Penn State: Here are ten steps to recovery
As shocking as Louis Freeh’s report is — and it is about as horrific an indictment of institutional corruption as college football has ever seen — there is an opportunity for the good people at Penn State (of which there are plenty) to recover.
It won’t be easy. But here is what Penn State can do to set things right:
1. Purge the place of anyone who knew. The “not my job” or “I wasn’t sure” excuses won’t cut it this time. If you knew, you must go. It might be unfair to some, but the firings must be swift and public. The child sex abuse scandal damaged the Catholic Church in ways that are still causing problems, not only because of the heinous crimes but because of the cover-ups and excuses. For Penn State to enter the road to recovery, administrators must rid themselves of anyone who was involved, no matter how high up the chain that reaches or how oblique the involvement might have been.
2. Pay whatever is asked to the victims. No haggling, no legal maneuvering: Just pay it and offer apologies and full acknowledgment. The price tag likely will run into the high millions, but the only way to move forward is to accept the inevitable. The last thing the institution needs is a civil court fight. Better to take the hit now so the healing can begin.
3. Throw away the Paterno statue. The arguments that JoePa was old and did wonderful things for thousands of people don’t wash anymore. He aided and abetted in the cover-up of unspeakable crimes. All symbols to him have got to go.
4. Tear down the locker rooms and start anew. Not only can those showers no longer exist, anywhere that Jerry Sandusky plied his evil trade must be vanquished.
5. Endow a foundation for abused children and heap gobs of money from the football program into it every year. The goal should be for Penn State to be known as an institution that does more for victims of childhood sexual abuse than anyplace else. It will take decades, but eventually people likely won’t remember why the foundation was created. They will know only the positive things it does.
6. Do not shy away from what happened. Acknowledge the victims by placing black arm bands (or some other symbol) on all uniforms for at least one, perhaps two, full seasons. Every sport, every game. Sure, the women’s volleyball team had nothing to do with what happened, but that doesn’t’ matter. Crises of this magnitude require disproportionate responses. Everyone must acknowledge what happened, even those who were not involved.
7. Forget about winning for a while. Anyone who puts victories on the football field ahead of getting the university back on the right path should be shunned. There are far more important issues on the agenda than conference championships and bowl wins.
8. Accept every interview and answer every question. There will be hundreds, maybe thousands of reports. Any hint of hiding will fuel speculation that the cover-up continues. The only correct response is to sit through every uncomfortable grilling that comes your way.
9. Be up front with every recruit. Don’t sugarcoat what life is going to be like at Penn State. There is a moral argument that can be presented to incoming freshmen that they can be the ones who improve the university’s reputation. But until that happens, they are going to be looked upon as players at Child Abuse U.
10. Do all of these things quickly. Float a bond to finance it if need be, but don’t respond in drips and drabs. The quicker you make wholesale changes, the faster you will be seen as an institution facing and working to solve its problems, not a group of apologists that remains in denial.
The roadmap is clear, but the path is not easy.
Penn State has one opportunity to redeem itself. If those in charge don’t do things right — if the powers that be believe they can wall themselves off and people will soon forget — then the stain of this scandal will be permanent.
Here’s hoping someone in State College finally steps up and does the right thing.