Why My Critics Are Wrong
Joe Paterno’s status as a moral beacon remains undiminished.

Joe Paterno on the Penn State sidelines in Orlando, Fla., January 10, 2010


(2) Note this, too: Back in 1999, Joe Paterno had already let assistant coach Sandusky know that he had no intention of recommending him to be his successor as head coach. Sandusky was spending more and more time on his new initiative for at-risk youngsters, The Second Mile (located in another town about 35 miles away), and less time on coaching. Sandusky couldn’t do justice to both. He must choose.

It was only fair for Paterno to tell Sandusky this, so that Sandusky would not count on becoming head coach, but could plan out what to do with his last few years before retirement. In addition, Paterno insists he had no inkling in 1999 of Sandusky’s alleged crimes. The choice he presented to Sandusky had nothing to do with that sort of thing.

Sandusky’s next step confirms Paterno’s account. Without any fear of suspicion, Sandusky left football and chose to negotiate with the university for designation as emeritus professor, with the privilege of using university facilities such as the library, pool, gym, and showers. As of 1999, he was no longer under Coach Paterno’s authority, but that of the university athletic director. Ultimately, the board of trustees should have had to approve this, probably bundled in a long list of other appointments.

Coach Paterno had known Jerry Sandusky as a good man, admirable in his conduct with the football team. Not only by the principle of “innocent until proven guilty,” but also by his own experience, Paterno must have been slow to believe that Sandusky was guilty of what his young graduate assistant had reported.

Still, Paterno had a duty to report it. Sandusky’s alleged actions could constitute a serious felony, and he needed to be stopped. Some may feel confident they know that Paterno had to go directly to police outside the university. But that was not proper procedure in the law.

Some today also mentally link what McQueary reported to many other molestations that neither he nor any member of the public knew of at that time. They forget, too, that what Paterno reported is not what Paterno himself had seen, but what his assistant told him he saw. It was secondhand.

The report of the grand jury released in November 2011 revealed matters on Sandusky previously unknown to the community. Not even the many immediate victims knew of the other victims.

The authorities who have first jurisdiction over the university showers are the university police. And Paterno took Mike McQueary’s report to the university vice president with authority over the university police, Gary Schultz, as well as the athletic director, Tim Curley, as backup.

Considering all that those two knew at that time, the grand jury indicted Schultz and Curley for not doing their duty to the truth. They judged that Paterno did do his duty. Paterno’s report played a role in Sandusky’s indictment, and placed in the hands of two other close colleagues a serious responsibility that resulted in their indictment on related matters. If you know the loyalty of Joe Paterno to his associates, you know the gut-wrench that call cost him.

(3) If I dare to ask myself what I would have done in Joe Paterno’s shoes, now after a lot more is known, I guess I would imagine myself doing something extra-heroic, such as a back-up call to the police of the town of State College, outside the university. Some of my critics even suggest that Paterno should have made a follow-up call or two, just to be sure something was being done. I myself would in Joe’s place have been wary of that, lest I be accused of muddying up the case or favoritism or some other motive. Once reported, such matters are strictly confidential. And it is better practice not to have two separate investigations blindly crossing each other’s paths.


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