What Have We Learned From the Penn State Scandal?

Former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was charged with sexually assaulting eight boys on November 4, starting one of the most explosive scandal in the history of college sports. But what lessons have we learned?


The details: Jerry Sadusky was a defensive coach at Penn State for 32 years. For some time, he was expected to succeed the revered, all-time winningest division I football coach Joe Paterno. In 1999, after Paterno told Sandusky he would not become the next head coach, Sandusky retired and began focusing full time on his charity The Second Mile, a charity helping underprivileged children. Sandusky also began coaching at the local Central Mountain High School. In 2009, Sandusky was banned from Central Mountain High after a freshmen boy reported being sexually assaulted by Sandusky. The boy’s mother then notified child protective services, which set in motion a two-year investigation, which was openly released last week in an explosive report that alleges that between 1994 and 2009, Sandusky abused eight boys.

 

The report also charged two others, Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley and Penn State Senior Vice President for Finance Gary Schultz for perjury and failure to report Sandusky’s abuse in a 2002 incident. Although Paterno has not been charged, the state police commissioner said, “I don't think I've ever been associated with a case where that type of eyewitness identification of sex acts took place where the police weren't called.”

 

The tragedy is even more shocking because it occurred at Penn State under Joe Paterno’s watch. Paterno’s motto was Victory with Honor. He was held in god-like esteem on campus and highly respected nationally. What responsibility does Paterno hold for not reporting Sandusky to the police?

 

As Sport Illustrated recently reported, there were many signs that Penn State’s football program was not the bastion of ethical purity it claimed. Between 2002 and 2008, 46 players were charged with a 163 crimes including one murder conviction in 2005. Yet very few questions were asked and Paterno maintained his status as the king of Penn State.


Weigh-in: What does this story tell us about the role and influence of sports on college campuses? What, if anything, should be changed?