Penn State's most powerful players failed to protect Sandusky's victims

July 12, 2012

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It’s hard to believe that anyone would consciously fail to protect children from sexual abuse. But according to a team of independent investigators, that’s precisely what Joe Paterno and other officials at Penn State University did. Former FBI director Louis Freeh and his team were asked to assess the university’s culpability in the child sex abuse scandal involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted on 45 criminal counts last month.

The 267-page report, released Thursday morning, is filled with disturbing details.

“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,” Freeh told the press. Former head coach Joe Paterno, Penn State president Graham Spanier Gary Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley, Freeh added, “never demonstrated through actions or words, any concern for the safety and wellbeing of Sandusky’s victims—until after Sandusky’s arrest.”

Freeh’s team interviewed more than 400 people—but not JoePa. Paterno died in January at the age of 85, shortly after he was fired amidst the scandal last November. But the coach did say, in a statement, what he told Mike McQueary after the graduate assistant reported seeing Sandusky with a young boy in the team shower in 2001. Paterno told McQueary, “You did what had you to do, it is now my job to figure out what we want to do.” To which, Freeh asked rhetorically, “What was there to figure out?”

Within hours of the report’s release, Nike Inc. said that it planned to rename its child care facility, the Joe Paterno Child Development Center. CEO Mark Parker, who defended Paterno at his memorial service, said Thursday, “It appears Joe made missteps that led to heartbreaking consequences."

"The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized."
- Former FBI director Louis Freeh

Nike is not the first to distance itself from Paterno—the Big 10 Conference championship trophy was renamed last November. But many say it’s not enough. Sun-Times columnist Rick Morrisey wrote that the Penn State football program deserves the death penalty. ESPN.com legal analyst and senior writer Lester Munson agrees—but explained to Afternoon Shift, the authority lies with the university’s trustees.