Reported exit looming, JoePa must talk
Add cowardice to the list of character flaws piling up at Penn State University.
On Tuesday, 30 minutes before he was scheduled to address more than 120 members of the media about a mounting scandal surrounding allegations a former coach sexually abused young boys and school officials failed to help put a stop to it, the word spread: Once again Paterno would fail to speak.
It seemed a lot like a sign that Paterno is on his way out, and an hour later the New York Times reported just that: That the university is in the process of determining just when, in days or weeks, that Paterno will leave.
Good. But he still must speak. Now. There’s been enough silence to do enough damage for at least eight lifetimes. Reports have surfaced of a ninth victim stepping forward and that Jerry Sandusky — the former defensive coordinator whose alleged abuses are at the center of the case — was seen on the Penn State campus as recently as a week ago working out.
In 2002, when the failure was exponentially more devastating, Paterno was reportedly told by Mike McQueary, a graduate assistant who’s now the team’s wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator, that he’d seen Sandusky allegedly behaving inappropriately with a young boy in a football locker room. Grand jury findings this week would allege Sandusky, a former Penn State coach and one-time heir apparent to JoePa, had been having anal intercourse with a young boy.
The incident is one of numerous sexual assaults against eight boys alleged to have occurred over a 15-year period, often on campus or at football-related locations.
In 2002, Paterno passed that information on to his athletic director, Tim Curley, who is alleged not to have reported the allegation to law enforcement officials. Curley and university senior vice president Gary Schultz were charged this week with failing to report child-sex abuse and perjury.
And JoePa? He skates free, legally, because he told his superior. But his silence when no police became involved then speaks volumes about him now, as did his continued silence Tuesday.
Jeff Nelson, the football program’s sports information director, read the statement while surrounded by a mass of media mostly in disbelief that the obfuscation would continue: “Due to the ongoing legal circumstances centered around the recent allegations and charges, we have determined that today’s press conference cannot be held and will not be re-scheduled.”
Paterno’s son Scott told the Associated Press a short time later that his father was disappointed and was prepared to take questions about the scandal as well as the upcoming game against Nebraska. Scott Paterno told the AP the decision was made by the office of university president Graham Spanier.
Cowards, then and now, every last one of you.
Joe Paterno is a grown man. If he wants to speak, speak. Please. Please do one thing to signify you understand the magnitude of what has happened, that someone at this school who should have known better then at least knows better now.
Paterno’s failing to do so adequately nine years ago could well have aided in how many alleged sexual assaults of young children? Speak now, football coach, at least speak, at least show your moral failing then taught you enough not to fail again.
Paterno, if it is true that Sandusky did what he is alleged to have done, can never make up for not doing enough. Never, regardless of taking the allegations to his superior. Inappropriate behavior in a shower with a child and you told your boss? Coward. Nothing can erase those nine years for however many victims allegedly exist. But Paterno should spend the rest of his life trying.
Spanier too, who had the gall to praise Curley and Schultz for their moral integrity this week. And Curley and Schultz as much as anyone. They are hiding behind statutes of limitations, behind lawyers, behind spokesmen, behind banal press releases. They are protected by these things because they are said to have failed to protect the most vulnerable among us.
The moral obtuseness with which they have conducted themselves is simply unacceptable.
Time to speak, Joe. Time to talk. You are a grown man, a supposed legend, a one-time leader. Ignore the president’s office, if they really gagged you, and do talk.
We’re waiting for you.
You can follow Bill Reiter on Twitter or email him at email@example.com.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.