|Penn State football: the innocent victim of the Sandusky affair.|
In the entire Freeh report, there is only one sentence that suggests that protecting the football program was a motive of anyone involved in this case, and that was a comment by a janitor who witnessed Sandusky fondling a boy. The janitor says he didn't report the incident because he felt the football program could have him fired. But that was merely how he "felt," and nowhere else, anywhere, in any notes or emails or conversations or testimony, does anyone else involved ever suggest that protecting the football program was a motive for not reporting Sandusky.
And in fact, those in the football program did report Sandusky's activities—to the university's athletic director and to the v-p for business affairs, who just happens to oversee the university's police department, where the accusations against Sandusky should have been reported. Joe Paterno himself reported what a young graduate assistant/later coach saw (Sandusky molesting a boy in a university shower) to the A.D. and to the v-p for business affairs. By the Clery Law, Paterno should have himself reported it to the university police, but he did report it to the man who oversees the police. Was that such a bad misstep on his part? As far as the report suggests, that's the only thing Paterno did wrong: instead of going straight to the police himself, he went to their boss. The Freeh report suggests that neither Paterno nor most other people at Penn State understood the Clery Law well enough to know they should report what they heard about Sandusky in person to the police.
|Joe Paterno: wrongly vilified.|
If you read the Freeh report in its entirety, you might, like me, get the sense that it is the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare and the Penn State university police department that deserve our criticism: they failed to investigate at all carefully an early (1998), double-witness/double-victim account of Sandusky molesting children, and the district attorney refused to prosecute him then. For some reason, that failure is lost in the screaming about the Penn State football program and Paterno.
The abuse of all those kids was a terrible thing. Punishment and deterrence are important in such cases. As humans, we need to feed our hunger for revenge. But the evidence against the football program itself is utterly missing from the Freeh report. For a football program which had almost nothing to do with the whole case to be eviscerated by the NCAA therefore seems inappropriate to me. (Freeh himself, in the report's conclusions, tries to blame the university's devotion to the football program in part for what happened, but he offers no evidence to back that up. It's as if he, too, just wants to shoot the big elephant.)
|Louis Freeh: shooting at elephants.|
The reasons the people at Penn State did not stop Sandusky earlier are far more complex than "the football program made them do it." Some are simple human reasons: misplaced loyalty, an unwillingness to believe something awful about a friend and colleague, preoccupation with one's own everyday brushfires, dislike of confrontation, head-in-the-sand attitudes about despicable acts. (How many of us actually do something about hunger in Somalia or rape in the Congo? We know it's there, and yet we do nothing.) And there are institutional reasons: poor lines of communication, weak training in legal and human-resources policies, misunderstanding of organizational-chart responsibilities. And yes, there are more selfish reasons: the desire to protect one's own reputation and that of one's favorite institutions.
Here's the Freeh report if you care to read it.