Former FBI director Louis Freeh released his report on the scandal surrounding Penn State and the years in which football coach Jerry Sandusky sexually molested young boys on and off campus … and it’s ugly, to say the least. Senior officials at the school — including its recently-deceased head football coach Joe Paterno — ignored complaints and warnings about Sandusky’s crimes, and “never demonstrated … any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky’s victims” until after the scandal exploded into public view:
Penn State University’s top officials, including head football coach Joe Paterno, failed to protect the children who were sexually abused by former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, according to an investigation of the scandal that has roiled the school since last fall.
In a letter accompanying the release of the report Thursday morning, former FBI Director Louis Freeh had harsh words for the university’s top officials for failing to act on reports that Sandusky, once the football team’s top defensive coach, had molested children on the school’s grounds. Sandusky is in jail awaiting sentencing on 45 charges of sexually abusing 10 boys over a period of 15 years. …
Investigators found that in order to avoid “bad publicity,” university President Graham Spanier, football Coach Paterno, Athletic Director Tim Curley and Vice PresidentGary Schultz “repeatedly concealed critical facts.”
Spanier and Paterno were forced out of their jobs after Sandusky was arrested last fall. Curley and Schultz are awaiting trial on charges of perjury and failing to report the abuse to outside officials.
All four knew of a 1998 investigation into Sandusky, the report pointed out, but none alerted university trustees or took any action against Sandusky. Those reports never led to any criminal charges against Sandusky.
As if that’s not bad enough, Paterno and school officials discussed going to the authorities after assistant Mike McQueary told them about the molestation he believed he had witnessed. Paterno convinced the school to stay quiet:
Paterno then went to his superiors, who decided not to call in outside authorities. Freeh was sharply critical of that decision and said the action to keep the reports internal was due to Paterno, who convinced other officials not to take action outside of the university.
“In critical written correspondence that we uncovered on March 20th of this year, we see evidence … that included reporting allegations about Sandusky to the authorities,” Freeh stated.
“After Mr. Curley consulted with Mr. Paterno, however, they changed the plan and decided not to make a report to the authorities. Their failure to protect the February 9, 2001 child victim, or make attempts to identify him, created a dangerous situation for other unknown, unsuspecting young boys who were lured to the Penn State campus and football games by Sandusky and victimized repeatedly by him. Further, they exposed this child to additional harm by alerting Sandusky, who was the only one who knew the child’s identity,” Freeh said.
It’s a monstrous indictment of Penn State and its athletic program, from the top down. Not one person in the loop had more concern for the boys victimized by Sandusky than of their own paydays. It’s incomprehensible, especially for a school and a football program that styled itself as a rare ethical environment that cared more about scholastic achievement and honorable sportsmanship than national championships. In fact, as the Freeh report states, they ended up enabling even more abuse:
These individuals, unchecked by the Board of Trustees that did not perform its oversight duties, empowered Sandusky to attract potential victims to the campus and football events by allowing him to have continued, unrestricted and unsupervised access to the University’s facilities and affiliation with the University’s prominent football program. Indeed, that continued access provided Sandusky with the very currency that enabled him to attract his victims. Some coaches, administrators and football program staff members ignored the red flags of Sandusky’s behaviors and no one warned the public about him. …
[T]he Special Investigative Counsel finds that it is more reasonable to conclude that, in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at the University — Spanier, Schultz, Paterno, and Curley — repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities, the University’s Board of Trustees, the Penn State community, and the public at large.
There had been some pushback after Paterno’s death to rehabilitate his memory as an unwitting bystander who just made a bad decision. The Freeh report will destroy that impulse. It contains repeated indictments of the head coach along with the rest of Penn State’s chain of command.
What can Penn State do to put this behind the university? The Freeh report lists as its final contributing cause to this shameful cover-up “[a] culture of reverence for the football program that is ingrained at all levels of the campus community.” Maybe that’s a good place to start, although it’s probably already a moot point.