Joe Paterno Likely Did Not Know in 2002 What We Know About Jerry Sandusky Now

Now that more and more details about Jerry Sandusky’s sexually abusive past are being revealed, people are becoming more and more upset. They’re getting angry. They’re getting outraged. And their blind rage is causing them to become irrational. When people get as upset as they are now, they often look for scapegoats. Joe Paterno, because he is such a widely known and widely revered figure, has become that scapegoat. Most of it may be undeserved.

First off, one serious problem here is that many people have shifted the blame from Jerry Sandusky to Joe Paterno. It’s like people are forgetting who the real monster is. Jerry Sandusky is the person alleged to have sexually abused multiple young boys over a long period of time. If you want to be angry with someone, be angry with him.

He’s allegedly been abusing young boys for over 15 years. Is Joe Paterno the only one didn’t do enough here? The Penn State university police had an incident reported to them in 1998 and didn’t charge Sandusky. What about all the people at The Second Mile, Sandusky’s organization intended to help troubled young boys. Did they ever suspect any wrongdoing or do anything about it? What about all the parents who sent their children to be with him? Should they all be fired as parents for allowing their boys to sleep at Sandusky’s house? What about Sandusky’s wife, who allowed the abuse to take place in her home? Why didn’t she stop any of it?

One big reason is because plenty of people were fooled by Sandusky. Either that, or because they did not know. If they weren’t, this would have been stopped a long time ago. We showed you a video from 2007 where the public perception of Sandusky was that he was an excellent community man doing wonderful things for young kids. Given that was the perception of him, it’s no wonder everyone is shocked and stunned over what’s transpired. Additionally, most people don’t look at every person they come across as a child sex abuser. If you do, that’s an unfair judgment to make about someone. Even if you’ve heard something about someone, if you’ve known them to be a good person for 30 years, would you immediately believe it’s true? Maybe you’d have some doubts.

But one extremely important factor people are overlooking when evaluating the situation is that the people involved 10 years ago likely did not know what we now know about what Sandusky has allegedly done.

We have a different perspective because we’ve heard all the stories. In 2011, we’re hearing that he allegedly abused 20 young boys. We got to read everything in one story and learn how Sandusky abusing boys in the shower allegedly was a regular thing. But when each person witnessed the events in the shower, it was an isolated event. Did they know that this was a regular occurrence?

The high school wrestling coach who saw Sandusky wrestling with a young boy was probably suspicious, but was that enough reason or evidence to call police? Should the janitor who saw the oral sex in the shower have done something? Yes. Should Mike McQueary, who says he saw an anal rape in the shower, have done more to stop it? Of course. Should Joe Paterno have followed up after reporting the incident to his superiors? Of course.

It’s not like Joe Paterno did nothing. Maybe he didn’t feel equipped to handle the situation. He should have followed up, he should have spoken with Jerry Sandusky if he did not. But if Joe Paterno knew at that time what we know now (that 20 boys were abused), I’m sure he would have done more. I’m guessing most people involved would have done more if they knew what we know now.

You have to put yourself in the shoes of each person involved before you start calling for peoples’ heads. What would you have done? Would you have done more or done things differently? Nobody wants to hear that 20 boys were sexually abused by Jerry Sandusky, but you have to remember that those people likely did not know this back in 1998, or 2000, or 2002. If they did, they likely would have taken serious action to stop it.

The point is that you should consider these factors before blindly screaming for people to lose their jobs and entire reputations. The athletic director and vice president should be fired for doing very little. Joe Paterno should have done more. But his entire reputation should not be destroyed over this.

You’re angry, and you’re even more upset because the people abused were innocent children. Just remember to direct your anger at the appropriate channel: the alleged sex abuser, Jerry Sandusky. And remember to at least learn something from this. Everyone, regardless of their position in life, should report and stop serious crime when they see it.

Also see: Why was 1998 Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse investigation called off? Did Joe Paterno and the football program know about this in 1998 and cover it up for 13 years?

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  • Anonymous

    “It’s not like Joe Paterno did nothing”  It’s not like he called the police either.  He called his “boss” (as if anyone in Penn State athletics was Paterno’s boss) — he kept it all within the family.  He didn’t know at the time that there were dozens of boys, but he knew there was one. He knew the right thing was to get the police involved, and he didn’t.  That failure causes me to question his values and makes me not want him coaching young men.  (To be fair, there are lots of coaches out there who I don’t want coaching young men — most of them just haven’t had their moral failings as publicized as Paterno’s.)

  • Anonymous

    “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” — Edmund Burke
    Joe Pa is being torn apart because his actions are in direct conflict with his reputation.  He passed the buck and because of that, more kids were hurt.  

  • http://larrybrownsports.com Larry Brown

    I think he did a reasonable amount given what was told to him. Not enough, but reasonable. 

