The Jerry Sandusky situation seems a matter of failure to connect certain dots, or perhaps unwillingness in that regard. Lots of people besides the former Penn State defensive coordinator have some explaining to do.
Allegations of improper conduct with an underage male first surfaced in 1998, while Sandusky was still employed by Penn State. That incident allegedly occurred in a shower at Penn State’s on-campus football facility. No charges were filed.
Sandusky retired the next year, in 1999. He was 55, prime age for a coach. Odd, to say the least – especially with Joe Paterno thought even then to be ready to quit and Sandusky a likely, openly-discussed successor.
It seems logical to ask: What did Paterno know, and when did he know it? What did Penn State’s administration know, and when did they know it?
Best-case scenario: Charges are never brought, and Sandusky walks away with his reputation permanently scarred. The rumors, the jokes, the sideways glances – they won’t ever stop. Paterno and Penn State do the great escape.
Worst-case scenario: Sandusky is charged. Then it seems reasonable to wonder: Did Penn State not make an issue of Sandusky’s alleged behavior in 1998 in exchange for him walking away from the program at an age premature for most coaches? Did Penn State’s considerable influence help get Sandusky off the hook?
Don’t kid yourself. That could happen. Don’t underestimate the power of Paterno and Penn State in central Pennsylvania when it comes to politicians, the police and the media.
In 1999, Penn State was rid of Sandusky. His rep was unblemished, which allowed him to continue running a charitable foundation that gave him access to underage males. To be a volunteer assistant with a high school football team, thus gaining access to underage males.
If Paterno and Penn State knew, but didn’t act, instead facilitating Sandusky’s untroubled retirement – are Paterno and Penn State responsible for untoward acts since committed by Sandusky?
This is far from an outrageous hypothesis, especially given the convenient timeline.
Initially accused in 1998. Retires in 1999. Never coaches college football again. Sandusky was very successful at what he did. The architect of Linebacker U. Helped win national championships in 1982 and 1986. Recognized as college football’s top assistant in 1986 and 1999.
Never any stories about Sandusky being pursued for a high-profile job. Never any rumors about him coming out of retirement.
But there’s no shortage of stories and rumors about Penn State football sweeping problems under the rug, is there?
Why did college football let an accomplished coach like Sandusky walk away at 55? Why did he disappear into relative anonymity?
A grand jury, spurred by a complaint made by a 15-year-old boy in 2009, has been investigating Sandusky for 18 months. Witnesses include Paterno and Penn State athletic director Tim Curley. Interviewing Paterno about a subject like this had to have been one of the single most uncomfortable acts in the history of jurisprudence.
Plenty of questions remain yet unanswered. Potentially among them: What’s more important, Penn State football or the welfare of a few kids?
You might not want to hear the answer.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).