Penn State has been gut-punched by the Jerry Sandusky child-rape accusations. The day of the tree-lighting ceremony, the NCAA sent a searing letter to the university’s interim president saying that it had opened an investigation of the school’s handling of the case.
The NCAA said that if the allegations against the former assistant football coach are true, “individuals who were in a position to monitor and act upon learning of potential abuses appear to have been acting starkly contrary to the values of higher education.”
Few people could have imagined that Penn State, of all places, could face such an inquiry. The university has prided itself on doing things the right way, of adhering to old-fashioned values, of having a football program that doesn’t cheat. Players went to class, they earned diplomas. These were the good guys. “Success with Honor” was the Penn State mantra.
Now this place is a target of scorn and ridicule. The situation is open-ended. State and federal investigators continue to look into who knew what and when about Sandusky’s actions. No one expects this to be over soon.
“Where’s this going to stop? How do we solve this? How does the wound ever stop bleeding?” James Ryan, a vice president emeritus at the university, said Friday.
He said people want the guilty punished and the innocent exonerated — and right now it’s hard to tell who’s who. Some here say that this place will pull itself together, that the community is resilient. Others are still stunned, depressed, unsure what to say or do. Or what to believe anymore.
This is an agonizing moment, for example, for Kip Richeal, a former student equipment manager at Penn State who became a close friend of Sandusky and eventually co-wrote Sandusky’s memoir, “Touched: The Jerry Sandusky Story.”
“It’s troubling and disheartening to find out a friend of yours had a double life,” said Richeal, who now lives in western Pennsylvania.
He and Sandusky talked in the spring after the story broke that a grand jury was looking into child sex abuse allegations against the former coach. Sandusky professed his innocence then, but they haven’t spoken since his arrest.
“I honestly wouldn’t know what to say,” Richeal said.
Said State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham, “Our town is heartbroken.”
The grand jury said Sandusky, a former defensive coordinator for the Nittany Lions, assaulted underage boys he contacted through the Second Mile, a charity he founded to help troubled youths. He was charged with assaulting eight boys over the course of 15 years.
In the wake of those charges, the winningest head coach in the history of big-time college football, Joe Paterno, has been fired, as has the university president, Graham Spanier, who had been a rock star in academia. Two top administrators face perjury charges. The head of the Second Mile has resigned.