy & Irv”. The roughly 15-minute documentary features Betsy Sailor, who was sexually assaulted by Hodne during her time at Penn State, and her supporter, Irv Pankey, a former teammate of Hodne’s.

The film, which is available on ESPN+, dives into how the pair met and ended up becoming friends for the remainder of their college careers. Sailor explains her vivid memory of the night and gives further detail on the assault.

After she was assaulted, Sailor left Penn State until a suspect was found. About a month later, she was notified that the police department had made an arrest but was unsure who he was. She was shocked to find out it was Hodne, a former Nittany Lion who had already been kicked off the team for an unrelated incident. Sailor explained at the time that Penn State football was a national powerhouse and would have never guessed it would be the source of her attacker.

“That’s against the code,” Sailor said in the film. “No Penn State football player would ever do that.”

Hodne had been suspended from the program prior to the attack in connection to at least four other assaults in State College.

Sailor later appeared in Centre County court to testify and share her story. Within the audience were a number of Penn State football players. Irv Pankey was one of them, as he quickly comprehended his former teammate’s wrongdoing.

“This was straight-up, forceful rape,” Pankey said in the film.

After hearing the testimony, Pankey decided that he was going to try and help Sailor. He went over to her dorm and introduced himself.

“‘I just wanted to let you know that I was in the courtroom, and I believe every word that you have said,'” Sailor said, recalling Pankey’s words to her. “‘You will never have to be afraid or alone again. I will be by your side.'”

Pankey wanted it to be clear that it was not a “football thing.” Sailor said she was amazed by him because it seemed that he had no reason to protect her other than goodwill.

Pankey cited Sailor’s “courage and self-fortitude” as his reason for helping. He was worried about the repercussions that might face Sailor for accusing a Penn State football player of such a serious crime. With the team in the national spotlight, he thought that this may be an issue. Pankey would invite her to do things with the team and ensure they knew who she was.

The film continues with Sailor noting that she didn’t think that prison would solve Hodne’s issues. Even after he assaulted Sailor, he continued to rape other women back home on Long Island. He went to prison but was released on parole before being found guilty of murder and spending his life in prison shortly after.

Following their time at Penn State, Pankey and Sailor went their separate ways. Pankey eventually went on to the NFL and played for 13 years.

The documentary concluded with the duo reuniting for the first time in over 40 years. Sailor expressed her appreciation for Pankey and all that he did for her, saying that it gave her a sense of “freedom” that she would not have gotten from anywhere else.

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About the Author

Theo Koch

Theo is a sophomore at Penn State majoring in marketing. He is from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Both of his parents attended Penn State, so he was born into this. He enjoys watching all sports, outdoor activities, and spending time with family and friends. Feel free to reach out to [email protected] with any comments, questions, or concerns.

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