    Just because he’s a legendary football coach doesn’t make him qualified to lead a sexual abuse investigation, does it?

  • http://larrybrownsports.com Larry Brown

    You think there was a conspiracy? He didn’t even know there was one, he was TOLD there was one. 

    He told his superiors. Why aren’t you equally mad at everyone who saw something and never reported it? Like all the janitors, or the wrestling coach? 

    It’s not a coverup, it’s that as a society, we are bad at reporting crimes. 

    This is a societal problem, not a Joe Pa problem, nor a Penn State problem, nor a college football problem. Look at how many people didn’t do the right thing.

  • Anonymous

    What a disgusting distortion.  It’s clear from the testimony released he knew that Sandusky was doing something very wrong.  He should’ve called the cops, period.  Especially a man of his established moral character – so consequently, the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think there was a conspiracy, or if there was, I don’t think Paterno was part of it. 

    I think that as a man who claims to teach “honor,” he publicly holds himself to a higher standard than others.  If you want the praise that comes with being publicly a stand-up guy, you have to be a stand-up guy.

    I’m not impressed that he told his superiors.  If I see one of my co-workers committing rape (or if one of the junior staffers who is afraid to confront anyone tells me he has seen a rape), I haven’t done the right thing by telling my boss.  I’ve done the right thing when I tell the cops.

    I’m not angry at Paterno — I’m disappointed in him.  His words say “do the right thing.”  His actions say “keep it in the family.”  I don’t think it’s unfair to point out that he has failed to practice what he has preached.

  • http://larrybrownsports.com Larry Brown

    I’m sure you and everyone you know would have called police. Just like all the janitors, all the police, all the parents, all the workers at The Second Mile, the wrestling coach, and the grad assistant all called the police. Right? 

    Over time, only one person called the police. Think about it. It’s a societal problem at work here — we’re not good at reporting crimes. People didn’t know what to do. Not just JoePa. He told two superiors. He should have done more. He did a reasonable amount. 

    He is legendary because he won football games, not because of anything else.

  • http://larrybrownsports.com Larry Brown

    He didn’t see the alleged rape. He was told about it. 

    Your parallel doesn’t describe JoePa’s situation, it describes McQueary, who witnessed it. He’s the one who saw it, didn’t stop it, and then consulted his father first. 

    He’s the one who didn’t go to the police as he should have. 

    Following a chain of command doesn’t mean he was keeping it in the family. That’s what people in schools are taught to do — report incidents to superiors.

  • Anonymous

    “If I see one of my co-workers committing rape (or if one of the junior
    staffers who is afraid to confront anyone tells me he has seen a rape),…”

    Actually, I think if we read the bit in parentheses, that describes Paterno’s situation pretty well.

    And unless one is actually in the military, “following a chain of command” and “keeping it in the family” are almost exactly the same.  When a criminal act is committed, an athletic director is not the proper person to report it to.  I think Paterno should have known that, and that’s the standard I’m holding him to.

  • http://larrybrownsports.com Larry Brown

    How come so many people failed? Why did McQueary not tell the police? Why did his father tell him to tell JoePa? 

    Think about how many people failed to report anything about Sandusky to the police. That’s my point that this is a societal problem. The most important message isn’t about who’s to blame, or whether JoePa should step down, it’s about teaching everyone the importance of stopping and reporting crimes.

  • Anonymous

    Exactly.  Everyone shirked their responsibility.  But great leaders aren’t supposed to pass the buck.  You are wrong that he was only legendary because he won games – he won games with integrity and helped turn Penn State into a leading institution with his generosity and belief that education was paramount.  He pulled rug out from under himself.  

  • http://larrybrownsports.com Larry Brown

    He’s a great football leader. We don’t know the character of these coaches. If you’re buying into anything other than what you see on the field, that’s your fault. 

    He didn’t do enough, but I’m not expecting more from him than say, Mike McQueary, just because he’s Joe Paterno. 

  • Anonymous

    Gravity, man.  The bigger they are…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Lentz/100000658618173 Robert Lentz

    Another good read by a man writing a Paterno biography

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Lentz/100000658618173 Robert Lentz

    …and exactly “what” did Father McQueary tell his distraught son to tell JoPa?    There are many organizations that specialize in “packaging” truth in ways that are “palatable” to upper management.   Father M. might have coached his son similarly.   Fact is, we don’t really know “what” JoPa was told.  Keep in mind that previous incidents were investigated and, at the time, turned out to be “false” (even though we now know them to be true).  It could well be that JoPa followed up with the administration and they told him what “he wanted to hear”.   This sort of thing happens all the time in dysfunctional organizations… which PSU apparently is.

  • http://larrybrownsports.com Larry Brown

    By the way, a few days later, after reading more and more, and going over more and more information that I did not know at the time, I now believe there was a cover-up going on since 1998, and possibly earlier. So I do take back denying that there wasn’t a cover-up.

