Let former FBI director Louis Freeh tell you a story, one he detailed in his Penn State University-Jerry Sandusky report released Thursday.
There was this big, respected university with an iconic legend as its football coach.
It also had a pedophile operating in its program.
School officials knew this back in 1998 and covered it up.
They chose this “humane” route of covering up, turning their backs and protecting themselves rather than kids for more than a decade as boys went on being raped in the campus showers and on football trips. They did this because it benefited them, was easier for them and protected what they valued most — the football program.
Could former Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno have stopped Sandusky?
“It’s a very strong and reasonable inference that he could have done so if he had wished,” Freeh said.
Freeh also detailed how facts and witnesses and evidence back up a conclusion that “in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at Penn State University — Messrs Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley — repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse.”
Again and again, the 269-page report by Freeh’s group showed how Penn State officials had a “callous and shocking disregard for child victims.” They lied, then lied about their lies. Even now, the loyalty to the lie about Paterno being a man of integrity (despite evidence proving he lied to a grand jury regarding his knowledge of the 1998 investigation) is galling.
The moral of Freeh’s story comes courtesy of the AMC show "Breaking Bad," specifically Mike the Cleaner. It’s not important that you watch the show. It’s important that you understand the universality of the futility of half measures in some situations.
We can never make that mistake again. No more half measures.
Nothing is going to stop Penn State or anybody else in big-time college athletics from taking a route that is protect-the-brand, CYA and immoral. So we — NCAA, fans, impartial observers — must intervene.
Everything that has happened to Penn State so far is a half measure. And I do not believe in half measures for child rapists or institutions that harbor them. Neither should you.
What is a full measure, you ask?
The death penalty, as delivered by the NCAA, is a good starting point. I used to believe this was too harsh. After listening to those boys testify and then reading details in the Freeh reports like Sandusky having special seats to Paterno’s record-breaking game in 2011 and an email from then-athletic director Tim Curley saying, after talking with Paterno, he no longer believed reporting Sandusky to child authorities was the right course of action, I have changed my mind.
The football program needs to go away for a while.
A big reason this was allowed to happen was because the whole economy of Penn State was football. If you take that away, they might learn. And since almost every illegal and immoral decision made was done with the intent of protecting the reputations of the football program and Paterno, the best punishment is one that severely diminishes.
Then, maybe, next time the evidence will not clearly show what Freeh himself called in his news conference Thursday “ . . . an active agreement to conceal” by Paterno, Curley, former senior vice president Gary Schultz and former president Graham Spanier.
The hiring of Freeh is the first right thing Penn State did, and Louis Freeh delivered the goods. But this report cannot be the end, something we read and tsk-tsk and Penn State falls over itself apologizing while donations roll in and JoePa’s letter to the football team makes the rounds.
“Let me say that again so I am not misunderstood: Regardless of anyone’s opinion of my actions or the actions of the handful of administration officials in this matter, the fact is nothing alleged is an indictment of football or evidence that the spectacular collections of accomplishments by dedicated student athletes should be in any way tarnished,” Paterno wrote in this just-released letter to players weeks before his death.
Paterno did not get it even as he faced death. As Freeh said, “The facts are the facts. He was an integral part of the act to conceal,” yet the JoePalogists still do not get it. Neither does his family.
Again, half measures do not work.
A strong message needs to be sent to schools and other institutions — the Catholic Church immediately springs to mind — that such actions will have consequences. If Paterno’s sterling reputation must be destroyed, if his statue needs to come down, if Penn State has to lose its football program for a while under the NCAA death penalty, if Spanier, Schultz and Curley need to share a jail cell with Sandusky, so be it.
What was most damning to me was when Freeh talked about the janitor who had witnessed Sandusky raping a boy, of how this Korean War veteran said this was the most disturbing thing he had seen and how all of them had been scared to report this for fear of reprisals because this involved a part of the football program.
“If that is the culture at the bottom, God help the culture at the top," Freeh said.
We live in a society nowadays without consequence — especially for the rich and powerful. Barclays Bank manipulates lending rates with impunity, the Catholic Church covers for pedophile priests for years and on and on and on. We live in a world of bailouts, weak apologies and half measures in response to immorality.
That has to stop now, has to stop at Penn State.
No more half measures. Only a full measure will do.
Take down the statue, take away the football and quit revering the man who stood by idly as boys were raped.