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.
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.