  • http://larrybrownsports.com Larry Brown

    By the way, I stand by everything I said about us never knowing JoePa’s morals, and that everyone along the way should have done something. 

    However, after learning much more, I now believe there was a cover-up. We’ll see what happens.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_536SZMM6F7TK2SOTH6YFEPDBH4 Nascar Champ

    Can’t believe the assistant went to Joe Paternos house and told him, SANDUSKY was holding a 10 yr old boy up against the shower and was anally raping him. (Grand Jury report).  Joe call the cops? Joe fire Sandusky?  This was not the first or last story about Sandusky spread around with credible evidence. What if was Joe Paternos kid or nephew. I can only imagine!

  • Anonymous

    Larry, you’re acting as an apologist for someone who failed to protect innocent little boys from a serial pedophile. Many coaches–at Penn State and other schools– have said Paterno must have known what was going on, all the way back to 1998 or even earlier. Paterno was Sandusky’s boss. He ran that football program with an iron hand. It’s inconceivable to me that anyone in any line of work could have a close subordinate and friend who was accused of molesting boys in their workplace and not know anything about those allegations. That’s absurd.
    To quote you: “But if Joe Paterno knew at that time what we know now (that 20 boys were abused), I’m sure he would have done more.” You can’t know what he would have done. We can only know what he did do, or rather what he failed to do. It doesn’t matter what the number of victims was. One child being raped is one too many. Take Paterno down off that pedestal. He never belonged there. We all make mistakes and he’s a human being just like all the rest of us.

  • http://larrybrownsports.com Larry Brown

    Go read everything else I’ve written since this. Please see our entire coverage. This was written 8 days ago before a lot of this other information pointing to a coverup emerged. 

    I do not regret proceeding with caution when this story first came out.

  • Anonymous

    How was paterno supposed to protect innocent kids? Sandusky wasnt on his staff after 1998. What absurd is you thinking paterno was supposed to follow up & chase a guy around who was forced out after an investigation in 1998. An investigation that brought NO CHARGES against him. At that point, Paterno didnt give him professor emeritu status at the school. Someone higher up did. Probably the ones covering their behinds right now.

    Paterno cant do more based on hearsay. He didnt witness anything, just heard about it from someone who waited a day to tell him & didnt call the police.

    For further reference, I’m, an offensive coach at a JC & Im not always aware of whats going on with the Defensive staff. Yes, we are on the same staff,but not always aware of everything they do. Thats coming from coaching the last 24 yrs. Let the facts come out before making judgements. Unlike the Media which is hammering Paterno. Not the AD,GA, VP or  Sandusky.

    The Media is treating this like Paterno was the one accussed of molesting boys.

    They keep saying Moral Obligation. Then I suggest everyone out there who hears about a crime that has been committed by someone they know. DO something about it if not, DONT judge until all the facts come out!!

  • Anonymous

    If it was my kid, I wouldve beat the assistant to death for not stopping it & calling me & the police right away. Otherwise, I would probably question the assistant because he must not have seen that or he wouldve stopped it right? Maybe he saw sandusky horseplaying with the kid right? Thats what they told me in 98 & no one pressed any charges then. Instead my bosses gave him access to the school, facilities, transportation, offices right? Even after campus police & child protective services looked into it right? 

    I got him off my staff then. Now Im expected to follow him around & do my own investigation. In the meantime, coach my team & make sure 65-75 players take care of school & sports right?

    Thats what everyone is saying. or am I getting it wrong.

    Here an example. My neighbor on my left has had problems with the law in the past. My neighbor on the right comes to me & says he saw my neighbor on the left beating his wife. I guess I have a “Moral Obligation” to call the police on him. Yeah I know I didnt see him hit her, but because of his past problems, I MUST HAVE known. I mean, I dont allow him over my house any more or dont speak to him much, just Hi & Bye since his problems, but I guess I have a moral obligation

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_54DVRSKH4FPQHO47PKL4JM6BMA christina32

    If I were in that situation and saw that something that serious wasn’t dealt with properly, you bet your sweet a&& I’m breaking the chain of command. What are we? robots that just follow orders despite the fact that what we see is wrong. ( Something such as child abuse in any form especially this type of abuse is too important for us to  not dig deeper and find out why something hasn’t been reported. I don’t care if your at the top of the superiority food chain or the  bottom. I don’t put paterno in the same category as the sicko sandusky, not even close. he really should have done something more. I’m not sure Paterno’s reputation should be tarnished or not because you just never know the details of such a situation. He may very well be a good guy caught in a bad situation but it still sets off red flags for me. Paterno may deserve forgiveness, may have regretted his decision to not probe further for all we know. I don’t want to bash him. I don’t know him but I can’t help but to think what WAS he thinking not looking into this further.