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Steve Lunetta: Penn State’s punishment not enough

Right About Now

Posted: July 30, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: July 30, 2012 2:00 a.m.
 

“The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized.” — Freeh Commission Report

 

In 1977, Penn State Assistant Football Coach Jerry Sandusky founded an organization to serve underprivileged and at-risk youth called The Second Mile. Penn State, a school steeped in football tradition and excellence, allowed Sandusky to use the school’s sports facilities.

In 1990, President George Bush praised Second Mile as a “shining example” of the excellent charitable work that was going on in the nation.

On the surface, all seemed good. Until 1998.

In 1998, Sandusky was investigated by campus police for claims made by the mother of a Second Mile boy that he was molested in the Penn State athletic facility showers by Sandusky. The case was never turned over to local authorities.

At the end of the investigation, Sandusky quietly resigned and was paid an inordinate sum of money — $168,000 — as a final compensation package. Most disturbing of all, Sandusky was granted “emeritus” status, which allowed him unrestricted access to all Penn state athletic facilities.

In 2001, an assistant coach walked in on Sandusky abusing another boy in the Penn State showers. This was reported to Coach Joe Paterno and then to two others. Again, no action was taken to stop Sandusky. In fact, Paterno used his influence in a meeting with athletic director Tim Curley to quash any further action.

Finally, in 2011, after a 2-year grand jury investigation, Sandusky was charged and then found guilty on 45 counts of criminal activity including sexual abuse of minor children.

Other charges are pending against other Penn State officials. Paterno is dead. And Sandusky will rot in jail for the rest of his miserable life.

Besides the serial abuse of children, one of the most stunning issues in this case is the culture at Penn State that allowed a child rapist to continue hurting children. The administration failed to act in any concrete manner, tacitly permitting abuse for 14 years.

In response, the NCAA penalized the university as follows: a $60 million fine, 4 years of bowl nonparticipation, a reduction in scholarship athletes to the football program, and a vacating of Penn State victories that will eliminate Paterno from the record books.

Are they kidding? This penalty was similar to the sanctions placed on USC for the Reggie Bush issues. Reggie got a little extra dough on the side. Sandusky was getting children on the side. How does simple financial corruption compare to raping kids?

There was only one acceptable sanction for Penn State: the “death penalty.” This is the NCAA rule that bans a school from participating in a sport for a given period of time. Southern Methodist University is the only other program to receive the penalty and that was for paying players under the table with a secret slush fund. But that is not raping kids.

Penn State created a management culture that shifted blame, ignored evidence and was more concerned about corporate image than protecting kids. If it had simply come clean in 1998, crucified Sandusky and taken some public embarrassment, it would have been far better off.

Sandusky probably had more “goods” on Penn State — that is how he worked the sweetheart deal that he received. The administration and (dare we say it?) Paterno did not have the guts to take it in the shorts and call Sandusky’s bluff.

They paid the blood money to silence what they thought was a “big” issue but instead bought themselves something far worse. They allowed a serial child rapist full access to Penn State facilities to continue doing what they tried to stop in the first place. And now, the university is liable.

The lawyers are already lining up. It is possible that the awards given to the victims may outstrip the school’s ability to pay. The scandal will then wind up swallowing up the entire school.

Some complained when Paterno’s bronze statue was removed by the school’s board of trustees. Those complainers should be ashamed. Paterno was complicit in the protection and fostering of a horrific crime while using his influence as the head football coach.

Who cares how many football games he won? If only one child was hurt, his record means nothing. And since many children suffered harm, his record is worth less than nothing. It stands only for contempt.

And what of Sandusky? May the Lord have mercy on his soul. For he should receive none here on Earth.

Steve Lunetta is a resident of Santa Clarita. He can be reached at slunetta63@yahoo.com.

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