Technically speaking, I am a Nittany Lion. By that I mean that I have a degree from Penn State but I only stepped foot on campus a handful of times. And those handful of times all took place within the same week. I did, however, stumble upon a closed football practice while I was there (I was trying to find a school bookstore to buy swag), so I think I’m fairly qualified to give an insider’s perspective on the Penn State’s assistant-coach-sexually-abused-multiple-underage-boys-while-the-head-coach-and-school-administrators-did-nothing-scandal.
Sandusky’s alleged sexual abuse is vile. But it’s been widely established in the press that various people at Penn State, both within the athletic and administrators communities, knew that Jerry Sandusky had engaged in despicable, disgusting acts with underage boys. (Fear not: Despite my insider status, I had no such knowledge.) In my view, as is almost always the case, the cover-up here is worse than the crime. Had any of the assistant coaches – or Joe Paterno, or the school’s athletic director, or the school’s president – contacted law enforcement when Sandusky’s sexual abuse was first witnessed, it’s entirely possible that he would have gone to jail over a decade ago. And, of course, his ability to pimp out underage boys to Penn State donors through a charitable front would have been hampered behind bars.
I cannot understand the Penn State community’s support for Joe Paterno. I watched the Board of Trustees’ press conference on Wednesday night when they announced Paterno would be relieved of his position; you could hear the crowd gasp. And they were the neutral press. Then I watched as Penn State students – my (kinda, sorta) brethren – spontaneously gathered in front of Old Main to protest Paterno’s firing. Then they kind of rioted. This wasn’t entirely unexpected: It’s a tough economy and the kids from Philadelphia wanted to show their friends from elsewhere in the state, who can’t necessarily afford a vacation, what’s it like in big city.
To be fair, I never understood Paterno’s god-like stature in State College from the outset. I get that he built Penn State’s football program into one of the best in the country and, by doing so, put Penn State on the map. But what lesson would Penn State students – or anyone else for that matter – have taken from Paterno being allowed to stay? Football is more important than morality? Senility is a viable legal defense?
And, Penn State, let’s be honest with ourselves: Paterno wasn’t really running the show full-time anymore, either. Or even part-time. He was a figure-head. His presence helped both recruiting and fundraising, but it was also impossible to understand much of what he said. He was, if you’ll allow the comparison, State College’s Queen of England. He had to go.
On another note, as the value of my Penn State degree dropped precipitously over the last few days, I’d also like to formally request a refund for my tuition.