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Why Does This Man Still Have His Job?


Two of the officials who willfully allowed Jerry Sandusky to continue to rape children have been indicted. Joe Paterno hasn’t been charged with a crime — properly so, unless he lied to the authorities — but clearly acted immorally and with callous disregard for Sandusky’s past and future victims, and he’s therefore being widely criticized and his legacy will be permanently tarnished. But one official who also bears substantial responsibility for Sandusky being allowed to continue to molest children after his crimes were known has received less attention: PSU president Graham Spanier. Let’s review what happened after Sandusky was seen raping a child:

Curley told the grand jury he was merely told that Sandusky was “horsing around” with the boy. The grand jury did not find that credible in part because Schultz said he had gotten the impression “Sandusky might have inappropriately grabbed the young boys’ genitals while wrestling around.” Both Curley and Schultz are charged with perjury for claiming the grad assistant didn’t inform them of “sexual activity.”

Curley later met with Sandusky and told him he was no longer allowed to bring children onto the Penn State campus. He forwarded the report on to university president Graham Spanier, who approved of Sandusky’s ban from bringing children onto campus and himself never reported the incident to police.

It should be obvious that Curley’s “solution” was completely unacceptable on its face. If Curley didn’t believe the allegations against Sandusky, that might be a a sincere if catastrophic misjudgement. But he clearly did think that the allegations were credible — rather unavoidable, since Sandusky was caught in mid-rape by someone who knew him well — or why would he have been barred from bringing children onto campus? Not to put too fine a point on it, but Curley’s remedy was to tell Sandusky that it would be better if his future molestations of children took place off campus. And yet Spanier approved of this without further investigation, even though (as with Paterno) it strains credulity past the breaking point to think that he wasn’t aware of the previous investigation that caused the most lauded defensive coordinator in the country to suddenly “resign” at age 55. (And as for Curley’s “horsing around” defense, leaving aside the fact that I find this as credible as the grand jury did there’s no “inappropriate” behavior Sandusky could have been involved in with a 10-year-old boy in an empty locker room that didn’t merit immediately contacting legal authorities.) Spanier was in a position to have stopped Sandusky and even in the most charitable interpretation had the necessary information, but declined to do anything.

And not only were his past actions indefensible, his conduct after the indictments were announced was abominable: he decided to vouch for the integrity and character of men who willfully (and illegally) let a known sex predator continue to ruin the lives of innocent children and then probably committed more felonies to cover it up. Of course, in doing so Spanier was implicitly praising his own integrity and character, since he went along with Curley and Schultz although he knew or should have known the implications of doing so. “Disgrace” seems too weak a word, and it’s amazing that he still retains his position as of this writing.

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  • Nothing says “I should be in charge of young adults’ transition to adulthood!” like the ability to give allegations of baby raping a half-arsed response.

    I almost don’t want to know what other allegations Spanier gave this cavalier treatment. I’m not sure my stomach could take it.

  • Residual Exception

    How was Spanier supposed to know what to do? After all, he has no connections with law enforcement (meaning it would have been difficult for him to know whom to call to make a report) and is pretty new to the complexities of college athletics.

    Oh, wait. Spanier is chair of the FBI’s National Security Higher Education Advisory Board and hosts a Big Ten Network television show called “Expert Opinion,” that “focuses on critical issues impacting collegiate athletics.”

  • Paul Campos

    The most amazing feature of Spanier’s response is that he had months to prepare what he was going to say, and this is what he came up with. That illustrates what a dream world all these people were inhabiting, I guess.

  • Residual Exception

    How was Spanier supposed to know what to do? After all, he has no connections with law enforcement (meaning it would have been difficult for him to know whom to call to make a report) and is pretty new to the complexities of college athletics.

    Oh, wait. Spanier is chair of the FBI’s National Security Higher Education Advisory Board and hosts a Big Ten Network television show called “Expert Opinion” that “focuses on critical issues impacting collegiate athletics.”

  • c u n d gulag

    This is Penn State.
    Not a private college, but a STATE institution.

    Why isn’t the Governor out there demanding heads?

    And how on earth do they let Paterno go out and coach a game this weekend?

    And from reports this morning on ESPN, the school, some Seniors, and Paterno are going to have a press conference this afternoon – but NO questions about this, only about Nebraska(?), their next opponent.
    That, Michele Bachmann, that is what’s known as chutzpah!

    I can see letting the Seniors have their moment – this isn’t their fault. But then, after you let them do their thing, and leave the room, don’t you, as a STATE institution, owe it to the taxpayers who support this university to answer some fucking questions?

    • Cody

      State institution are really just like any other corporations now. They take a lot of money from the government and don’t really care what the government thinks.

      On paper, about the only responsibility they have is “transparency” about how they spend taxpayer money.

  • pete

    I’m not disagreeing with the calls for firing the president, and the head coach, or for investigation by the state, but I actually think the issues go broader and deeper. The whole NCAA system (not to mention the BCS) is set up for its own benefit, not for the students. In turn, this sense of entitlement and privilege — not to mention the obscene amount of money involved — encourages the mentality of keeping secrets, operating outside law and even morality, and placing gang loyalty above human decency.

    I probably could not have written that a week ago without being laughed at. And most sports coaches are not guilty; but then most of them work for almost nothing at high schools, for amateur clubs, and in other low- or unpaid positions. A few of them are criminals, too, but they can and do get busted. To deal with the multi-millionaires, the whole system needs to be addressed.

    • Right on. Buku amounts of money has a tendencey to skew things, there is too much incentive—especially too much for a state institution of higher learning— to engage in deceit.

      • The love of money is the root of all evil.

        Fortunately, large religious organizations are immune to such corruption.

        • KC45s

          A lot of big-time college football programs certainly resemble religions.

  • Kathy

    I have espn on in the background. The Joe PA press conference has been canceled. No comment, no explanation. Another profile in courage.

    • pete

      No seppuku today, then?

    • Someone considered the optics and immediately tore out his eyes.

      • Anderson

        They should use that exact scene in a South Park episode about this story.

        • I can’t wait. You know what happened to Chef, right?

      • Kathy

        Apparently Spanier made the decision. Shortly afterwards espn said that the NYT is reporting that Paterno will be on his way out. I dont see how Spanier and yes McQueary can possibly stay if Penn State expects to ever move on, of course the real tragedy is that there are 9 or more innocent kids that will have a much harder time moving on. My prayers are with them.

        • c u n d gulag

          I suspect there’s more than 9.

          But you point is valid.

          • Kathy

            You are absolutely right, I did say 9 or more.

            • c u n d gulag

              You’re right.
              My bad…

        • Scott Lemieux

          I’m pretty confident that Penn St.’s lawyers informed Spanier that having an old man give a rambling press conference probably wouldn’t help with respect to the massive civil suit they’re all about to be hit with.

  • mark f

    This just occurred to me. Maybe Paul or someone else can make some nice paragraphs out of it:

    The title “Pope” comes from a word that means “father” as intimately as “Papa” or “Dad” does.

    Similarly “Paterno” may

    have had some religious or even civil roll in its own right, with ‘pater’ being used not in the normal sense of a ‘father’, but perhaps as a status name to imply leadership, or even some religious activity. On the other hand it may also have been a simple nickname for a person who looked like a father figure.

    Maybe it’d just lead to the worst sort of purple prose, or maybe it’s a useful coincidence for a writer more capable than I.

  • Scratch

    It sounds like Paterno is on the way out.

    • The FingerPointAThon begins in earnest.

      • Malaclypse

        I blame gay marriage and feminism. Also, Canada.

    • witless chum

      It’s a start. I won’t say a good start, but it’s a start.

  • JohnR

    Hey, are you holding a college football program to a higher standard than the Catholic Church? Shame on you, I say!

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  • wengler

    It’s so sad that Paterno’s legacy will be tarnished by his callous disregard for the rape of boys.

    There is no greater injustice.

    • JupiterPluvius

      I think it’s perfectly just that his callously disregarding the rape of children will overshadow his success at coaching football teams. Am I misparsing your post?

      • Emma in Sydney

        Yes. Yes you are.

        Irony. It’s not the opposite of crinkly.

        • Stealing this.

        • JupiterPluvius

          Sorry, I guess I got Poed on that one, because I have heard so much of this for real over the last few days and didn’t have a sense of who wengler is and what wengler’s point of view is.

  • West of the Cascades

    Under the category of “bad timing,” President Spanier announced today that he is postponing (until Spring) a gala dinner scheduled for tomorrow night to honor … President Spanier (and his wife)!

    From the Penn State website:

    “Penn State President Graham Spanier announced the postponement of the 35th annual Renaissance Fund dinner, originally scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 9. Spanier asked for the postponement of the dinner, which was to honor him and his wife, professor of English Sandra Spanier, until spring because “our attention is so heavily focused right now on the troubling charges by the Attorney General.”

    Each year, the Renaissance Fund honors an individual or couple who, through a lifetime of service, has contributed greatly to the Penn State and State College communities. In its selection process, the fund’s board of directors seeks to recognize individuals who have deep roots in the Centre Region, close relationships with civic and University leaders, and a commitment to philanthropy.”

    From the link describing why they were being honored:

    “Spanier has worked to increase safety on and around Penn State’s campuses by instituting programs to combat problems such as excessive alcohol consumption.”

    Evidently one of President Spanier’s methods of increasing safety on campus was quietly moving the officially-sanctioned Child Raping Program run by emeritus coach Sandusky off-campus.

    Going back to the headline of this post: why does this man still have a job at Penn State?

    • jeer9

      Spanier and Paterno are indeed reprehensible. But if we consider Paterno to be Rumsfeld-like in his determination to do what is best for the football program (country), even if it includes turning a blind eye to torture (child molestation) by his intelligence community (long-time coaching buddy) or rationalizing the damage being done, and Spanier to be Obama/Holder ignoring the need to prosecute so that the administration can keep a lid on things in order that the ideals our college (country) was founded upon are not further tarnished by courtroom admissions, one grasps that they are only following a long-established political paradigm. Spanier has had to cancel an awkward banquet, will probably lose his job (and deservedly so, though not his no doubt superb retirement benefits and perks), and may barely escape jail. He did his best to keep PSU out of the headlines and safe from notoriety (Pedophile Sanctuary U.) but failed. Organizational loyalty versus personal integrity is inevitably the moral conflict in such a situation, and only at the highest level of politics does loyalty trump all. And of course it never hurts when one’s tenure depends upon a popular election and your opponents resemble a group of clowns (no creepy analogy to John Wayne Gacy intended, though the number of bodies assaulted in Cain’s past do seem to be growing).

  • Rekster

    I am incensed at the hubris of all involved. If you are a physician, nurse, teacher and suspect abuse of a child and don’t report it you are in deep shit, legally. Why is a football coach at a state university not held to the same example? JoePa should be on a list of those indicted as far as I am concerned.

    From now on JoePa will be known as the winningest coach in football history and protector of a child fucker.

    • BGGB

      Why is a football coach at a state university not held to the same example?

      fan$ like college athletic$$$$

    • Why is a football coach at a state university not held to the same example?

      In fairness, most of his charges are of the age of consent.

  • OzarkHillbilly

    A few thoughts….

    Let us say for a second, that an underling comes to you with some rather explosive charges about a man you have known and trusted for several years. Saying things you don’t even want to hear. Much less believe. But you can not ignore the charges and pass them up the chain of command, as you are legally obligated to do, and what is more, contractually obligated to do. A few days later (2 weeks?) your superior comes to you (a man you have known and trusted for years) and says, “Yeah, we investigated, so did the police, but it was all a misunderstanding, there was a perfectly innocent explanation for what the GA saw. And just to avoid any future misunderstandings, we told him to not bring any more boys into the building.”

    I am not saying this is what happened, JoePA has not said what happened, but if this IS what happened, ALL of you would be in the same situation as JoePA.

    I know, because I was. (about elder abuse)( my ex) It is real easy to get sucked in. Fortunately, the MO Dept of Aging believed me

    • Popeye

      Seriously, Joe Paterno had superiors at Penn State?

      At least he never portrayed himself as some great leader of young men.

    • Tom Ames

      And let’s say that this happened more than once, and that the underling continued to show up in your office with more young boys in tow.

      Joe Paterno has acted like a psychopath, and people need to stop labeling his behavior as anything less.

  • This is not excusing any crimes, but what are the odds that Sandusky was abused himself as a child? Probably non zero.

  • cpinva

    i want to know why the GA who actually witnessed the activity didn’t:

    1. knock sandusky flat on his ass right then and there? and,

    2. after making sure the child was ok, immediately call 911 and alert the town police to come and arrest mr. sandusky?

    what kind of monster is this GA, that instead of defending the child from this predator, and calling the police right away, he instead walks off and tells another coach? what kind of people does PSU admit to grad school and hire as GA’s? the whole damn school should be shut down and cleaned out.

    • BGGB

      People are capable of almost anything when it comes to protecting their job, let alone working at a nationally famous high profile institution like Penn State football.

      Not excusing it by any stretch, just stating how it probably was for him.

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