It is not possible to say with 100 percent certainty who is lying at Penn State these days. It is possible to say, with a high degree of probability, that most of the key players are lying to some degree. This is not said lightly. It is based on almost thirty years of law enforcement experience in a college town, much of it in campus law enforcement. It is also based on years of dealing with the victims of sexual assault and sexual abuse.
Many people want to set institutions of higher education on a pedestal. Universities and colleges are considered pinnacles of education, wisdom and personal growth. They are the ivory towers in which the best and brightest pursue noble endeavors and studies. The truth is, especially at the larger instructions, they are huge corporate entities populated by thousands of students, faculty and staff. As such, they often have no more integrity than the worst of their corporate citizens.
Any large corporate entity has a vested interest in preserving its image. Universities and colleges are not above this desire. In fact, many such institutions will go to much more drastic measures than other corporate entities to protect their image. The scandal at Penn State is a good example of that mentality. It seems clear that university leaders conspired to protect the reputation of the football program and the institution, at the expense of children entrusted into its care.
The idea that a career coach could secretly take showers with and horse around with minor boys is ludicrous. He apparently did not take these children to secret hideouts or cheap hotel rooms. He engaged in inappropriate behavior in the athletic facilities at Penn State. If news reports are to be believed, he was first suspected of this sort of activity sixteen years ago. Yet, he was allowed to continue coaching and allowed to continue his youth camp program at Penn State apparently unhindered and unsupervised.
It should be clear to any objective observer that Jerry Sandusky’s predatory behavior was not a secret. The probability that the entire coaching staff and much of the athletic department knew of Sandusky’s actions is astronomically high. Pedophiles seldom operate in a vacuum.
Pedophiles are most successful when they operate within what some would call an enabling environment. For those not familiar with the term, an enabling environment is one in which people around the pedophile ignore or make excuses for questionable behavior. Anyone or any group can enable this kind of behavior, including iconic coaches and highly placed officials.
Jerry Sandusky may not be a pedophile. Unfortunately, he certainly sounded like one during his interview with Bob Costas of NBC. The first defense of any pedophile is that he or she loves children, but not inappropriately. The next defense is that the behavior was innocent fun.
Somewhere there must be a playbook for exposed pedophiles. Item I Subparagraph A must advise, make a fool of yourself by claiming it was horseplay. Subparagraph B then says, admit you made a mistake being naked in the shower with the child, but maintain you did not think there was anything wrong with your actions. It was all just good clean fun. Sandusky is very likely lying. The question is if he is lying to himself or everyone else.
Two administrators have been charged with perjury. It is safe to assume they lied about something, or they would not have been charged. It is likely, they have lied to themselves and others for years about the situation, perjuring themselves before a grand jury was simply part of their ongoing self-deception.
Joepa may not be lying outright. However, he may be the ultimate enabler. He was the most powerful man in the Penn State hierarchy. He held tremendous power and influence within the Penn State community. He could have nipped this problem in the bud years ago. One can only wonder what possessed him to allow an apparent pedophile to operate within his organization.
Mike McQueary, the reported whistleblower in this case, may also have a credibility problem that should not be overlooked. According to the latest reports, McQueary is now claiming he not only witnessed Sandusky with a ten-year-old boy, he made certain the activity stopped before he left the location. Other reports say he called his father before formally reporting the matter to Coach Joe Paterno. The grand jury report seems to indicate he fled the scene and was distraught.
Anyone with any knowledge of the college environment knows McQueary was caught between a rock and a hard place. He was a graduate assistant. He discovered a respected and beloved former coach involved in a despicable act, and it is likely he was more than just distraught. He was probably scared to death.
A graduate assistant blowing the whistle on a distinguished member of the university community has a lot to fear. Simply witnessing such activity could spell the end of his academic career. Instead, this graduate assistant does the right thing in an institution that has overlooked or covered up Sandusky’s behavior for years. This same institution then rewards him with a promotion to assistant coach. With that kind of luck he should have purchased a lotto ticket that day, he would have been set for life.
Paterno may have rewarded McQueary for his honesty and hard work with a coaching job. He may also have seen it as a way to assure McQueary’s continued cooperation in keeping the matter quiet. Either way, neither one of them has anything to brag about.
The true story of this sordid incident may never be known. Some information will come out of the criminal and civil justice proceedings now getting underway, but the results will always be in dispute. Still, this incident should raise the awareness of everyone involved with higher education and athletics. If something like this could happen at Penn State, it could happen anywhere, and it probably does.
© S. E. Jackson – 2011