Friday, July 13, 2012

They Did Nothing

The report on the sexual abuse case at Penn State is out and it is scathing.

In 1998, officials at Penn State, including its president and its legendary football coach, were aware Jerry Sandusky was being investigated by the university’s police department for possibly molesting two young boys in the football building’s showers. They followed the investigation closely, updating each other along the way.

One of those officials, Gary Schultz, articulated in dire terms what the incidents might suggest:

“Is this opening of Pandora’s box?” Mr. Schultz wrote in notes that he would keep secret for years. “Other children?”

The officials did nothing. No one so much as spoke to Mr. Sandusky.

Last month, Mr. Sandusky, for three decades one of Mr. Paterno’s top coaching lieutenants, was convicted of sexually attacking 10 young boys, nine of them after the 1998 investigation, and several of them in the same football building showers.

Louis J. Freeh, the former federal judge and director of the F.B.I. who spent the last seven months examining the Sandusky scandal at Penn State, issued a damning conclusion Thursday:

The most senior officials at Penn State had shown a “total and consistent disregard” for the welfare of children, had worked together to actively conceal Mr. Sandusky’s assaults, and had done so for one central reason: fear of bad publicity. That publicity, Mr. Freeh said Thursday, would have hurt the nationally ranked football program, Paterno’s reputation as a coach of high principles, the Penn State “brand” and the university’s ability to raise money as one of the most respected public institutions in the country.

A lot of words will be written about the culture of college sports, the untouchability of the football heroes, and the strict rules of silence and protection that try to keep them from the reach of the law. It goes far beyond this case. We have heard stories of rape, drug abuse, and wholesale academic cheating in college sports, some with the tacit support of administrations that can count money from TV revenue and wealthy alumni. The NCAA brings sanctions that amount to little more than a loss of revenue from one bowl game for a team.

Jerry Sandusky will spend the rest of his life in jail — and finding out just what happens to child molesters in jail. The rest of the people named in the report should face justice. Joe Paterno escaped it in January. But none of that will matter if nothing is done about the poisonous culture that allowed this to happen, and nothing they do will make amends to the victims.