The Freeh Group's report on the Jerry Sandusky sexual molestation case, which was released Thursday morning ET, makes one thing very clear: Four powerful men at Penn State, football coach Joe Paterno, president Graham Spanier, vice president Gary Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley, "failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade." Felonies, specifically children being molested and even raped, occurred partially because individuals at the top of both the university and Penn State football didn't do the right thing. The heartbreak that I felt last November doesn't compare to the sorrow, disgust and anger that grew inside of me as I listened to former FBI Director Louis Freeh confirm my worst fears regarding this particular matter.
What now? What should my beloved Dear Old State do next? Should the NCAA act? What can the NCAA even do?
My thoughts on the subject are, as stated in the title, a reaction to one very extensive report. The Freeh Report is not comprised of information learned during an official criminal investigation, but there is little reason, outside of emotional attachment to Joe Paterno or Penn State, to believe that those who gathered the information didn't get it right. Assuming that the Freeh Report is spot on, immediate action needs to be taken.
For starters, the Paterno statue that's currently outside of Beaver Stadium needs to come down, and Paterno's name also needs to be taken off the university library. Save me your "what about all of the good Paterno did during his decades spent at Penn State?" comments. No good deed, none, erases what the Freeh Report condemns as inaction that allowed Jerry Sandusky to repeatedly sexually abuse children. CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora on the subject: "Continuing blind hero worship and keeping that statue up at State College would only perpetuate the callous, abusive institutional mentality."
There no longer remain any questions about Joe Paterno's legacy possibly being tarnished. His legacy is now that of a leader who, when faced with his most difficult challenge, was more concerned with "bad press" than he was the welfare of children. As an adult, I don't understand the people who insist that Paterno merely made a mistake when he, along with others, didn't act to stop Sandusky over a decade ago. Having one drink too many is a mistake. Marrying the wrong person is a mistake. A typo is a mistake. According to the Freeh Report, Paterno, Spanier, Schultz and Curley chose to protect Penn State football instead of those victimized by Sandusky. I promise you that you wouldn't look at such a decision as a mistake if it was your child involved.
And what of Penn State football going forward? The Freeh Report shows what anybody with common sense will see as a "lack of institutional control" at Penn State over the past 15-20 years. Certain Penn State apologists will immediately respond to that by stating that no NCAA regulations were technically violated. Those people are right, but such comments paint over the fact that crimes against innocent children were committed all because those within the Penn State administration and PSU football didn't properly handle the situation.
The Freeh Report seems to validate the worst opinions of what some have referred to as "The Cult of Penn State." For example, the report claims that janitors who observed Sandusky sexually abusing a child kept quiet because they were afraid that, because of Paterno, they would lose their jobs. During the Thursday morning press conference, Freeh didn't dance around the subject of the relationship we within the Penn State community have with the university's football program. "If that's the culture at the bottom, God help the culture at the top," he said.
The culture at Penn State does need to change. For that change to come, PSU football needs to go away for awhile; not forever, but for at least a few years. Please spare me your comments about punishing innocent 18-21-year old football players who did nothing wrong. Current Penn State players who received scholarships will have opportunities to attend college for free and play football at other universities. They'll move on and they'll be fine, which is more than we will ever be able to say about Sandusky's victims.
Those who we, members of the PSU family, entrusted to run the Penn State football program and the university failed us all. Penn Staters, myself included, are guilty of building up that program and its iconic leader in such a way that the previously mentioned crimes were possible. That is the main reason why I believe Penn State football should be shut down for some amount of time.
I love Penn State. I always will. Still, the words "May no act of ours bring shame to one heart that loves thy name" no longer mean to me what they did when I, along with 100,000 friends, sang them before football games all those years ago. Penn State football has brought shame to my Dear Old State.
I don't know that I'll ever be able to forgive it for doing so.