clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Legacy Of The Freeh Report And The Penn State Scandal

Joe Paterno helped lead the coverup of Jerry Sandusky's rapes. Is the Board of Regents absolutely positive this couldn't happen at WSU?
Joe Paterno helped lead the coverup of Jerry Sandusky's rapes. Is the Board of Regents absolutely positive this couldn't happen at WSU?

As I listened to Louis Freeh reveal the details of his eight-month investigation into who knew what and when with regards to the raping of boys by Jerry Sandusky at Penn State, I got that same sick-to-my-stomach feeling that I got when I first found out about the allegations last fall.

If you're not up to speed, SB Nation covers the news in its StoryStream here, and Yahoo's Dan Wetzel -- who has been all over this since the beginning -- has his coverage here. You can even read the entire Freeh Report yourself.

But if you don't have time for 267 pages this morning, this is really what you need to know: Freeh stated repeatedly that there was an active effort by four men -- including the president of the university and football coach Joe Paterno -- to cover up what they knew about the Sandusky rapes.

"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," Freeh said during his opening statements. "The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized. (They) never demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well being of Sandusky's victims until after Sandusky's arrest."

And why did they do this? From the report: PSU "concealed critical facts ... to avoid the consequences of bad publicity."

Yep -- when faced with the prospect of looking bad, the president of one of the largest educational institutions in the country, along with his football coach, a vice president and his athletic director, chose to allow children to continue to be raped by a psychopath.

I wish so badly this had never happened. But since bad things happen, and this did happen, it's important that everyone learn what they can. And in this case, I think the lesson is clear: This could happen anywhere.

Don't think so? Joe Paterno was so revered and held in such high esteem with regards to his pristine program that he was routinely called "Saint Joe." If this had been some other coach -- one who already was considered a shady character -- it would be easy to brush this off as the work of a bad apple. Instead, this was the work of the man who led the "Grand Experiment," whose program kept a sustained level of success for decades without even a hint of NCAA bylaw impropriety.

Nobody wants to believe that their coach or university president is capable of this. But it didn't just happen where Joe Paterno was coach -- Joe Paterno himself helped lead the coverup! Given everything we thought we knew about Paterno, I feel like there are not enough exclamation points in the world to emphasize this.

Now, please don't misread me. I'm not at all suggesting that Dr. Elson Floyd or Mike Leach or Bill Moos would do something like this. I choose to believe that they would do the correct thing when confronted with similar, horrific circumstances.

What I am suggesting, however, is that the WSU Board of Regents -- along with every other governing body at every other college and university in the country -- examine its own policies and procedures to make sure that something like this CANNOT EVER happen at WSU.

At Penn State, even the janitors were afraid to tell their superiors what they saw because they feared they would lose their jobs. What would the janitors at WSU do? That's a question -- among many others -- to which the Board of Regents simply must know the answer.

Although the Penn State Board of Trustees had no direct knowledge of Sandusky's transgressions, Freeh was clear that the Trustees were not absolved of responsibility: They were part of fostering the culture that led to the actions of Paterno and others.

Board of Regents, President Floyd, Athletics Director Moos: You must start today -- if you haven't already done so -- to make sure this can never happen at Washington State.