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Penn State Football Caught up in Abuse Scandal, Head Coach Joe Paterno Under Fire

Posted on the 09 November 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost
Penn State football caught up in abuse scandal, head coach Joe Paterno under fire

Statue of Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno. Photo credit: Audreyjm529,

Pennsylvania State University has been rocked by a child sex abuse scandal: Former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky has been charged with sexually abusing eight boys, some as young as 8 years old, over a period of 15 years. Amid accusations of a cover-up, two top university officials have been charged with perjury and “failure to report to the authorities”, and Pennsylvania’s district attorney is investigating whether there are more alleged victims and further perjury charges to be brought.

Grand jury report. At Gawker, Dom Cosetino summarised the grand jury report that led to Sandusky’s indictment for sex crimes and the perjury charges against athletic director Tim Curley and senior vice-president for finance and business Gary Schultz. “Sandusky’s victims all reported a wide array of sexual abuse allegations. Sandusky, who is married, met many of them through [foster home] The Second Mile. Many spent the night at his home. He brought them to Philadelphia Eagles games, plus Penn State practices, tailgate parties, and home games,” wrote Cosetino.

Cover-up? According to the report,  there were two allegations against Sandusky during his time at Penn State. He was investigated by university police in 1998 after apparently showering with an 11-year-old boy, but no charges were brought. Then, in 2002, a graduate assistant allegedly witnessed Sandusky sexually abusing a boy in the showers at the university football facility. Paterno, Curley and Schultz all dispute exactly what they were told about the incident. None of them informed the university police or the department of child services.

“As parents, alumni and members of the Penn State Community, our hearts go out to all of those impacted by these terrible events, especially the tragedies involving children and their families,” said a Penn State Board of Trustees statement. The Board also announced the appointment of a Special Committee to investigate the matter.

Paterno out? According to Mark Viera and Pete Thamel in The New York Times, Joe Paterno will leave his post as head coach at Penn State in the next few days, even though he does not face charges. Paterno, who has come under fire for not informing police of the 2002 incident, has denied that the graduate student gave him the full details: “Mr. Paterno said the graduate assistant who reported the assault, Mike McQueary, said only that something disturbing had happened that was perhaps sexual in nature,” said Viera and Thamel.

Arrogance. Writing in The New York Times, Maureen Dowd described the university as “an arrogant institution hiding behind its mystique”. Dowd also said that Paterno was an “iconic” coach whom young boys, including her nephew, admired, which made his failure to alert police particularly reprehensible: “The family man who had faced difficult moments at Brown University as a poor Italian with a Brooklyn accent must have decided that his reputation was more important than justice,” she wrote.

Local reaction. According to local paper The Patriot-News, the mood on campus is “depressing”, with many students struggling “to adjust to the reality that their once-pristine football program, the pride of the NCAA Division I, was in shambles”. Journalism student Emily Caplan was pessimistic in student news paper  The Daily Collegian: “No matter what happens from here, no matter what allegations prove to be true or false, no matter who resigns or who steps forward, Penn State’s name will forever be tarnished,” she wrote. However, it seems there is still considerable support for Paterno within the student community, with the head coach addressing a cheering crowd outside his house last night.

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