A search for answers at Penn State (cont.)
The charge that has generated the most discussion, and that led directly to the firing of Spanier and Paterno, stems from a 2002 incident. McQueary testified that on March 1 of that year he came across Sandusky having anal intercourse in the football showers with a young boy whose hands were pinned against the wall. The 6-foot-4 former Penn State quarterback -- a onetime teammate of Sandusky's son Jon -- made eye contact with Sandusky, then 58, and the victim, whom McQueary estimated to be 10. But he did not intervene. Instead, after phoning his father (a health-care administrator affiliated with a local clinic to which Paterno has donated at least $1 million), McQueary conferred with Paterno the next day and told him what he saw. The coach then waited another day to speak to Curley. The athletic director then talked to Schultz, who relayed the incident to president Spanier. Except that as the account moved along the chain of command, the allegation apparently shed severity with each retelling. By the time it reached Spanier, it was merely behavior that, as Spanier testified, "made a member of Curley's staff 'uncomfortable.'" Unaccountably, though Curley saw fit to inform The Second Mile's director of the episode, neither he nor anyone else reported it to university police or any other police agency. Nor was there any attempt to identify or contact the boy.
Sandusky kept his office at Penn State and continued to have full access to the football facilities. The lone result of the 2002 incident -- a decision approved by Spanier -- is that Sandusky was prohibited from bringing children on campus. Don't do it here. Among all the graphic and horrifying detail in the grand jury testimony, this point is perhaps most damning.
Sandusky's alleged activity continued. It just moved elsewhere. The only two victims in the grand jury report whose identities remain unknown -- whom authorities couldn't contact -- were the ones assaulted on the Penn State campus. Had Sandusky not been so brazen in Mill Hall, had he simply restricted himself to the football facilities in State College, there is little to suggest he would have been caught. For Sandusky -- if not for the boys -- Penn State football was a safe haven.
While it may be imperfect, comparisons to the Catholic Church sex scandal are inevitable: A serial offender in a position of trust and power, with special access to youth, abused that position to commit heinous crimes. In the case of the church, says Jeff Anderson, a lawyer who has successfully represented sexual abuse victims against clergy, the predator benefited from a culture of insularity. "From low-level administrators to the top level, they looked the other way, and when they did see something, they chose to remain silent," Anderson says. Referring to both Penn State and the church, he adds, "When [the allegations] are revealed and reported and made known multiple times, there's a deliberate decision to protect the institution and reputation at the peril of the children."
Adds David Clohessy, director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, "Usually child molesters are charismatic, lovable folks on the outside. And many victims feel, I won't be believed; he'll be believed."
Unlike other sports scandals, this one will not fade once the season or the school year ends. There are pending criminal trials. Inevitably, there will be a raft of civil litigation. There will be multiple investigations, one of them headed by Penn State trustee and Merck president and CEO Kenneth C. Frazier, who has already vowed, "The chips will fall where they may."
Among the questions that demand answers:
Particularly given his penchant for micromanagement and his power within the community, did Paterno know in 1998 that his top lieutenant was being investigated for sex crimes by the campus police and that a report was sitting on the desk of the local D.A.?
Though only in his mid-50s and the most prominent assistant coach in college football, Sandusky retired after the 1999 season. Was there a connection with the '98 incident?
Why didn't anyone, from McQueary to Paterno to president Spanier, at least inquire whether police -- or, for that matter, anyone -- had followed up on the 2002 incident?
Why did it take a week and a half for Curley and Schultz to speak with McQueary after Paterno had passed them the information?
The grand jury report and the attorney general assert that State College lawyer Wendell Courtney was counsel for both Penn State and The Second Mile in 1998, at which time he was told by Schultz about the '98 allegation involving Sandusky. Courtney did not return SI's phone calls but publicly denied he was the counsel to The Second Mile at that time. Which account is true?
Why, after barring Sandusky from taking children onto the campus (a prohibition that Curley himself testified was unenforceable), did Penn State allow him to hold his summer camps on branch campuses?
Having heard the allegations against Sandusky -- and, in McQueary's case, witnessing him allegedly raping a child -- how could Penn State officials abide his continued presence on campus?
More generally, what went through the minds of Paterno, McQueary and Curley when Sandusky would turn up at practice or lift weights in the workout room of the Lasch Building, as he reportedly did as recently as Oct. 31?
As to the familiar line of inquiry, "Who knew what and when did they know it?" accounts vary wildly. While former players and Sandusky acquaintances profess disbelief over the allegations, others in State College say the rumors had been marinating for years. "When [Sandusky] left, there was speculation about his behavior with young boys," says Rebecca Durst, who owns a barbershop near campus and says her long-term clients include prominent Penn State administrators. "This is a small town. It's been in the rumor mill for a while."
After the 2008 report from Mill Hall, The Second Mile quietly barred Sandusky from activities involving children. In September 2010, with the grand jury investigation well under way, Sandusky resigned from the charity he founded "to devote more time to my family and personal matters."
