Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Joe Paterno is not the bad guy

Everyone has an opinion about what Joe Paterno should have done when he found out about Jerry Sandusky’s alleged molestation of young boys. The problem is, none of us can assume to understand what Paterno was thinking.

Since we have little information about Paterno’s reaction, we have to base our opinions on the Grand Jury testimony and his recent interview with the Washington Post. Based on these sources, the facts of Paterno’s involvement are this:

1. Mike McQueary told Paterno that he saw something inappropriate going on between Sandusky and a young boy.

2. Paterno told his superiors and set up a meeting between Tim Curley, Gary Schultz, and McQueary.

3. Paterno knew Curley and Schultz were looking into the problem.

That's it.

No one knows what Paterno thought or did after that. Maybe he never thought about it again. Maybe he asked about it and was told that an investigation came up empty. We all would have liked him to do something more, but really…what more could he do?

By his own account, Paterno and Sandusky did not have much of a relationship even when they worked together. At the time McQueary told Paterno about the locker room incident, Sandusky had not been on staff for several years. Paterno had no authority over Sandusky. He did not have any legal authority to get involved and his information about the molestation was second-hand. He made the decision to let the appropriate people handle it. It was, we know now, a bad decision. But it’s probably the only decision he could have made at the time with the information he had.

Message boards and pundits like to blame Paterno for everything related to the Sandusky scandal. But Joe Paterno is not the bad guy. He may have been misinformed, ignorant, and too passive with his follow-up. But he is not to blame for the alleged rapes and molestations.

The bad guy in all of this is Jerry Sandusky, a fact that is often overlooked by critics. Blaming Paterno, blaming the football culture, or blaming the residents of State College takes the focus away from the real bad guy.


  1. Very nice.

    I will add a little. Many are upset with Joe saying he did not understand what Mike was telling him. Many ask "how could he not know about child abuse or other criminal sex acts?" People forget that Joe was a member of "The Greatest Generation." When he was young there was no "Law and Order, SVU", these were things that were not talked about. TV shows only showed married couples in seperate beds up through much of the 60s. I remember my grandparents wouldn't even say pregnant, someone was "with child". I have aging relatives that I know would not understand the idea of a 50 year old man having anal sex with with a ten year old boy. I am a 54 year old man and had a problem typing that just now. I also believe that Mike did not want to describe the details. There is no way I would ever talk about this in details with a someone that age.

  2. I haven't checked in here for a while since I thought it was getting boring, but the last several posts are great quality so I guess I will add you back to my everyday bloglist. You deserve it my friend :)
    La Sportiva Tarantula Rock Climbing Shoe

  3. Mike McQuery should have acted immediately to break it up.

    His father should have recommended that he call the police immediately.

    In accordance with the PSU policy on the PSU guru website, which was in place back at this time concerning sexual assaults, there were certain cases where PSU employees are *required* to report it to both the VP of Student Affairs office and to the Police (campus or local) no matter the time of day. One of those cases is threat of bodily harm, which by definition is going to occur with an adult male and a young boy.

    Coach Paterno did *not* comply with that policy, or common sense for that matter. Same with Mike McQuery.

    Pointing out that the football culture of insularity, which was the direct and sole responsibility of Coach Paterno as the leader of the program, led to the sequence of decisions that allowed Sandusky to continue to prey on children for another decade takes nothing away from the focus on Sandusky.

  4. No, it's not so simple as "that's it."

    Paterno's messianic capacity even still holds sway over you as you are willing to demonize practically everyone involved in this horrible crime except Paterno...even people who weren't involved.

    Trying to pretend like this was an issue where Paterno had no power is ridiculous; he's dead, and he can still influence you to defend him to the expense of sanity and common sense, so it's only realistic to realize that he held the same kind of power over the circumstances which led to the serial rape of young boys in the locker rooms that Paterno's players used.

    There's a statue of Paterno on campus. Paterno's fund-raising capacity was so substantial, he was able to leverage it against the president to get his own way. It is then irrational to suggest that his hands are clean in the Sandusky issue no matter how you try to define Sandusky's role or the 'relationship' between Sandusky and Paterno...I've never heard anyone say they had good relationship with someone with obviously strong suspicion of pedophilia.

    And this inaction led to the lack of accountability which led to the national damage to the PSU brand name, and the effort to preserve Paterno's reputation over this issue will only prolong the agonizing truth.