The only line in the entire document that brought so much as a glimmer of a smile was this one, which cited one of the causes for the scandal as “a culture of reverence for the football program that is ingrained at all levels of the campus.”
A culture of reverence. That’s what existed in Happy Valley, all right, and not only there. Behind every great football program there is a culture of reverence, and behind many not-so-great ones, too. (At some schools, of course, you need to substitute “basketball” for “football,” but it’s the same difference.) And with this culture comes corruption. You think a culture of reverence didn’t contribute to the recent contretemps at Ohio State, Southern Cal and Miami, just to name a few?
College football is in crisis, at least among thinking fans who have observed the corners cut, the cheating, the players not graduated, the unfairness of the postseason, and have questioned their loyalty to a sport with so many problems and so few solutions in sight. And then came Sandusky, and the revelations of what happened at Penn State. And Saturday afternoons for some went from uncomfortable to untenable.
Yet the combination of pedophilia and big-time athletics should surprise no one with an understanding of the sickness (and if you don’t know the warning signs, educate yourself, right now). Pedophiles need bait, and tickets and autographs, and backstage access to some of the best athletes are tremendous lures. One of the saddest aspects of the Penn State scandal is the length to which the university was willing to go to ignore the rape of children not only by an employee of the school, but on school property, and on school-funded trips. Astounding.
And it’s one reason the Freeh report shouldn’t be the last word on the topic.
After Mike McQueary witnessed the assault in the showers in February 2001, officials — who knew about the 1998 allegations that were investigated, don’t forget — seem at first prepared to act but suddenly backed off. They agreed instead to have a stern talking-to with Sandusky. Athletic Director Timothy Curley suggests telling Sandusky that they are “uncomfortable” with this information, that they will inform Second Mile, the charity that Sandusky had founded, and that Sandusky wasn’t allowed in athletic facilities with children. In other words, don’t do this on our property again. University President Graham Spanier’s response? “The approach you outline is humane and a reasonable way to proceed.”