STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 12: A Penn State fan carries a "Say it ain't so" sign outside Beaver Stadium after the Penn State vs. Nebraska NCAA football game in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal on November 12, 2011 in State College, Pennsylvania. Penn State lost their final home game 17-14 to Nebraska. Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno was fired amid allegations that former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was involved with child sex abuse. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
This is by no means a list of the worst things about the Freeh Report. There are no "worst things." There's either one horrible ocean of things or a decades-long spree of thousands of terrible things, depending on how you look at it. But for those who don't have the time or stomach to read the document of 247 pages, here are six things to know.
Joe Paterno should've gone to jail.
No grandstanding, and no attention-seeking. I don't like the idea. I was shocked when the grand jury report came out on a Saturday last autumn and people immediately called for Paterno's job. Joe Paterno was a football god all my life. I can't imagine how much worse this has all been for Penn Staters.
But none of that changes the facts. It makes it even more important that we confront them. Joe Paterno intentionally covered up multiple instances of child sex abuse, years apart, and then allowed a serial child rapist to keep bringing children to campus facilities, then told a grand jury he knew nothing about 1998. According to Freeh, Paterno knew about the 1998 investigation when he was told by Mike McQueary in 2001 that Sandusky had molested another child on Penn State property. Paterno all but sent it up the chain of command again, like it was regular paperwork, then apparently advised against taking it to the authorities and left it at that as Sandusky continued to feed. He wanted to speak out publicly and years later wished he'd "done more" to stop Sandusky, but he didn't.
These things all happened. It hurts to acknowledge them. Anyone with any reputation can make a terrible mistake and compound it with another terrible mistake.
Leave the statue up. Tear it down. I don't care. It's now both a memento and a warning. It's one of the best arguments in our entire country against power and against institutions, so maybe it should remain right where it is forever.
Joe Paterno was not alone.
As consumers of sport, we're going to focus on Paterno's role. And that's not entirely flawed. He was indeed the most powerful person in State College. He all but created the modern Pennsylvania State University in his image. But he isn't the only guilty party here.
Besides Sandusky himself, there was former president Graham Spanier, who shot down the formation of an independent investigation into Sandusky in 2011 . He also lied to the Special Investigative Counsel in 2011 about never having heard of allegations made against Sandusky. He told the SIC he would've "been the first to intervene" if he had known. He spent 12 years not intervening.
Spanier met with former athletic director Tim Curley and former university vice president Gary Schultz on the Sandusky problem many times since 1998. In 1998, Schultz worries in an email to the others about whether investigating Sandusky would be "the opening of Pandora's box." Months later, Schultz is confident "the matter has been appropriately investigated" after University Police "met discreetly" with Sandusky.
Curley helped orchestrate much of Sandusky's retirement as a football coach in 1999, including the benefits package that paid Sandusky $168,000 and allowed him to keep raping children on campus for years. Sandusky coaching "three more seasons" is mentioned as a possibility.
Penn State University could be in major trouble ...
This goes far beyond a sports issue. The university itself is in danger.
The Department of Education is already investigating Penn State. And the Freeh Report contains a lengthy section on the school's disregard for the Clery Act, a federal law that requires schools that get federal money to annually report campus crimes. Sandusky's assaults should've been reported to local law enforcement, but they also had to go into a federal report to satisfy Clery requirements.
PSU had insufficient Clery compliance from the law's passing in 1991 through 2007, Freeh discovered. A University Police sergeant was tasked with Clery upkeep, but he was given minimal time and training for the job.
The feds can suspend Penn State's federal aid money and fine the school $27,500 per infraction. This doesn't appear to make for a huge percentage of PSU's budget, but still. And that's before the DOE and whoever else decides to get involved.
... and that's not even counting civil suits.
Though PSU has said it wants to handle civil lawsuits by victims as quickly and quietly as possible, it cannot possibly happen as quickly or quietly as the institution would prefer. This will cost the school millions of dollars and plenty more pages worth of sickening press.
The NCAA finally finds its way in?
Since November of last year, the NCAA has been looking for a way to involve itself with this story. You can assign it any motive you like, but in 2011 the association released a letter announcing it would look into Penn State's institutional control. The Freeh Report could've also turned up tertiary items that piqued the NCAA's interest.
The report mentions Penn State's Office of Internal Affairs, which is charged with auditing both NCAA and Clery Act compliance, among other things. That's the only mention of the NCAA in the whole document.
Since the report's release, the NCAA has said, "Penn State’s response to the letter will inform our next steps, including whether or not to take further action."
Should the NCAA act? Can it? Will it? It can do anything it wants. By its own rules, it might have to invent something new just to deal with Penn State, but that's if it chooses to follow its own rules to the letter. I have no idea what will happen next. Personally, I think the NCAA should leave the matter to actual law enforcement, as it has nothing to do with competitive advantage.
No, Penn State should not be forced to shut down its football program.
Jerry Sandusky has at least a dozen direct victims. Others, including people he's never met, have been damaged by his actions -- his wife, his family, his coaching associates and former players, the Second Mile charity, and any boys he might have actually helped at some point. Sandusky hurt many, many people. Sandusky will die in jail.
More than once, Joe Paterno helped cover up Sandusky's actions. He has passed away.
Of the three others who contributed to the scandal, all have lost their jobs and are completely unhireable in the fields of education or administration ever again. Two, Curley and Schultz, appear very likely to do jail time on perjury charges.
The other, Spanier, will for the rest of his life be known as the man technically in ultimate charge of the entire years-long multiple-rape coverup, perhaps a fate even worse than jail.
As far as we know, no others were intentionally responsible for anything illicit at any point. Not current Penn State players, some of whom weren't even in kindergarten in 1998. Not new coach Bill O'Brien, who's staking on PSU a promising young career that last saw him coaching in the Super Bowl. Not the rest of the coaching staff, including defensive coordinator Ted Roof, who turned down a job he'd held for mere weeks to come to State College. Not the strength staff and video coordinator and office personnel. And not the millions of Penn State students and fans, State College residents and Pennsylvanians in general who support the Nittany Lions.
I don't know whether the NCAA should punish the football team and athletic department for the actions of five people who are all either dead, jailed, fired, or about to go on trial. The entire institution must be shaken up and cleaned by fire, but closing down the football program accomplishes nothing here, other than making football a symbol for power.
Things will change at Penn State. No coach in Happy Valley or elsewhere will ever have anywhere near the power Joe Paterno had, and that's a good thing. No coach will ever again be accused of sexual assault multiple times and be given a mere talking-to.
It will take years for Penn State football to be Penn State football, and not a metaphor or a scourge or an act of somber defiance. It might never happen. We still associate SMU with the NCAA's death penalty, and that happened almost 30 years ago for crimes with no human victims.
Many decisions should be made by non-Penn Staters on Penn State's behalf. But as for the future of its team, that one should belong to the Nittany Lions community.
Leave the statue up, or tear it down.