One of the essential foundations of Penn State's football program has been careful management of information and image. Assisted by small-town circumstances and horribly misplaced loyalties, university officials and compliant (perhaps cowed) locals -- including law enforcement personnel -- controlled investigations and imposed secrecy with respect to unflattering events for decades.
Recent revelations indicate that Penn State has been no better than the Catholic Church with respect to concealment and facilitation of sexual abuse of children, relying -- as has the church -- on undeserved pedestal and privilege to promote and protect self-interest at shocking cost to victims and morality.
Why did Penn State officials refrain, for more than a decade, from alerting officials to evidence that defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky had been observed molesting children on university premises? Why did they enable Sandusky to continue to operate a program for at-risk children, and to use his affiliation with Penn State to arrange access to children?
Long-overdue criminal charges will provide an opportunity for Penn State's athletic director and a Penn State business executive to answer those questions, but it seems probable that the circumstances and motivations resemble those associated with campus police officers who extended unwarranted courtesies to Penn State footballers over the years, or midstate journalists who pulled punches (what are the career prospects of a Centre County sports writer who publishes information damaging to Joe Paterno?) with respect to Penn State. Cowardice, poor judgment, flawed character, and a warped environment appear to have enabled pressures to build, and wrongdoing to compound, until an explosion occurred.
For too long, protecting the football program at whatever cost has been the Penn State Way.
Penn State President Graham Spanier (who, like Mark Nordenberg, appears to have outlasted his institutional usefulness some time ago) has promptly gone all-in with respect to defense of his administrators. Unless those Spanier has vigorously defended -- perhaps from self-interest -- are exonerated without qualification, Spanier will deserve to be fired, scorned and ruined.
(Important point: The worst to be said about Nordenberg is that his period of effective leadership ended some time ago, and that Pitt's performance and mission have deteriorated in recent years.)
We applaud the law enforcement personnel who have disregarded decades of small-time, small-town protocol by filing criminal charges against Penn State royalty. We hope any victims of Penn State-promoted predations will advance civil claims against every person and institution that engaged in, concealed, and/or facilitated selfish destruction of children's lives; the facts, long submerged, should be illuminated.
This episode could provide a few pointers with respect to Pittsburgh's relationship with sporting royalty.
Remarkably, Jerry Sandusky's autobiography (right) was entitled "Touched."
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