OPINION: Dark Days for Penn State Football

Tackling some of the key, uncomfortable questions that have arisen from the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

You are living through what can only be described as the darkest days of Penn State football.

Bundle up all of those losing seasons to start the millennium, the lean years in the 1930s when the university de-emphasized the sport and every bad call that has ever gone against your Nittany Lions. Add in the key misses on the recruiting trail and the star signees who crashed and burned. Then pile on every legal issue involving players, from allegations of underage boozing to felony arrests. Cap it off with the crushing loss to Alabama in the 1979 Sugar Bowl.

Digest all of that together in one big gulp and you won't feel as nauseated as you did after reading the grand jury report involving former Penn State assistant Jerry Sandusky.

Sandusky has been charged with multiple counts of sexually abusing eight boys from 1996 to 2005. Prosecutors contend one incident (in 2002, three years after Sandusky retired) happened in the Penn State football building and was witnessed by a graduate assistant coach.

The GA, whom we now know is current receivers coach Mike McQueary, reported the incident to head coach Joe Paterno. And Paterno reported it to athletic director Tim Curley.

Now Curley and senior university administrator Gary Schultz, who resigned on Sunday, have been charged with perjuring themselves to the grand jury investigating the case. The argument against them is that they were not truthful in their testimony regarding the 2002 incident.

Prosecutors say Curley and Schultz had been told a boy was sexually abused and failed to appropriately act on that information. Curley and Schultz claim they were informed of an incident but were not told specific details.

It is important to note that all three men who have been charged maintain they are innocent. It is also important to note that we have heard only one side of the respective situations.

To strongly comment on anyone's guilt or innocence at this point would be irresponsible. But there are some elements of this mess that ought to be addressed. So here we go:

How Does This Impact Joe Paterno?

I initially thought Paterno might have a chance of surviving this situation. Prosecutors wasted no time leaking info that the 84-year-old legend "did the right thing" in moving the 2002 incident up the chain of command in the athletic department.

Then Paterno released a statement through his son. That's never a good idea, even if said son (Scott) is an attorney.

In the statement, Joe Paterno admitted he had been told about the alleged incident in the football building in 2002.

"As my grand jury testimony stated, I was informed in 2002 by an assistant coach that he had witnessed an incident in the shower of our locker room facility," Paterno said. "It was obvious that the witness was distraught over what he saw, but he at no time related to me the very specific actions contained in the grand jury report. Regardless, it was clear that the witness saw something inappropriate involving Mr. Sandusky. As Coach Sandusky was retired from our coaching staff at that time, I referred the matter to university administrators."

Forgive me while I go off topic here.

Paterno has a longstanding rule that nobody is allowed to wear a hat in the football building. At a press conference in the facility a few years ago, he berated a reporter for wearing a hat, only to be forced to apologize when he learned the man was losing his hair while going through chemotherapy.

So wearing a hat in the building warrants an admonishment from Paterno. But when a graduate assistant alleges he "saw something inappropriate" involving a man and boy in the shower, it is someone else's problem?

No matter how you twist it, that looks bad for Paterno.

Speaking of which…

Can We Believe Tim Curley?

I know the presentment is only one side of the story. And I know Curley's defense might well tell a different story than the one offered there.

But if the document accurately portrays Curley's denial of knowing an alleged sexual encounter happened in the shower at the football building, it is in itself damning.

The document quotes Curley as saying "no" twice when asked whether "sexual conduct" of "any kind" was reported by the GA. Curley said the conduct was described as "horsing around."

Think about that for a second.

Sandusky was in his late 50s at the time. The alleged victim was said to be 10. Allegations are that they were in a shower together in an otherwise deserted building.

And the actions were described as "horsing around."

Unless Curley's quotes were presented improperly by the prosecution, he has some explaining to do. I look forward to hearing what he has to say.

Speaking of which…

Keeping the Keys to the Castle

OK, so at the very least, we can assume the athletic director was told Sandusky was caught "horsing around" with a kid in the shower and Paterno was told Sandusky did something "inappropriate."

It makes you wonder what one has to do to be banned from the football building.

Police were not notified of the alleged incident. Instead, Sandusky was ordered not to bring children into the facility. Beyond that, though, he was still allowed to come and go as he pleased. He worked out in the weight room all of the time.

According to sources within the program, Sandusky was still working out in the building as recently as October, seven months after the Harrisburg Patriot-News broke the news of the grand jury investigation into his alleged sexual assaults.

Once the charges came down Friday, the university acted quickly to ban Sandusky from campus.

Should that have happened sooner?

You know the answer to that question as well as I do.

Speaking of which…

Where Does Spanier Stand in All of This?

I'm not quite sure how the chain of command stopped at Curley and Schultz. However, I do know university President Graham Spanier is one of the smartest people you're apt to meet.

The thing about smart people is sometimes they think they are too smart. And that's what happened when Spanier released his own statement on this matter.

Though the grand jury presentment was scathing in its opinion on the way Penn State handled the Sandusky situation, Spanier was spared from the most serious criticism. Still, he found it necessary to chime in, saying Curley and Schultz had his "unconditional support."

Unless they are cleared, that is going to come back to bite him. "Unconditional" is a pretty wide-ranging word.

The Bottom Line

If you thought the weekend was tough as a Penn State fan, well, you better strap yourself in. The national media will be on hand in Harrisburg for Curley's court appearance Monday afternoon. And then they'll drive up Route 322 for Paterno's Tuesday press conference.

Rest assured, nobody is going to be viewing this situation through blue and white glasses. Not that they should be.

What we've heard about this case so far is troubling, to say the least.

The sort of stuff that has the potential to bring down a legend.

Dark days, indeed.

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