Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Penn State outrage ...

After reading the grand jury report enumerating and describing the sordid details of former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky's alleged sexual assault of young boys, it's difficult to believe that anyone with knowledge of Sandusky's not-so-secret behavior -- much less than people with near-ultimate authority, such as now-former head coach Joe Paterno and Penn State President Graham Spanier -- would allow any possibility of it continuing. But that's what appears to have happened.

Several points come to mind:
  • This did not involve only a single incident, or even a couple of incidents. It was many incidents, involving many boys, over many years -- more than a decade. For Joe "I wish I had done more" Paterno and other coaches and administrators at Penn State to cover up this long history of criminal behavior is incomprehensible -- and scary for the rest of us who realize what control and power these coaches and administrators have over college students, even if those students are much less vulnerable than the boys who were molested and assaulted.
  • Clearly, coaches' and adminstrators' loyalty to Penn State football and Joe Paterno took precedence over protecting young, defenseless, vulnerable boys from a predator. In short, this was loyalty run amok. And there's a lesson in that for all of us, who sometimes believe in people and institutions without question ... voluntarily waiving our ability to clearly judge what is right and what is wrong. 
  • In the end, the cover-up conducted by Paterno and other coaches and administrators caused precisely what they wanted to prevent -- damage to the good name and reputation of Penn State University and its football program. As the author of a book on college football recruiting, I've been asked how this might affect the football program's recruiting efforts (an issue which pales beside others, such as the effect on the children who were so violently abused by Sandusky). In response, I can say that if I was the parent of a football player being recruited by Penn State, I would go out of my way to prevent my son from joining that team until every one of Paterno's assistant coaches, and probably many of the football programs administrative staff, left the program. I would not want my son put into the hands of anyone whose loyalty to Paterno and Penn State football was so extreme that they could not or would not, over more than a decade, prevent one of their own from inflicting such serious harm on defenseless and vulnerable young people.

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