Late Wednesday, the Penn State Board of Trustees did the right thing. The board members voted to fire head football coach Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier for mishandling allegations of child molestation against former PSU assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. In Paterno’s case, his actions — or lack thereof — specifically involve a 2002 incident between Sandusky and a 10-year-old boy witnessed by a graduate assistant. It still sounds surreal: Joe Paterno Fired!
Announcing the decision, board vice chair John Surma said, “The past several days have been absolutely terrible for the entire Penn State community. But the outrage that we feel is nothing compared to the physical and psychological suffering that allegedly took place.”
In the course of its investigation, the Sandusky grand jury discovered the young assistant — now known to be current wide receivers coach Mike McQueary — immediately left the locker room after finding Sandusky engaging in sexual activity with the child, and called his father for advice.
The graduate assistant and his father decided that the graduate assistant had to promptly report what he had seen to Coach Joe Paterno (“Paterno”), head football coach of Penn State. The next morning, a Saturday, the graduate assistant telephoned Paterno and went to Paterno’s home, where he reported what he had seen.
Joseph V. Paterno testified to receiving the graduate assistant’s report at his home on a Saturday morning. Paterno testified that the graduate assistant was very upset. Paterno called Tim Curley (“Curley”), Penn State Athletic Director and Paterno’s immediate superior, to his home the very next day, a Sunday, and reported to him that the graduate assistant had seen Jerry Sandusky in the Lasch Building showers fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy.
Paterno did nothing more. And tonight, Joe Paterno was fired.
He didn’t report it to law enforcement, or other appropriate state authorities. Curley and Gary Schultz, senior vice president for finance and business, have since been indicted for lying to the grand jury, in an attempt to cover up the incident. As a human being, more should be expected of Paterno. As a community, state and national leader, even more so.
In arguing for Paterno’s ouster early Wednesday afternoon, Allen Barra wrote in The Atlantic:
The grand jury decided Paterno had “fulfilled his legal requirements when advised of the incident,” but state police commissioner Frank Noonan bluntly said, “Somebody has to question about what I would consider the moral requirements for a human being that knows of sexual things that are taking place with a child.” Spanier was not indicted, but state district attorney Linda Kelly has not ruled out that he might also be charged for failing to alert authorities of the accusations against Sandusky.”
Many people share responsibility in not doing what they should regarding Sandusky and his years of allegedly abusing young boys entrusted to him. McQuery, Curley, Shultz, Spanier and presumed-dead former Centre County, Pa. district attorney Ray Gricar are a few.
But Paterno needed to go, and needed to go immediately. And a few hours ago, The Board of Trustees as Penn State did the heretofore unimaginable: Joe Paterno was fired. It’s encouraging to see the PSU board doing the right thing, when no one else at the school evidently would.
Of course, it’s 1:30 AM and I am watching videos of enraged and most likely inebriated Penn State Students turning over a Police Truck and running rampant around the campus in protest, so my opinion is certainly not shared by everyone. What about you?
by J.L. Mann Cromer, Jr., an Attorney licensed to practice in South Carolina, California & The District of Columbia. He received his BA in 1985 from Clemson University and his JD in 1988 from the University of South Carolina School of Law.