Jerry Sandusky wasn't the only one at fault according to the Freeh Report (Eric P. Mull-USPRESSWIRE)
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. The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized. Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley never demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky’s victims until after Sandusky’s arrest.
I'm going to be honest - I didn't read the entire Freeh Report.
Sorry, but I've got better things to do with my life than read a 267-page report about something that's not even directly related to Pitt. That said, you didn't need to read the entire thing to understand how tough it was on Penn State and staff members.
First things first - if you've got any doubt as to how thorough the report was, the statement in the press release by Louis Freeh should alleviate those concerns. The team analyzed more than three and a half million emails and documents and conducted hundreds of interviews. We can't account for the depth of what they did (and, seriously, three and a half million emails and documents...really?), but count me among those that thing they did a fairly complete job.
Another interesting aspect was that there was no draft report. In a service industry that produces final reports, that is pretty rare. This was an unusual circumstance, though. Most times, clients will want to see a draft report to help steer the consultant in the direction they want them to take for a final report. But in this case, secrecy was, of course, of the utmost importance so going without a draft was probably the best route to take.
Onto the report. If you're looking for the key quote in all of this, this might be it ...
In critical written correspondence that we uncovered on March 20th of this year, we see evidence of their proposed plan of action in February 2001 that included reporting allegations about Sandusky to the authorities. After Mr. Curley consulted with Mr. Paterno, however, they changed the plan and decided not to make a report to the authorities.
That is ... oh, man.
The most critical point that's hammered home in the report is that several officials knew of the Sandusky situation, yet did virtually nothing. And as the report also points out, the administration not only allowed him to retire, but retain full use of the facilities, etc., as if he were a trusted employee. That's played out over, and over, and over in the timeline in the report.
Seriously, if you want to know the report's findings, but don't want to read the whole thing, check out the timeline beginning on page 19. Here are some of the lowlights, according to the report:
- In 1998, a victim's mother reports an assault to the police, but they eventually dismiss it due to lack of evidence. In between the police investigation at some point, Penn State's Vice President of Finance and Business, Gary Schultz, notes that Sandusky's behavior was "at best inappropriate @worst sexual improprieties." He also said, according to the report, "is this opening of pandora's box?"
- In 1999, an email from Tim Curley to other officials says Joe gave Sandusky the option to coach as long as he wants.
- In 2000, a janitor witnessed Sandusky assaulting a child, but did nothing for fear of losing his/her job
- In 2001, McQueary witnessed Sandusky assaulting a child and reports it to Paterno. Paterno reports it to Curley and Schultz the following day so as not "to interfere with their weekends."
- After the incident, President Graham Spanier, Curley, and Schultz decide to tell the Chair of the Second Mile program and report it to the Department of Welfare. They, however, decide against that and decide to offer Sandusky professional help.
- Later in 2001, they inform the Second Mile executive director, but he concludes it is a non-incident.
- More assaults continued and Sandusky continued being around the university and around children.
That ain't the end of it, folks - there's a lot more there (and much of it is significant). I only stop there because we could go on all day. The thing that you can see from all of that is that Sandusky's continued behavior was treated as if it weren't a big deal. We can go around in circles about the details, but if the report is accurate, there's no other way to read this as blatant lack of respect for the children and the law.
And before I start getting flooded with comments from Penn State alumni about this not being about Joe Paterno, the sad, tired fact is that it is. It's more about Jerry Sandusky - we all realize that. But Paterno is the icon ... the one with the statue ... the one who was the face of Penn State. If Paterno had nothing to do with this, it would be far easier to accept. But this report suggests otherwise and Paterno's own comments about wishing he'd done more prove it.
What does this all mean in terms of Paterno? As I wrote when the scandal broke, I still don't think you can wipe out all the good he did for Penn State. 50 years of service is just something I can't fully ignore. But to say Paterno's legacy is tarnished is a severe understatement. This wasn't a case of a man who knew nothing - it's a case of an extreme lack of judgment and as the Freeh Report suggests ...
For that reason, Paterno comes out looking even worse than he did when we knew less. And guess what? That's appropriate. Paterno now goes from someone who had a slightly tarnished resume to someone who would be unhireable.
Onto the school as a whole - how should this affect Penn State? If I'm being honest, I'm just not sure. What I will say is this, though. I've heard the talk about how Penn State doesn't deserve the death penalty...how the NCAA doesn't need to be involved. I'm not so sure. The underlying problem for Penn State was that this wasn't a failure by a single individual or even two - this was a failure by many of the highest-ranking individuals in the university and that's as inexcusable as you can get.