In an ESPN feature that also reports that former Penn State quarterback and assistant coach Mike McQueary told players that he was sexually abused as a child, there are also claims that McQueary bet on Penn State football games as a player.
McQueary said he saw Jerry Sandusky and a young boy in the shower in 2001 and is a witness in the upcoming trial against Penn State officials accused of covering up the Sandusky's actions.
According to several of his classmates and teammates, McQueary developed a compulsive gambling habit at Penn State. He bet and lost thousands of dollars on poker and sports wagering, mostly on pro football, though he also bet, several of his former teammates say, on Nittany Lions games. One former teammate specifically recalls that Big Red bet and lost on his own team in a November 1996 game against Michigan State at Beaver Stadium. With McQueary serving as a backup on the sideline, favorite PSU won on a late field goal 32-29 but didn't cover the eight-point spread.
As his losses mounted, McQueary owed thousands of dollars to a bookie, a debt that was eventually erased by his father, several people say. A college friend recalls urging McQueary to slow down. "It got pretty bad," the friend says, "and it just kept snowballing and snowballing. He was very impulsive."
Naturally, the hunt was on to to find something that could be used as proof for the claims. And Betting Talk found a video from 1995, when McQueary entered a PSU game against Rutgers late in the fourth quarter.
Penn State was leading by 18. The spread on the game was Penn State by 20. With just over a minute left and the Nittany Lions presumably in a position to run out the clock, McQueary threw a 42-yard touchdown pass. Penn State covered the spread.
After the game, Rutgers coach Doug Graber was very unhappy with Penn State coach Joe Patern when they met at midfield.
Given the claims in the story, it's very easy to connect the dots from the details and the video, especially because Paterno is seen briefly shaking his head after the score. But just because it's possible to connect the dots doesn't mean they're connected.
Following his talk with Graber at midfield, Paterno defended McQueary, and it's a pretty logical explanation, saying that he was supposed to hit the tight end for a first down but saw a wide open receiver and went for it. It's far from implausible. As a backup quarterback getting a rare chance at playing time, you'd go for it too when you had the chance, right?
Plus, as the 700 Level points out, the year before in 1994, an undefeated Penn State team fell to No. 2 after giving up garbage time points to Indiana. It ultimately could have cost the Nittany Lions a share of the national title.
Going for scores with a big lead isn't uncommon now, even as margin of victory is no longer a part of the BCS standings. Why should we be so concerned with it 20 years ago? Sure, it may not have been "the Penn State thing to do," but we weren't going crazy last fall when Ohio State threw a touchdown pass in the third quarter for a 49-7 lead in what ultimately was a 63-14 blowout of Penn State. Probably because we have no accusations of the gambling sort to let our minds wander seriously in that direction.
If McQueary gambled on football games like those in the story say, it doesn't mean he did specifically on the Rutgers game. But it doesn't mean he didn't, either. Without tangible proof of anything or specific claims, it's simply a situation that could look suspicious 20 years later.
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