Jerry Sandusky's alleged acts of sexual abuse will resonate in Happy Valley for years and tar those associated with him
Right now "It" feels like a Mike Tyson punch to the gut.
In a few weeks "It" will be that gnawing, uncomfortable feeling that something is wrong, something is amiss in your life.
And for years down the road "It" will be that little sliver of doubt, that smidgen of skepticism, that restraint on your beliefs, that you had never carried with you before "It" happened.
Ultimately, "It" will be a long-lasting stain on Penn State, and a lingering bruise on Penn State football.
"It," dive-bombed into Beaver Stadium this weekend. "It" is what iconic former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky is alleged to have done. "It" will be featured on national newscasts for days to come, and will recur in the news as the case against Sandusky, and two PSU administrators accused of perjury, moves along:
Sexual abuse of young teenage boys.
It is an extremely uncomfortable thing to say, or type, much less to imagine, much less to imagine being perpetrated by Jerry Sandusky, as authorities allege. Multiple times with multiple boys from 1994 through 2009, 40 counts.
The same Jerry Sandusky who 34 years ago founded what has become one of Pennsylvania's great children's charities, The Second Mile.
The same Jerry Sandusky who coached all of the Penn State defensive greats from 1977-99.
"It" is simply incomprehensible.
The cognitive dissonance is staggering. He did what? What?? To how many? For how long? Some of them on campus? He met his victims through his children's charity? Oh. My. God.
(Here's a link to an updated version of the story: http://espn.go.com/college-football/story/_/id/7199068/penn-state-nittany-lions-bar-accused-ex-coach-jerry-sandusky-campus)
This has been brewing for awhile. Penn State football followers have lived in fear of this day, even if they didn't spend much time thinking about it since it was happening in secrecy. A couple of years ago the news first broke, relatively quietly, that a grand jury was investigating some sort of sexual allegation against Sandusky involving a teenager. It was a sinking, sickening, albeit fleeting feeling.
RFBS hadn't really thought of Sandusky in years. Hopefully, it was all a misunderstanding. Hopefully we'd hear about it just one more time, briefly, in a news roundup: Sandusky cleared. End of story. Life goes on.
Instead, life slammed the brakes this weekend. The news has rocked Penn Staters in every corner of the globe. More allegations had surfaced during the investigation, and the Pennsylvania state attorney general filed charges against Sandusky, 40 counts in all. Also: two PSU administrators, AD Tim Curley and VP of finance and business Gary Schultz, are being charged with perjury.
(PSU president Graham Spanier has stated his unequivocal support for Curley and Schultz; Sandusky has not been a PSU employee for nearly 12 years. All maintain their innocence. Here's the link to a story about Curley: http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/college/s_765877.html, and here's one about Schultz: http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/regional/s_765876.html)
Where to begin asking questions? Where to begin when assessing the carnage?
- There are the alleged victims of these horrifying acts, these violations of the human code. All were children, mostly young teens, when the alleged acts occurred. They are first and foremost the most damaged, if the allegations are true.
- There is the far-reaching, exceptional charity Sandusky founded in 1977, The Second Mile, which helps thousands of kids throughout Pennsylvania. All of the children (many are now adults) named in the grand jury investigation first encountered Sandusky through the charity. The Second Mile and Sandusky apparently have continued to utilize PSU facilities since Sandusky's retirement from coaching. The charity has distanced itself from Sandusky in recent years. Will all of its good deeds be diminished? Will it still be able to help at-risk youth in the state?
- There is Sandusky's family, notably his sons who work in football - Jon is the Director of Player Personnel with the Cleveland Browns, E.J. is an assistant coach with West Chester University.
- There are his legions of former players, hundreds if not thousands he has mentored, and those close to him. You think you know someone for decades, and then you find out he might be a child sex abuser. There's no processing that in a weekend.
People will wonder what Paterno knew, when he know it, and what he did about it. The grand jury concluded Paterno acted appropriately in forwarding information to his superiors in 2002, and in dealing with the grand jury. But he's Joe Paterno, so this will land at his feet.
People also will wonder why Sandusky still was allowed near children, and why he was allowed access to places on campus, even though sexual misconduct allegations had been made against him years ago. (Story about Sandusky not being prosecuted in 1998: http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2011/11/former_centre_county_da_ray_g.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter)
Dozens of thoughts and questions - some much more important than others - clutter this tragedy:
How will this impact the remainder of the football season? The future of the program? Paterno's future? Paterno's reputation and legacy? Recruiting? The search for a successor to Paterno? Applications to the school? Penn State's reputation? Donations to the school? Donations to the football program? How long will the legal process go on? What else will come out if the case goes to trial? Will Curley and/or Schultz, lose their jobs? Could they end up in jail? Could Spanier and/or Paterno lose their jobs? Will Paterno be called to testify? What role will the Board of Trustees take in handling all of this? What other information will be revealed in the coming weeks and months? Will there be more accusations, more sordid details?
It all remains to be seen. Many chapters remain in this sorrowful saga. The legal process has to play itself out. It could get better or worse, but even the best-case scenario from here on out will leave a wake of destruction.
At the least, we know the following, and none of it is goes down well: Nothing will ever quite be the same with Penn State and the football program, because of the alleged acts of Jerry Sandusky. Many children may have been sexually abused. The university and the beloved football program are tarnished. Many high-ranking people at PSU could lose their jobs and/or be convicted of perjury. And, perhaps, Sandusky could have been stopped from being near children sooner.
In the weeks, months and years to follow, the stain of these allegations will linger. It will stain Paterno, stain the football program and stain the university.
It may be 12 years since Sandusky coached the Lions, but his impact has never been greater, for all the wrong reasons.
A former major college football defensive coordinator who has dedicated his life to a children's charity is high the list of people seemingly above reproach.
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