Sunday, July 15, 2012
Backtime Dissects The Freeh Report
When an aircraft carrier finds itself in dangerous waters, it has no turning radius. It is the danger. It keeps charging forward and you'd better get out of the way.
Welcome to the USS Penn State.
Sixteen days ago, Jerry Sandusky was convicted on 45 criminal counts and will spend the rest of his life in prison. That was not the beginning, middle, or end of the story.
The 267-page Freeh Report really begins in earnest on page 11, titled: INDEPENDENCE OF THE INVESTIGATION. And it gets right to the FINDINGS on p. 14:
"The most saddening finding by the Special Investigative Counsel is the total and consistent disregard at Penn State for the safety and welfare of Sandusky's child victims."
"Four of the most powerful people at The Pennsylvania State University (Spanier, Schultz, Curley, Paterno) failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade. These men concealed Sandusky's activities from the Board of Trustees, the University community and authorities."
"These individuals, unchecked by the Board of Trustees that did not perform its oversight duties, empowered Sandusky to attract potential victims to the campus and football events by allowing him to have continued, unrestricted, and unsupervised access..."
On October 29, 2011, Jerry Sandusky sat in his normal club suite at Beaver Stadium and hobnobbed with University officials as Joe Paterno collected his record-setting 409th career victory. It was 7 months after the Harrisburg Patriot-News reported that Sandusky was the subject of a Grand Jury investigation. More importantly, it was 10 years after Assistant Coach Mike McQueary witnessed Sandusky and a young boy in the shower.
It was also two days after Penn State attorney Cynthia Baldwin learned that Sr. VP Gary Schultz and AD Tim Curley would be included in the Grand Jury presentment.
Curley had tried to remove Sandusky from the season ticket list in July 2011 (p.105), but when Mrs. Sandusky inquired about it, the access was reissued.
Steve Garban, then the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, was "astounded" (p.91) by Sandusky's attendance in the Nittany Lion Club, and just assumed that the Attorney General's office didn't have a case.
The Board of Trustees first heard of the investigation on May 12, 2011, when President Graham Spanier "downplayed" (p. 89) the Grand Jury situation, saying that it did not "involve" (p.88) Penn State.
"Some Trustees reported that their meetings felt "scripted" or that they were "rubber stamping" major decisions already made by Spanier." (p.101)
After the Trustees were briefed on the Sandusky investigation at the May meeting, it was not revisited in subsequent meetings in July or September. Spanier may not have known the depths of Sandusky's crimes, but he probably assumed it would just be more water under the deck of the Penn State aircraft carrier.
"There are 76,460 undergraduate students and 9,745 graduate students that currently attend the University. The University's annual operating budget is approximately $4.1 billion..." (p.32)
Insignificant efforts were made in the past. After the 2001 McQueary/shower incident, the Gang Of Four - Spanier, Schultz, Curley, and Paterno - agreed (conspired) on a "humane and reasonable way to proceed." (p.75) This would involve three things: informing the Second Mile (Sandusky's charitable organization), the Department of Welfare, and telling Sandusky himself to stop brining children around Penn State football facilities.
How the information was relayed to the Second Mile is murky since that organization ultimately viewed it as a "non-incident" (p.64). The Dept. of Welfare was not informed. And how would barring Sandusky from the football program be enforced? Especially if Sandusky, a Penn State professor emeritus defied the order (request). Who was going to stop him?
"there is an over-emphasis on "The Penn State Way" as an aprroach to decision-making, a resistance to seeking outside perspective, and an excessive focus on athletics..." (p.129)
Only 4 people knew the plan. There were no legal grounds to keep him away unless the authorities were informed, and that would involve expanding the circle of knowledge, and that would mean exposure. That would mean smearing the pristine Penn State image, tarnishing Paterno's legacy, and bringing down the whole house of cards.
It was considered "very rare" (p.49) for a situation like this not to be reported the the Office of Human Resources.
It's not surprising that The Second Mile didn't act. Several months after "the plan," Penn State sold a tract of land to The Second Mile in September 2001 for $168,500 (p.79).
So please excuse the awful analogy, but Penn State University, Penn State Football, and The Second Mile were all in bed together. Could we say that they were all married to one another? A spouse can't be compelled to testify against another. If corporations are people, can they marry? How does this polygamous situation fall under the Defense Of Marriage Act?
It's like how the American economy is intertwined with the big banks. We may be furious with them but without them the whole system crumbles, and thus they are untouchable. And nobody has yet been held criminally accountable for the 2008 financial crisis.
What exactly Joe Paterno knew died with him. He was an old-school football coach who never touched a cell phone or used e-mail. He is referred to as "Joe" or "Coach" in various Tim Curley e-mails, but his level of complicity can only be assumed.
The transfer of Paterno's home in the summer of 2011 to his wife in exchange for $1 is thought to be a protection of his family should he ever have been a target in a civil suit.
The discussion now is whether Penn State should suffer the NCAA "death penalty," whether the Paterno statue should be removed, and what should happen to the three remaining obstructors of justice. People call for NCAA sanctions based on a "lack of institutional control," when it was more akin to TOTAL institutional control.
I have no idea. I merely followed the case and read the report. I have faith in the system, especially having seen the swift and exact punishment that was handed down to Sandusky once authorities were able to investigate. (Though DA Ray Gricar failed to do so in 1998 - he later disappeared and is presumed dead in another twist to this case)
The Freeh Report recommends sweeping changes in Penn State policy and hierarchy.
I know that universities are beholden to their athletic programs. Especially football, and especially when icons are involved. This situation could have taken place in previous eras at Nebraska or Alabama.
Today, the University of Alabama's NCAA Compliance coordinator makes approximately $45,000 while Nick Saban makes more than $6 Million. There is no way to reasonably keep college football programs in line when the universities and entire states involved are so co-dependant.
The only way to try to reign it in is to make it all transparent. Each school needs independent auditors to have unlimited access to paper trails, phone records, travel logs, etc. But how is that to be implemented? By the school itself? By the NCAA? By the Federal Government? And what happens if they encounter obstruction? What's the recourse?
Backtime's ultimate diagnosis: College Football is too big to fail.