Indictment of former Penn State coach on sex-abuse charges could bring down Paterno

Joe Paterno's former defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, is being charged with sexual assault on children. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

Editor's note: This story ran in Sunday's Inquirer.

Joe Paterno is done.

The 84-year-old Penn State head coach, whose eventual retirement is the subject of annual speculation, will no longer be the one making that decision.

Paterno cannot and should not survive the mess that has engulfed his football program and cast doubt on the ethical underpinnings of a university administration that has always claimed higher moral ground than other schools.

If the indictments brought by a grand jury and announced by state Attorney General Linda Kelly result in convictions of former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky for a sick history of sexual assaults on children, and two Penn State officials for failing to act on those allegations and then lying about it, then Paterno also has to be dismissed in the clean sweep that must follow.

Paterno escaped indictment because he told athletic director Tim Curley about an alleged 2002 incident in which a graduate student reported discovering Sandusky performing sex acts on a boy who was about 10 years old in the shower area of a football locker room. Paterno told Curley, who failed to report it to the proper authorities, according to the attorney general. Then Paterno apparently did nothing.


Paterno: Stay or go?

That is where we start to see the difference between the fictional Joe Paterno, whose reputation and that of the university has been built on rock-solid morals, and what might be the real Joe Paterno.

The fictional Joe Paterno would have said, "Hey, this is awful, but we have to clean it up. We have to do the right thing. It's going to look bad for us, but you can't let something like this go. We have to get Jerry some help, and we have to make sure he doesn't hurt any kids."

The real Paterno, as nearly as can be determined from the indictments, passed the information to Curley and then washed his hands. He apparently didn't follow up when there was no further investigation. He apparently didn't ask questions when Sandusky continued to enjoy his emeritus status on campus, complete with an office and access to the same building in which the alleged assault took place.

If one of Paterno's grandchildren had been sexually assaulted and the predator got away clean because he had powerful friends, do you think Paterno would have kept quiet?

Curley and Gary Schultz, who oversees the university's police department as part of his duties as senior vice president for finance and business, might well go to jail if they perjured themselves to the grand jury. If they did shove the whole thing under the rug without observing the Child Protective Services Law, and then denied it under oath, that's where they deserve to be. Paterno gave himself deniability by pushing the problem up the chain of command, but there's a big difference between being not guilty and being innocent.

This entire situation stinks from top to bottom - and that includes university president Graham Spanier, who has pledged "unconditional support" for Curley and Schultz.

Somewhere in the Paterno Library, Spanier can find a book that would tell him the meaning of unconditional. It means that no matter the outcome of the trials, no matter how dirty his underlings are found to be, he will continue to support their actions.

That's an interesting position to take. Maybe they will all survive together or go down together. According to the state attorney general, the only action taken against Sandusky after the 2002 incident was that he was prohibited from bringing boys from his Second Mile program for youngsters onto campus again. The attorney general said that Spanier reviewed and approved the ban "without further inquiry on his part."

We are left to wonder about further differences between the fictional Penn State, that place where clean-living student-athletes and their mentors possess both throwback uniforms and throwback values, and perhaps the real Penn State, where police reports are either not filed or disappear, and where any boast of ethical superiority echoes hollowly.

All of a sudden, a football program where a star gets a new automobile from a booster now and then or a player gets a free tattoo in exchange for memorabilia doesn't seem that bad. Penn State administrators are accused of failing to act on allegations of sexual assaults on children. Top that, Ohio State. Beat that record, Miami.

And the best question is this: If Penn State athletic coaches and administrators could look the other way when a 10-year-old is sexually assaulted on campus by a prominent former coach, what wouldn't they do? What could possibly be beyond their capability to accept in order to protect the "good name" of the program?

Everyone who bears even a hint of this stench must go. That includes Paterno.

It can no longer be his choice.


Bob Ford: Vick and McCoy Running After History

The Eagles' combination of Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy is giving defenses fits, and on track to become one of the most prolific rushing tandems in team - and league - history. Here are some of the numbers through seven games, and where this duo ranks with Eagles and NFL greats of the past.


                     Carries      Yards


 LeSean McCoy      135          754

Michael Vick          52         422

                  Carries         Yards


 McCo   y               309         1,723

Vick                  119           965

Projected total         428          2,688


Year         Total Yards      Players

 1979         2,016            Wilbert Montgomery (1,512), Leroy Harris (504).

1995         1,861            Ricky Watters (1,273), Charlie Garner (588).

1978         1,827            Wilbert Montgomery (1,220), Mike Hogan (607).

2010         1,756            LeSean McCoy (1,080), Michael Vick (676).

1981         1,731            Wilbert Montgomery (1,402), Hubie Oliver (329).

1997         1,657            Ricky Watters (1,110), Charlie Garner (547).

1992         1,653            Herschel Walker (1,070), Heath Sherman (583).

1949         1,652            Steve Van Buren (1,146), Bosh Pritchard (506)

2007         1,646            Brian Westbrook (1,333), Correll Buckhalter (313).

1990         1,627            Randall Cunningham (942), Heath Sherman (685).


1975         2,640            Buffalo, O.J. Simpson (1,817), Jim Braxton (823).

1973         2,497            Buffalo, O.J. Simpson (2,003), Jim Braxton (494).

1984         2,442            L.A. Rams, Eric Dickerson (2,105), Dwayne Crutchfield (337).

(Courtesy Elias Sports Bureau)

Bob Ford:

Expanded Coverage

Penn State AD Curley, key aide charged with perjury. A1.

School's wall of secrecy crumbles. E8.

Sandusky a man of good deeds, and an alleged dark side.  

Bill Lyon, E8.


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