Nine years ago, on a Friday night in March, a Penn State graduate assistant was putting some new sneakers in his locker in the Penn State football building. He heard some odd sounds from the shower, and curious, he walked over to look.
In the shower, according to a Pennsylvania grand jury, was former Penn State assistant Jerry Sandusky, who still had an office at the athletic complex, engaging in sexual acts with a 10-year-old boy. The grad assistant fled from the scene and called his father, who told him to report what he saw to Penn State football coach Joe Paterno.
Paterno called Penn State athletic director Tim Curley to let him know that the grad assistant had seen Sandusky "fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to the boy." The result? Sandusky was told not to bring any more children to campus. That's it. Keep your problem away from us. No report to police in town. No criminal investigation. Instead, Sandusky kept his office and continued to work out in the Penn State weight room.
Now, thanks to a later incident, Sandusky has been arrested for 40 counts of sexual abusing boys, many of which occurred after the 2002 incident. Curley, the AD, along with Gary Schultz, a university vice president, have been arrested for perjury.
And Paterno? He had a press conference scheduled today at which he should have retired. Instead, it was canceled moments ago. The New York Times is reporting, however, that Penn State may be maneuvering to dismiss the coach.
Paterno has thus far deflected blame, saying that Sandusky fooled him and others. But Paterno had talked to someone who said he saw Sandusky in a shower with a 10-year-old boy. The coach never went to law enforcement. He made the one call he was required to make, but not the one he was morally obligated to.
Said Pennsylvania state police commissioner Frank Noonan:
"I think you have the moral responsibility, anyone. Not whether you're a football coach or a university president or the guy sweeping the building. I think you have a moral responsibility to call us."That includes, by the way, everyone involved in the incident, including the grad assistant who saw the incident but also never apparently went to police. Each of them, including Paterno, did the easy and the wrong thing - they pushed the problem onto someone else. And so, more boys were likely molested.
For that, Paterno has to live with himself. He should do so in retirement, quickly.
Peter St. Onge