The Freeh Report is a white-hot, scathing indictment on what goes wrong when the few put the wants of the few ahead of the best interests of the many.
The independent investigation into the university’s handling of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse case lays blame in no uncertain terms at the feet of revered Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno, former president of the university Graham Spanier, athletics director Tim Curley and retired senior vice president Gary Schultz. The report unleashed the dogs on all involved in the more than 15 years of horrific acts committed against the most vulnerable of the vulnerable by the vilest of the vile, Sandusky — who, incidently filed an appeal of his conviction Thursday.
How could these people in good conscience say they had no knowledge of what was going on in the very football facilities they all walked on a daily basis? Maybe in 1998 there was no evidence to support their claims of ignorance, but now there is. They can say what they want — all of course but Paterno, who died of lung cancer soon after the investigation began — but now the evidence appears to be clear. Their reputations are destroyed and Paterno’s god-like status is in shambles — all because they tried to hide the truth instead of protecting those who could not protect themselves.
“Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State. The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized. Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley never demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky’s victims until after Sandusky’s arrest,” Freeh said in the lengthy report.
The big knock on Paterno so far has been what he didn’t do. The rage has been he didn’t do enough and should have stepped in and put a stop to the atrocities being committed right under his nose.
And this is true.
But what Paterno is most guilty of is doing too much.
The iconic coach stood squarely in the way of justice and protected a child molester. Paterno allowed a pedophile to use the football facilities at Penn State University for the personal, twisted, sadistic pleasure of a monster. A monster who ranks right up there with the vilest, filthiest, most deplorable travesties of humanity to ever walk the earth.
“The evidence shows that Mr. Paterno was made aware of the 1998 investigation of Sandusky, followed it closely, but failed to take any action, even though Sandusky had been a key member of his coaching staff for almost 30 years, and had an office just steps away from Mr. Paterno’s,” the report reads.
“At the very least, Mr. Paterno could have alerted the entire football staff, in order to prevent Sandusky from bringing another child into the Lasch Building. Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley also failed to alert the Board of Trustees about the 1998 investigation or take any further action against Mr. Sandusky. None of them even spoke to Sandusky about his conduct.”
To put it in layman’s terms, nothing, nothing was done, not even a token gesture to stop Sandusky. In fact, by keeping silent, Paterno and his cronies gave the appearance of giving Sandusky a seal of approval to keep doing what he was doing as long as he kept quiet about it — all in the name of protecting the good name of Penn State University.
To say Paterno had absolutely no knowledge of what was going on in his football building also has no footing. At least two emails sent to Curley in 1998 to Spanier and Curley seem to say otherwise.
“I have touched base with the coach,” read one of the communiques. Another allegedly sent eight days later from Curley to Schultz and captioned “Jerry” read, “Anything new in this department? Coach is anxious to know where it stands.”
The evidence brought forth by Freeh is certainly compelling, to say the least.
“It is more reasonable to conclude 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 from the authorities, the Board of Trustees, [the] Penn State community and the public at large,” Freeh says in his report. “Although concern to treat the child abuser humanely was expressly stated, no such sentiments were ever expressed by them for Sandusky’s victims.”
The bottom line in all this is the overwhelming sadness of the whole sorry situation. I have never and will never understand the all-consuming need for major — and not so major — institutions to hide the truth under the misguided reasoning of protecting the institution.
If Paterno had done the right thing and not stood in the way of having a serial child molester put away for good, his iconic status of one of the most beloved coaches ever to walk a college football sideline would forever be untouchable. As it stands, Paterno’s reputation is in ashes. His name will be forever linked with one of the most heinous crimes associated with college football.
And what for? Why, Joe? Please tell me why.
Richard Roberts is Sports Editor for the Cleveland Daily Banner. Write him at email@example.com.