Penn State Trustees Must Do More to Regain Its Reputation

by on July 5th, 2011
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After Wednesday evening’s announcement of the dismissal of Penn State Head Football Coach Joe Paterno and the University President, angry mobs filled the college streets of Pennsylvania in protest claiming the Litany Lion Trustees had gone too far. However, most pigskin loving dads would agree that if Paterno knew of sexual abuse by one of his coaches and allowed the abuser to continue to coach for him, Paterno had to go. I’m glad Paterno reported the abuse, but when he saw that nothing was done about it, he had a responsibility to protect the well being of the children.

When I was a college athlete, I too had a beloved coach who was revered by the students after decades of service to the college. He too had assistant coaches that he had brought on to help carry the work load. I can guarantee, however, that had there ever been an accusation of abuse by one of his assistants, it would have not only been reported to the athletic director, but followed up on. As the head coach, he would never have allowed that coach to be near children under his watch. The reason? Because what happens in that program is ultimately his responsibility. Those assistant coaches are under his watch.

I used to be a youth pastor ministering to Jr. High and High School students with a volunteer staff of adults. It was not unusual to have teens tell one of my volunteers that they were facing some type of abuse. When that happened, the volunteer would let me know and I would report it to child protective services. Yeah, I would tell my Senior Pastor, but I would also report it to child protective services. The Reason? Because what happens in that program was ultimately my responsibility and if I knew that I had not done all I could do to protect children in need, I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.

Unfortunately, the facts seem to be a little muddy coming from Penn State. It is being reported that Mike McQueary, currently an assistant coach, walked in on a child being raped in the shower at the university and reported it to Joe Paterno. Mike McQueary, has yet to be relieved of his position as an assistant coach at Penn State, causing a fair amount of outrage.

For those of you in the Penn State bubble, stop tipping over news trucks and let me explain to you why the rest of us in the country are angry. We are able to place ourselves in the situation and ask ourselves what we would do. For instance, if I was an assistant coach at a college and I walked in on someone raping a child, I anticipate my reaction would not be to turn around, walk out and tell the coach. Instead, like most morally conscious men, I would intervene immediately and stop the rape in progress. Many men, possibly myself included, may be hard pressed to keep ourselves from not only stopping the rape but from beating that rapist to an inch of his life. Should the rapist survive or have the physical ability to walk out of that shower, it would be with a police escort and not just a report to the head coach.

What is most infuriating is that these coaches continued to coach with Sandusky. If Paterno knew that these actions happened and continued to allow Sandusky to be around the football program, Paterno must go. McQueary, witnessed these acts, knew that they were not taken care of, and continued to coach in a football program that covered up a rape he witnessed. Who else knew what had happened and continued to coach for the Penn State Football Program? We simply don’t know, but it would seem that protecting the reputation of Penn State and its football program were more important to some than the protection of children from a predator. It would also appear that there were probably coaches who valued working on a successful football staff like Paterno’s more than making sure the truth was exposed and children’s lives weren’t destroyed by sexual abuse.

It is for this reason, that those of us outside of the Penn State bubble are angry. We don’t care about your precious football program. If you want us to see your program as anything but a place that allowed a predator to victimize and then covered it up, valuing football over morality, you will have to remove everyone in that football program who may have had any knowledge of wrongdoing. That is most likely the entire football staff. Innocent coaches may get the ax, but if your intention is to re-establish the reputation of Penn State and Litany football, you are going to have to make a bold move.

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