The Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State University rocked the nation during the 2011 football season. The country watched as more and more young men came forward to describe their experiences of sexual abuse at the hands of Sandusky that spanned over two decades. Slowly but surely, details of Penn State’s negligence came out, leading to the firing of the legendary coach, Joe Paterno.
Following the scandal, the university’s trustees hired former FBI Director Louis Freeh and paid him $6.5 million to investigate the actions of those involved at the school. The Freeh Report came out in July of 2012 after Freeh said that he and his team interviewed more than 450 people and poured over more than 3 million documents. The report concluded that Paterno, University President Graham Spanier, Athletic Director Tim Curley and former Vice President Gary Schultz participated in covering up Sandusky’s actions.
The Paterno family immediately rejected the report’s findings and hired their own lawyers to conduct an investigation of what happened at Penn State. The law firm of King and Spalding of Washington, D.C., gathered its own findings that it believes contradict what was stated in the Freeh Report. Some of the highlights of the conclusion of their investigation include: No evidence exists that Paterno concealed critical information about Sandusky, No evidence exists that a desire to avoid bad publicity ever motivated Paterno and the Freeh report is “uniformly biased” against Paterno, and its authors “ascribe motives to people they never met or interviewed and interpret ambiguous documents with a clarity and decisiveness that is impossible to justify.”
It’s hard when reviewing the Paterno Report to view it for anything other than what it is; a self-serving report aimed at clearing the name of Joe Paterno by his family. While the report may indeed have findings that are true, the ability to separate the facts from the intent is nearly impossible.
If my father had been accused of something on this scale that I believed to be untrue, I would move heavens and earth to clear his name from any wrongdoing. I would view any report that found my father to be less than the man that I knew as junk, just as the Paterno’s have done. So while I can understand the motivation and intent behind the report, the actions of the family just seem like a scramble to restore the Paterno name.
Regardless of what they hoped would be accomplished through this report, Paterno will always be connected with Sandusky. Instead of being remembered as not only one of the greatest football coaches ever, as well as a man who impacted so many young men in a positive way, the Sandusky stain will remain.
Lost in the fray of this report, as well as the Freeh report, is the fact that the young men who were molested are forced to relive the darkest days of their lives. By continuing to thrust the actions of Sandusky into the national spotlight, we stunt the healing process of those who were involved. The young men have been forever changed and may never fully heal from what they endured, but reports like this are like picking a scab. Instead of allowing the wound to heal, we continue to open it.
It’s hard to tell a hurting family like the Paternos what the right course of action was. My advice, however, would have been to love and remember the man that you knew; the father, the husband, the coach who affected your life in a positive way. Not to try and force others to remember that man because,unfortunately, that’s not going to happen.