Yes, the Penn State Sexual Abuse Scandal is All about Football

Today Former FBI director Louis Freeh released the incredibly damming report about the role of Pennsylvania State University in facilitating and covering up the longtime sexual abuse by Assistant Football Coach Jerry Sandusky over a 14-year period.

According to a piece at ESPN:

“Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State,” said Freeh…who was hired by university trustees to look into what has become one of sports’ biggest scandals. “The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized.”

“A 267-page report… concluded that Hall of Fame coach [Joe] Paterno, President Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz “failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade.”

They knew. They knew early, and they appear to have done nothing. Why not? Well, according to the report.

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.

It’s hard to figure out how Penn State really wants to address this issue but Paterno’s son, Penn State Assistant Football Coach Jay Paterno, cautions that he really, really doesn’t think the scandal is about football. The football program is really great! Jay Paterno said that,

“I think any suggestion about the culture of football at Penn State, you have to look at the facts in the situation. We graduate our student athletes in football at a higher rate than the students in general at Penn State. There was a commitment to academic and athletic excellence in that order … Joe Paterno was willing to bench players that were eligible to send a message to his players … Joe Paterno was the first person to say to us ‘we are a part of the University, just part of it. We’re a football program and this is an academic institution.’ And Joe believed that very fervently.”

Seriously, the graduation rate? Joe Paterno may have been willing to bench football players for academic problems but he was pretty dramatically unwilling to take the much harder and more important step in punishing or reporting an assistant coach for forcing teenage boys to have sex with him.

You know why that happened? Because football is too important at that school.

It is a football scandal. Obviously Sandusky’s sexual abuse of lots of children isn’t a football scandal exclusively—sexual predators are present in all sorts of professions—but the cover-up is sure a football thing.

Apparently after a woman in May 1998 complained about Sandusky after her son came home with wet hair because he has showered with Sandusky didn’t provoke an investigation because Penn State vice president Gary Schultz thought examining the matter would be opening a “Pandora’s box.”

It was more important to win football games, maintain the revenue stream, and keep the fans happy then it was to protect the lives of 10 vulnerable young men. Really. That’s the choice Penn State made. That’s all about supporting the football program. And this is what happens because of it.

Read the report here.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer