Special Report: Scandal. Shame. A search for answers at Penn State.
Special report provides inside look at worst scandal in history of college sports
After Jerry Sandusky was charged with sexual abuse there were cries of cover-up
Joe Paterno, Penn State president lost jobs; more abuse victims still emerging
|Inside SI Podcast|
|SI senior writer Jon Wertheim discusses his reporting from State College, Pa. and his cover story on the scandal at Penn State.|
This story appears in the Nov. 21, 2011 issue of Sports Illustrated. Buy the digital version of the magazine here.
Too small to be considered a full-fledged town, the borough of Mill Hall, Pa., abuts a winding creek in the shadow of the Allegheny Mountains. Most of the 1,500 or so residents work nearby and cheer for Penn State. That includes Steven Turchetta, the athletic director and until recently the football coach at Central Mountain High. Turchetta, known around Mill Hall as Chet, carries himself with the easy grace of a former jock, and he was excited to coach his Wildcats team alongside Jerry Sandusky.
A defensive coach at Penn State for 32 years, including 23 as coordinator, Sandusky was a revered figure, responsible for the program's Linebacker U reputation and at one point the man in line to succeed Joe Paterno -- if and when JoePa ever retired. But in 1999, Paterno told Sandusky he would not, in fact, be the next head coach, and Sandusky abruptly announced that he would retire after the '99 season at 55. Though at an age when many coaches are still in their prime, Sandusky never returned to the college sideline, instead working full time at The Second Mile, a charity for at-risk children that he founded in '77. In 2002, Sandusky began volunteering at Central Mountain High, working with players and sitting in the booth during games. By '08 he was a full-time volunteer.
Turchetta had noticed, though, that something was amiss. Sandusky would get into shouting matches with Central Mountain students, and Turchetta would have to defuse the conflicts. He also found Sandusky to be "clingy" and "suspicious" with one freshman boy in particular. Sandusky sometimes came to the school and pulled the student out of class to meet with him privately.
In 2009, the boy's mother made a troubling report to the school. When he was 11 or 12, her son had met Sandusky through The Second Mile, which had grown into a nationally renowned nonprofit with assets of close to $9 million. Now, several years later, the mother became suspicious when her son asked her about "sex weirdos." She notified the school, and the principal brought the student into the office to discuss the situation, whereupon the boy told the principal that Sandusky had been sexually assaulting him. After the school informed the mother, she notified the local child protective services agency, which launched an investigation into Sandusky. Central Mountain officials promptly barred him from the school. When asked under oath about Sandusky's behavior in the years leading up to the victim's 2009 revelation, Turchetta provided unsparing and unambiguous answers.
Joe Miller is a Penn State fan too -- if not to the extent of his father, who on fall Saturdays was a 50-yard-line usher at Nittany Lions home games. A worker at the local paper factory, Miller, 44, has served as a wrestling coach in Mill Hall. Like Turchetta, he was aware of Sandusky's glowing career at Penn State and thought even more highly of his charitable work. Every year Miller and his wife, a school guidance counselor, contributed to The Second Mile. Miller, though, had once seen Sandusky lying on a weight room floor, face-to-face with the boy in question, with his eyes closed. Miller, too, when asked by investigators about what he'd seen, gave a precise and independent account.
Both Turchetta and Miller knew Jerry Sandusky. At some level they knew what their testimony could mean for his reputation. What they could not possibly have known was that their accounts would help set in motion the most explosive scandal in the history of college sports, one that would make a mockery of the recent drumbeat of NCAA outrages. Rogue boosters? Players selling jerseys for tattoos? Heisman-caliber quarterbacks available for purchase? By the end of last week those transgressions seemed quaint.
Once notified of the events in Mill Hall, a combination of Pennsylvania legal and child welfare agencies began a multiyear investigation into Sandusky and his conduct with boys as young as 10 years old. On Nov. 4, Pennsylvania attorney general Linda Kelly and State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan filed a grand jury report that depicted the 67-year-old Sandusky -- in 23 pages of stomach-twisting detail -- as the embodiment of unadulterated evil, a coldly manipulative serial sexual predator. Often through the access he gained by way of The Second Mile, the report alleges, Sandusky first built trust and relationships with young boys -- vulnerable, socially at-risk kids from his own foundation -- then sexually assaulted them. The report alleges that between 1994 and 2009, Sandusky abused eight boys, though a source tells SI that multiple others have consulted lawyers.
The report asserts that Sandusky traded on his status as a Penn State football demigod. Many of the alleged assaults occurred either in the university's football facilities or at football functions. The Nittany Lions program became Sandusky's bait. He brought victims to games at State College, allowed them to attend coaches' meetings, facilitated their meeting players, cast them in instructional videos, and in one case took a boy to the Alamo Bowl, in San Antonio. Sandusky was charged with 40 counts of various sex crimes, seven of them involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, a felony. In an interview with NBC on Monday, his first public statement, Sandusky admitted that he "horsed around" and showered with boys but denied the criminal allegations.
In addition to the charges against Sandusky, Penn State's athletic director, Tim Curley, 57, was charged with perjury and failure to report Sandusky's alleged child abuse in a 2002 incident. So was Gary Schultz, 62, who as Penn State's senior vice president for finance and business oversaw the campus police. While Paterno wasn't charged, his testimony is recounted in the grand jury report. After its release Paterno was widely condemned by the public -- and, implicitly, by law enforcement -- for what appeared to be, at best, galling obliviousness. "I don't think I've ever been associated with a case where that type of eyewitness identification of sex acts [took] place where the police weren't called," Noonan told reporters, echoing the speculation already expressed by so many others that Penn State administrators had covered up Sandusky's crimes to protect the image of the university. "I don't think I've ever seen something like this before."