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After reading this article in the New York Times (November 16, 2011), I’m beginning to reassess my thoughts about Joe Paterno’s culpability in the Sandusky case.  It is simply too difficult for me to believe that he knew nothing about the 1998 incident, as he claims (like everything else, through his son).  And if he denies knowing anything about that incident, then what to make of his account about the 2002 2001 incident?

A little context is in order.  In 1998 Sandusky was one of the most famous defensive coordinators in the country, and Paterno’s top assistant.  Paterno’s program was even known as “Linebacker U” for its consistently excellent play at that position, and Sandusky got the credit for that.

But, after the mother of an eleven year old boy complained that Sandusky had showered with her son, the university police, to their credit, investigated.  In fact, their report is 100 pages long.  State police, commenting on the matter to New York Times reporters, noted that the university investigation was so serious that the Penn State police even set up a sting operation to try to capture a confession from Sandusky.  All of this material was turned over to the District Attorney, who, in a close call, decided not to press charges.

The Times report says that state police investigators question why the university did nothing to prevent Sandusky from potentially abusing boys after this incident.  I can’t help but wonder if the university simply attempted to deal with Sandusky by forcing him to retire, which is, in fact, what he did following the 1999 season.  He was only 55, a relatively young age for prominent football coach.  As far as I know, he was not mentioned as a candidate for any head coaching jobs anywhere.

Now, Joe Paterno tells us that he didn’t know anything about this case.  Good grief, my bullshit detector just exploded!

As for everyone else in the Penn State pantheon, this passage from the Times article sums it up fairly well.  (Note, this is in reference to the second incident–the one in 2002 2001, when graduate assistant Mike McQueary allegedly witnessed Sandusky in the act).

And in 2002 [sic], after McQueary had reported what he had seen to the university’s senior officials, those officials not only never told the police, but they also never even informed the university’s top lawyer. That lawyer, Wendell Courtney, said in an interview this week that he would have been duty bound to report to law enforcement officials any allegations of inappropriate conduct toward children by Sandusky.

Now, a quick review of the facts of the 2002 2001 case, as we know them: after allegedly witnessing the incident with the child, McQueary first told his father, then he told JoePa, then JoePa told something to the athletic director and the vice president in charge of the university police, which had already conducted an extensive investigation of Sandusky back in 1998.  Then, according to McQueary’s grand jury testimony, he told the athletic director and the vice president in charge of the university police that he had seen Sandusky raping a child.  Somehow that became, in the words of the higher-ups at Penn State, “horsing around,” which, by the way, is the term that Sandusky used to describe it in the Bob Costas interview.

What did the university do about this?  They took Sandusky’s keys away from him.  At this point, a reasonable person may ask, What in the hell was he still doing with keys?  He was retired and he was already suspected of inappropriate contact with children.  Our reasonable person may also ask, What in the hell was he still doing bringing children to the Penn State campus? 

As for Paterno, one state investigator told the Times, “On that campus, telling Joe Paterno is like telling God.”  Very strange religion.