Outsiders now look back, parsing statements and rereading passages. Sandusky often asserted that one of The Second Mile's fundamental tenets was, "It's easier to develop a child than rehabilitate an adult." His autobiography, titled Touched: The Jerry Sandusky Story, recounts wrestling matches with kids and includes a photograph of Sandusky after a "pudding wrestling" bout. In the same book he offers Jer's Law: I allowed myself to be mischievous, but I didn't let it get to the point that someone would be intentionally hurt ... and I swore I would tell the truth if I was ever caught doing something wrong.
In Mill Hall, Turchetta, already a stalwart of the community, is being cast as one of the few good guys in a sordid story. Folks in town were never shy about voicing their displeasure when Coach Chet didn't play their kid or ran on a passing down, but uniformly they appreciate what they perceive to be his courage. "I applaud what he did," says Miller, the wrestling coach who also testified. "This could still be going on if not for [him]."
In truth, that may be overstating the matter. Inasmuch as Turchetta is being lauded simply for doing what he was legally and morally obligated to do, it's because his behavior contrasted so sharply with the response at Penn State. The men in Mill Hall, outside the reach of the university and unencumbered by pressures of a big-time football program, did the expected thing.
Turchetta is resisting the hero role. He's referring the hundreds of calls he's receiving to the attorney general's office. Last Thursday afternoon he walked out of his district administration building wearing a solemn expression, his square jaw set off by a thick black mustache. "I'm just moving on," he said somberly. He paused, looked down and seemed to consider the surreality of his newfound fame. "Just moving on."
Healing will be far less swift an hour down the Nittany Valley in State College. While the crisis was unprecedented in its severity, the Penn State management was -- again, evidence of the school's insularity -- staggeringly clumsy. Press conferences were scheduled and then abruptly canceled. Remarks were tone-deaf. Spanier all but ordered his own firing when he declared his "unconditional" support for Curley and Schultz. When various administrators expressed shock at last week's revelations, even though Sandusky had been suspected multiple times and The Patriot-News had reported in March on the grand jury investigation, it came across as more than a little disingenuous. Last week Penn State lecturer Steve Manuel veered from the syllabus for his communications class and spent the next several sessions dissecting the university's public relations disaster.
Clearly fed up with the school's spin, Paterno hired his own Washington, D.C.-based publicist and went off-message last Wednesday, candidly admitting moral culpability. He also announced that he would step down after the season. But his time for decrees was over. Hours later the board of trustees -- five of whom are former Penn State football players -- notified him by phone that, after 61 years, he was no longer an employee of the university.
Thousands of students left their dorms and apartments and swarmed Beaver Canyon, expressing their unhappiness with the decision. "You're digging JoePa's grave!" one female PSU swimmer despaired. As some students took part in a low-grade riot -- a few of them overturned or smashed cars, while the vast majority memorialized the night with their cellphone cameras -- a half-dozen football players stood at a remove, watching the scene and discussing whether any teammates needed to be extracted from the ruckus. One player, senior cornerback Chaz Powell, appeared ready to join the throng, vuvuzela in hand, but thought better of it. He tossed the horn in the trash and walked away.
On the other end of campus, a hundred or so students gathered outside Paterno's house, standing near an autumn cornucopia and a leftover Halloween ghost. Even after JoePa offered a short valediction, they stayed, most of them with moist eyes. At roughly 11:45, Sue Paterno opened the blinds, offered a wave of thanks, then turned out the lights.
On Saturday, for the first time since the Truman Administration, Penn State took the field without JoePa in a coaching role. McQueary was absent as well, placed on leave. Tom Bradley -- another longtime Paterno assistant, who took over for Sandusky as defensive coordinator in 2000 -- served as interim head coach. (Sources tell SI some members of the board of trustees have insisted that Paterno's permanent successor must come from outside the Penn State family.) Dozens of former players stood on the sideline and sat in the stands, there to pay respects to JoePa and try to begin restitching at least a few strands of a badly frayed tapestry.
For all the ambient chaos over the last week, the tableau at Beaver Stadium was strikingly normal. Predictions of protests and mass tributes went unrealized, as though Nittany Nation was emotionally depleted, too spent to do much besides enjoy the diversion of football. Fields were full of tailgaters; the student section was loud but well-behaved; 107,903 people had filled the stands. The few earmarks of the Week That Had Been included a pregame "moment of silence for the alleged victims" -- at once poignant and sadly ironic, given the role silence played in aiding the unfathomable -- as well as donation boxes for child abuse prevention charities and a "blue out" in awareness of child abuse.
Understandably "out of whack," as Bradley put it, the team sputtered on offense and fell to Nebraska 17-14. Like the fans, the players projected exhaustion. "The hardest thing was how fast everything hit us; you can't even explain how everything changes," said senior defensive end Jack Crawford, who wore an eye-black patch under his eyes bearing the letters JVP. "It's sad to see how everything unfolded like it did, sad to see how it unraveled."
The crowd filed out quietly. A few headed to Paterno's house, tracing the route through campus that the most iconic coach in college football history had walked for all those decades. Outside the Creamery a line formed for scoops of Peachy Paterno, suddenly a nostalgic relic of a bygone era. A knot of students and alumni broke into an impromptu postgame cheer: "We are ... Penn State!"
So they are. Even if that no longer means what it once did.