As a very proud, and often very public, Penn State alumna, many are asking me this week what I think of the allegations that surround the charges against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. I’ll start by explaining what I know.
While I will try to link you to facts so that you may draw your own conclusions, the purpose of this opinion article is simply that: to tell you my opinions. You may take them for what they're worth. We’re all entitled to one. Share yours below in the comments section if you have something to add. Patch is a forum of ideas and we welcome anyone to share theirs. Just because I’m an editor doesn’t mean mine are all correct. They are just my “two cents.”
What seems to be the case here is that many involved with a university and a football program that I have loved for all of my life are now being scrutinized, and in some cases charged, in connection with a criminal investigation. I know that we are innocent until proven guilty in this country, and that hardly any of us were actually present to witness the events, the testimony or reports (or lack thereof) in any of these cases.
I know that if any parts of these allegations are true, it is, of course, very disturbing. I wish those families of the allegedly abused a full recovery from these very terrible and disgusting acts.
What I worry about is the cloud this puts over the school I call my own. I’m frustrated that this will put such a terrible, negative light on a football program that otherwise has operated with great integrity and pride.
Penn State is fueled by tradition. It is a school where, up until this week, the year's biggest controversy was whether to remove white trim from the football uniforms.
As in most any sports-related drama, I hope that the performance on the field is the most important (and judged) part of a team and not the controversies off the field. I fully understand how serious the problem is and that it should most definitely be taken with the utmost of seriousness. I just hope that a team of dedicated coaches and players can move on and finish a football season that has, so far, been otherwise successful. I’m not sure how that will happen, given the prominence of the case in the media. I hope they can focus.
But what most people want to know is how I feel about Joe. According to reports, Joe is “not a target” of the Pennsylvania Attorney General. AG Linda Kelly said in a press conference Monday that Paterno has fully cooperated with the investigation and is not likely to be charged.
Most ask why he did not go to police, as required by law. Was it a major cover-up? Was he hiding more than he knew? I don’t think any of us can do more than guess. Only Joe knows that truth.
What do I think? Many know already: I love Joe. I probably place him in some sort of loyalty and devotion in this order: God, Jesus Christ, Joe Paterno. So yes, before this statement comes, you should understand my bias.
I think Joe turned Jerry in. I think he turned over these allegations to an administration that did not do the right thing. I think it is wise that Athletic Director Tim Curley and Gary Shultz, the vice president for business and finance, were asked to leave. I think they should have done more at the time and will pay with the loss of their jobs and criminal consequences of perjury for these crimes.
At the time, Jerry did not work for Joe. He was no longer his boss. Should he have gone to police? Yes, likely. It is very unclear how much Joe knew. I think Joe trusted a school he’d worked for most of his life to do the right thing.
I don’t think Joe is to blame. The law doesn’t seem to think so either, since he is not being charged. I also don’t see the law beating down Mike McQueary’s door either. As the only alleged witness, I am also unsure why he, a grad student at the time, did not also go to the police.
What’s the bottom line here? I don’t want to see years of dedication and amazing devotion to a university and a football program be remembered in this way. It makes me furious that the alleged actions of a single man will put this mark on the program and the school.
Penn State’s alma mater has a line that is for some reason stuck in my head: “May no act of ours bring shame, to one heart that loves thy name.” Surely Sandusky has brought shame. Surely there were people involved who could have, and who should have, done more.
But back to what I know. I know that you cannot ruin 125 years of football tradition. I know that Joe is still the most amazing thing to happen to college football. I know that I will keep watching and cheering and loving my school. I know I will still love Joe forever.
Joe released a statement this week, and he closed asking everyone to allow the legal system to do its job.
"In the meantime,” Joe said, “I would ask all Penn Staters to continue to trust in what that name represents, continue to pursue their lives every day with high ideals and not let these events shake their beliefs nor who they are.”
I’d only add that you all think of the amazing things that millions of Penn Staters have done throughout the years, including Joe Paterno, and not what one has done to destroy it.
I’m not saying onward football, this case be damned. I’m asking for consideration of the big picture.
I will still scream with pride, “We Are.” Half of my own wardrobe is blue and white. There is a Nittany Lion magnet on my car. There is a Penn State banner hanging from my front porch. They’ll all remain, as will my love for a university, a coach and a football program.
No matter what, this is “one heart that loves thy name.” Nothing can or should change that. There is still much to be proud of at Penn State. We Are!