College Guide


July 12, 2012 5:02 PM Yes, the Penn State Sexual Abuse Scandal is All about Football

By Daniel Luzer

Today Former FBI director Louis Freeh released the incredibly damming report about the role of Pennsylvania State University in facilitating and covering up the longtime sexual abuse by Assistant Football Coach Jerry Sandusky over a 14-year period.

According to a piece at ESPN:

“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,” said Freeh…who was hired by university trustees to look into what has become one of sports’ biggest scandals. “The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized.”
“A 267-page report… concluded that Hall of Fame coach [Joe] Paterno, President Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz “failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade.”

They knew. They knew early, and they appear to have done nothing. Why not? Well, according to the report.

In order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at the university — Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley — repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse.

It’s hard to figure out how Penn State really wants to address this issue but Paterno’s son, Penn State Assistant Football Coach Jay Paterno, cautions that he really, really doesn’t think the scandal is about football. The football program is really great! Jay Paterno said that,

“I think any suggestion about the culture of football at Penn State, you have to look at the facts in the situation. We graduate our student athletes in football at a higher rate than the students in general at Penn State. There was a commitment to academic and athletic excellence in that order … Joe Paterno was willing to bench players that were eligible to send a message to his players … Joe Paterno was the first person to say to us ‘we are a part of the University, just part of it. We’re a football program and this is an academic institution.’ And Joe believed that very fervently.”

Seriously, the graduation rate? Joe Paterno may have been willing to bench football players for academic problems but he was pretty dramatically unwilling to take the much harder and more important step in punishing or reporting an assistant coach for forcing teenage boys to have sex with him.

You know why that happened? Because football is too important at that school.

It is a football scandal. Obviously Sandusky’s sexual abuse of lots of children isn’t a football scandal exclusively—sexual predators are present in all sorts of professions—but the cover-up is sure a football thing.

Apparently after a woman in May 1998 complained about Sandusky after her son came home with wet hair because he has showered with Sandusky didn’t provoke an investigation because Penn State vice president Gary Schultz thought examining the matter would be opening a “Pandora’s box.”

It was more important to win football games, maintain the revenue stream, and keep the fans happy then it was to protect the lives of 10 vulnerable young men. Really. That’s the choice Penn State made. That’s all about supporting the football program. And this is what happens because of it.

Read the report here.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer


  • jim blann on July 12, 2012 8:43 PM:

    i think that the ncaa and the big ten need to send a really tough message re penn state's unacceptable behavior over more than a decade. given my impression that many in the penn state community still do not get the atrocity of their leadership's behavior, perhaps the death penalty for the football program would get their attention. large institutions can not be allowed to sweep this kind of behavior under the rug for their own benefit. enough!

  • DJ on July 13, 2012 2:30 AM:

    NCAA rules might not cover such heinous conduct. The better, more effective punitive action might come from the Department of Education. Penn State is guilty of multiple violations of the Clery Act, with substantial fines, loss of financial aid, and loss of federal funding are a possibility. Their accreditation could be at stake.

  • Arlene Gary on July 13, 2012 10:02 PM:

    Paterno's assistant coach Sandusky was sexually assaulting 10 and 12 year-old children (not even teenagers) in Paterno's locker room and showers.