Saturday, November 12, 2011

The nuclear bomb hits State College...if... (UPDATED AT BOTTOM WITH LAWSUITS)

...the following scenario plays out.

There is evidence that starting in or around 1998 the Penn State leadership deliberately attempted to cover up the sexual assault allegations involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. In this case, "leadership" includes any combination of former president Graham Spanier, former head football coach Joe Paterno, former athletic director Tim Curley and other influential people either on the Board of Trustees, in the administration or in the athletic department.

I am not the first person who has noted some unsettling coincidences taking place in State College.

Based on the information available to us right now (and let's make crystal clear that if convincing evidence comes out that refutes the current details, then multiple events of the past week need to be critically reassessed), the initial claims of sexual assault involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky occurred in 1998. One year later and at 55 years old, Sandusky resigned as defensive coordinator.

There is no logical reason why Sandusky should have stepped aside at that point. And it's all the more illogical that he would not have taken another job since then.

The man was a phenomenal football coach who established the tradition that was Penn State' rock solid defense. At 55, he should have been a head coach, not a retiree.

Therefore, it's not a stretch to suggest Sandusky was told he had to go in exchange for no one saying another word about his perversion -- the potential for what he was accused of doing in 1998 to blow apart the Nittany Lions' football program was too great if he were still coaching.

Except he wasn't tossed to the side of the road. Instead, he remained a prominent part of the Penn State football family. He had an office in and access to the football facilities. Why? By remaining around State College, his reported disgusting assaults continued, and they might have been expanding to incorporate other perverts. One Pittsburgh-based reporter suggested this week that rumors will not go away that Sandusky was "pimping out young boys to rich donors."

If true, then it's impossible to believe that enough rumors would have circulated to convince the administration or the athletic department to make that necessary call to the police. And to send Sandusky (and perhaps others) straight to jail.

But no one called.

It seems fair to ask why someone (or a group of people) seemed determined to protect Sandusky from what he deserved. In this context what he "deserved" was the psychological and other professional help necessary to get his life in order, and, yes, he needed to get it from jail.

Let's move to 2002, when a then-lowly graduate assistant named Mike McQueary says he walked into the Penn State football facility one evening and soon found Sandusky sexually assaulting a boy in a shower. He does the right thing -- and reports it to his boss, Coach Paterno. Based on the grand jury's report, it appears Paterno told his boss, the athletic director, but that no one picked up the phone to call the police.

Compounding this mistake, Curley, according to the grand jury report, downplayed what McQueary told him. Yes, it's also fair to ask McQueary why he didn't pick up the phone. Unfortunately, in the environment that is Penn State right now, it is seen as not a stretch that McQueary was told to not do anything, and he kept his job for following those orders. Is that statement unfair to McQueary? Absolutely. But it has to be brought up.

At this point, let's pause. There were at least four people -- Coach Paterno, athletic director Curley, another administrator and McQueary, who until Friday was an assistant coach -- who had direct knowledge of Sandusky's sexual assaults on multiple boys. Let's add President Spanier to this list; there is no way he wouldn't have been made aware of what was happening.

And none of them called any police agency.

Does that neglect constitute a deliberate cover up?

If you say "no," (and I'll admit that at this point, I would answer no) then please answer these questions:
1. Why was Sandusky hanging around like a bad virus for so long?
2. Why did Sandusky announce his retirement at age 55?
3. How did McQueary continue to move up the Penn State coaching food chain?
4. Why would Curley, when he spoke to the grand jury, all but dismiss what McQueary had told him?
5. How could Paterno -- heretofore thought of as being a paragon of virtue -- not see the obvious: His former coach (and his friend) needed help; he was destroying young boys in a series of perverse acts that could not be defended?

As this nuclear-bomb scenario continues, let's remember that a cover up doesn't need a large number of individuals; in fact, if just two or three "important" people agreed to remain silent, then you have a cover up.

If that proves to be true, then the death penalty should be applied on Penn State football.

For those arguing that the sexual assault scandal has nothing to do with cheating, providing athletes with extra benefits, tattoos and sundry other issues for which the NCAA can penalize its schools, there is a potent counter-argument: Does a cover up provide the most damning evidence of a lack of institutional control?

Of late, many universities have canned any combination of athletic directors, head coaches or assistant coaches for misdeeds. Such decisions are made in an attempt to ward off a potent NCAA-induced penalty. But no school has sent its president packing.

Penn State's Board of Trustees did that the other night.

But getting rid of Spanier, Curley, Paterno and McQueary shouldn't save the Nittany Lions' football team from the death penalty if, if, if a cover up took place and is found out.

I don't want to believe that a cover up took place. But I also can't believe that no one!!!!...called any police agency.

1st UPDATE: 8:25 p.m. EST: Here comes the lawsuits. ESPN reports that Paterno is expecting to be named in multiple civil lawsuits, and his attorneys might be planning a loophole defense.
Plaintiffs currently over the age of 20 can pursue lawsuits only in cases of sexual abuse that involved "forcible compulsion." That definition includes rape, but may not involve lesser forms of physical contact.
Shanin Specter, a litigator in Philadelphia who has been contacted by the family of one of the alleged victims, said the loophole could eliminate some of the victims as viable plaintiffs. However, according to Specter, the legal teams would have to argue that the boys had the choice of being touched inappropriately by former Nittany Lions assistant Jerry Sandusky.
"But that's not going to stop me from filing suit," Specter said.
Specter's firm will meet with the young man and his mother early next week to begin exploring legal options. He said he was contacted last week by the mother, whose son is one of eight alleged victims listed in the grand jury presentment against Sandusky.
"There's no doubt Joe Paterno will be sued and it will be left up to the discovery process to determine his liability," Specter said. "There are a lot of victims who suffered damages, and I expect that some number of defendants will be obligated to pay a lot of money."
Paterno and loopholes? Ugh.

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