Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Not so surprised by PSU

Of course Penn State was going to cover up the abuse perpetuated by one of its coaches. Of course the institution that sheltered openly homophobic and not-so-openly racist basketball coach Rene Portland for years--years--would cover up for a former assistant football coach who was engaging in sexual acts with young boys. It reminds me of the stories we hear about corruption within police departments. The denial, the looking the other way behaviors, and the active cover-ups meant to protect one of their own. (I heard Michael Chiklis was very good on The Shield, maybe he would be interested in a leading role on The AD. I think he could pull off Tim Curley. He would have to spend some time practicing being on a witness stand, though.)
I read the headlines a few days ago and thought--well, not so shocking that a man would molest little boys or even that a PSU football coach would do so.
Then more got revealed about the seemingly systematic cover-up of the actions of said football coach.
Because, according to the various and myriad charges, athletic director Tim Curley and the VP of Finances knew about some of Jerry Sandusky's "horsing around" with young boys in the program Sandusky founded to help underprivileged youth.
The two men are charged with, among other things, perjury. They may have lied about what they knew to a grand jury when the investigation against Sandusky began several years ago.
They are also charged with not reporting the abuse to the authorities. This is based on the idea that because they are school officials they are mandatory reporters. They might get off on that one because of some details about who reported to whom and the association of the program with the school. They may not be criminally charged with that one--but they're still guilty. Who hears about sexual misconduct with underage youth and does not report it? Come on.
And now it appears that even the most sacred of Penn State figures, the seemingly untouchable Joe Paterno, is going to be touched by this. Charges have not been filed against Paterno who, when told about Sandusky by a graduate student, did report it to Curley and the VP. But:
State police Commissioner Frank Noonan said that although Paterno may have met his legal requirement to report suspected abuse by Sandusky, "somebody has to question about what I would consider the moral requirements for a human being that knows of sexual things that are taking place with a child."
He added: "I think you have the moral responsibility, anyone. Not whether you're a football coach or a university president or the guy sweeping the building. I think you have a moral responsibility to call us."

Will Paterno retire just like Portland did?

Dave Zirin published a very good column about the scandal focusing on how such a revered--by the school, alumni, and the community--football program got away (temporarily) with this behavior. This scandal is soo much worse than the other college football scandals we have heard about recently, Zirin notes, especially because Penn State has always been an "outlaw program." Maybe the football program specifically has not suffered from pay-for-play scandals. But I think it's hard to say that the culture within the Penn State athletic department is healthy or safe for anyone who is a little bit vulnerable. I think the way administrators handled the Portland scandal--and I do believe it rises to the level of scandal--illustrates this.

I am a little bit despondent here. College football is out of control. I would give up on it completely; sit on the sidelines waiting for it to pull a Roman Empire and collapse from within; but it just keeps hurting so many people the bigger it gets.