Friday, July 27, 2012

The beginnings of the Penn State aftermath

I've still kept my eye on the Penn State sex abuse scandal over the last few weeks. I was so outraged about the whole situation that I wanted to follow its aftermath. Things are at a point now where lots has happened and it's going to be quite a while before lots more happens.

Penn State has removed the statue of Joe Paterno that was erected in 2001 after much debate. Interestingly, the day before Penn State removed the statue, sources from the board of trustees said that the statue would stay up, at least for a while. If that doesn't show how disconnected the university is from its board who is supposed to oversee it, I don't know what does. Clearly there are still some issues to work out there.

Penn State has received sanctions from the NCAA, basing their decision on the Freeh report instead of their own investigation: five years' probation, setting up new administrative oversight, a four-year bowl ban, a $60 million fine to go to an external charity for victims of child sexual abuse, vacating the results of the 1998-2011 seasons (making Joe Paterno no longer the coach with the most wins, aka the "winningest" coach), reduction of scholarships over four years, and allowing any player the ability to transfer to another institution and play right away. Apparently it was either these sanctions or a "death sentence" - no football at all - for up to four years. Clearly the university decided that a few years of reduced football was better for the community than no football at all.

The NCAA sanctions aren't the only punishment the university is facing. The Big Ten Conference has also sanctioned Penn State: Penn State will not be allowed to play in any post-season games and its share of the Big Ten bowl games will go to charity. Nike, Penn State's most visible and (some say) lucrative sponsor, took Paterno's name off of the child care center. State Farm is pulling their sponsorship from Penn State. The university's insurance company is trying to deny or limit coverage for anything related to this scandal because they were not kept informed of the liabilities that the university was facing in Sandusky; when the civil lawsuits start rolling in, the university will be on the hook for the entire amount. 

While the university is accepting the NCAA and Big Ten sanctions, not everyone is happy about them. Some feel that the Freeh report was written by the man who covered up the TWA 800 disaster. I say that if he did cover that up, he is the best person to recognize a cover-up when he sees one. Some others say that the Freeh report doesn't have enough proof that Paterno was involved, since only two "vague" emails were presented in the report as "proof". These people are conveniently ignoring the fact that the Freeh report also includes a thorough description of the culture that Paterno created: Paterno knew or was privy to everything that happened in that department. If you believe that this is true (and I think most do), you have to believe that he knew about the 1998 investigation of Sandusky. If you don't believe he knew about that, then he couldn't have known about everything that happened in his department. 

The Paterno family deserves a special mention of people who are struggling with the aftermath of the report. The Freeh report is inaccurate, they say, in part because the investigation didn't interview the family who knew Paterno best: their own family. They're determined to conduct their own investigation, which is fine. If they stopped there, I'd have no issue with the family. However, every time something happens, they issue a statement saying something about the Paterno legacy being defamed. There's only a token phrase in each statement about the victims; it's all about the family being victimized by the actions of everyone who believed that Paterno had done wrong. The more they portray themselves as victims, the more ridiculous they seem.

I do understand how hard it is for people to accept that their beloved grandfather-figure, Joe Paterno, and other university officials could have covered-up Sandusky's crimes. It must have been shocking for the people involved to realize that their friend was molesting boys, just as it is shocking for others to realize just how far people at the university went to cover up Sandusky's behaviour. It's almost too much for people to take in so instead they focus on small things and argue about them. Hopefully over time people will come to accept what happened.

If only it was so easy for Sandusky's victims to accept what happened and to heal. Everything that Penn State has to pay, all the hardships the fans and players will experience - that's nothing to what those boys have had to live with. I hope that some of the money being taken from Penn State ends up helping them.

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