PSU fan blog: Something must be said

Posted by Steve Smith on November 7, 2011 

I've been quiet, observing the football team, and the university, for 30+ years. I've been quiet on the blog, just being an average fan, for the past year. I didn't disappear, but I realized that I was putting in too much time that was better spent with family. Watching and re-watching games and analyzing them to no end is, well, time-consuming.

The situation that PSU football, and the university finds itself in, is troubling to say the least. But it is clearly of its own making and years in the actual doing.

The things that matter most at PSU are money, power and secrecy. And all three will be the undoing of everything PSU and its face, Joe Paterno, has stood for in the last 4+ decades.

I can't bring myself to type the name of the main villain in this tragic story. Just very recently I was in the same restaurant as he -- with my kids. Knowing what I know now, I don't know if I would've handled it well.

But there are other villains in this story. The executives, the men who bask in the glory but wear the suits, were asleep at the wheel, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz. Of course, there's the ostensible man in charge, G$pan. There's the board of trustees who created, perpetuated and enabled the culture. There's Mike McQueary, who will likely go to his grave wondering what, or if, he should've done differently. Finally, there's Joseph V. Paterno, the man to whom all of the others owe their career and livelihood. Because without the monolith that PSU football has become, it is highly likely that none of this would've ever happened.

After reading the grand jury report, there's very little left to the imagination. Except for the most important question, which should be asked of all in this insane position: Why?

To the main alleged perpetrator: This is perhaps the easiest to answer. He's a sick, sick person (can't type the word man, either).

To the execs, Curley and Schultz: What, or who, were you trying to protect? The university? Epic fail there, gents. The beloved icon?

Sorry, try again. Let me rephrase if for you: Who weren't you trying to protect? That's right, the victims. You placed everything in front of their needs: The university, the icon, the whole program. Why weren't you trying to protect them? Oh, that's right, those three little words: money, power and secrecy. While I suspect that you will both see your charges dropped, your names are mud, your reputations forever tarnished, regardless of what G$pan says. (This was one of those times he should've thought before speaking.)

To G$pan: Congrats on being the second major university B10 president to look like a complete and total fool this year. Gordon Gee hoped Jim Tressel wouldn't fire him. Now, you're standing firmly behind two executives who allegedly failed to protect children from being molested, thus allowing it to go on for several more years. The coach laughed you off his porch in 2004, along with the other yes men and sycophants Curley and Steve Garban (now the president of perhaps most clueless board of trustees in the land -- congrats on that, chief!). Clearly you are in charge of nothing. Of course, this train was picking up steam when you got here, and you were in all likelihood powerless to stop it. PSU football was an institution when you were writing that thesis that everyone loves to read. Alas, even though you were powerless, your name is on the top of the letterhead. Retire, but the word "honorably" can't be attached to that request due to the incident which led to it. You've been known to dabble in magic, so try this: disappear.

To Mike McQueary: "Big Red" has almost become the face of the PSU sideline, perhaps more so than Tom Bradley, who is actually in charge with JoePa upstairs. The cameras have always been trained on Big Red, and it's been almost always positive up to now. Local boy makes good, local boy moves into PSU coaching ranks, and then he takes over as recruiting coordinator. Then everyone felt sorry for you, especially when the head man is screaming at you on the sideline while you're trying to listen to what Galen Hall or Jay Paterno are saying in one ear and absorb the legend's rant in the other. This is perhaps the toughest question of all. You were in an almost impossible position to even fathom. You've grown up INSIDE PSU football. To see what you saw, well, no one should have to see that. It really is tough second guessing you, and I'm sure you've done it every day since, probably while looking in the mirror shaving. One local legend, doing something unspeakable, is tough. What do you do? OK, you punted, talked to your dad for advice, and then you reported it to the man in charge. Like I said, this one was tough. But you've grown up inside this program, one that heretofore preached character and integrity. So it was reasonable for you to think this would be handled, correctly, by older, wiser men. And here's the toughest question of all that we'll have to ponder: When it wasn't handled properly, why did you continue here? Why try to move up here? Is it so great here in Happy Valley? The darker, more conspiratorial part of me really, really wants to hope that the coaching promotion wasn't a payoff, but many questions along this line will be asked. And that's a shame, because you're really the only person here, in my view, who tried to do the right thing. I wonder what your instincts were on that day. Only you know, and I wish you the best in your future. It will in all likelihood be elsewhere, though. You haven't been, and won't be facing any charges. It won't be fun being a pariah in your hometown, but I'm afraid that's what will happen, and it's not really fair. There are many PSU haters out in HV, and they'll be out in force for the next several years, if not decades.

Lastly, the coach, the beloved icon, the man, the legend Joe Paterno. Ever since I've been coming to games, you've been a hero. THE HERO. PSU football, doing things the right way, with no major NCAA violations – ever. What I wouldn't give, right now, for this to be about a player getting a suit for the draft, or signing with an agent early. But, it's not about something that simple, that benign, that stupid. It's about a heinous crime committed by someone you were close to, for several decades. You said in your statement that you and Sue have devoted yourselves to helping young people reach their potential. You have. You talked the talk, and you walked the walk. Heck, you've enabled generations to do that, and much, much more. You've done it for an entire town and university. Someone need money or have a cause, you'd help out. Spare a million or 4 for a library? Sure. Build a chapel? Yep, done that. Educationally, the "Grand Experiment" fundamentally made the collegiate sporting world sit up and take notice. Your teams brought attention, winning at a dizzying pace. But no love from the polls, and the schedule was mocked (wrongly, of course). But even though you never publicly said you paid attention to that criticism, you obviously did. I was delighted, and proud as punch, to have sat through the glory years of the late 70s through the early 90s. It's mind-boggling now, given the complete joke that college schedules have become. Think about it: Alabama, Notre Dame, A&M, Texas, Pitt (at their height), Nebraska, Miami, USC, BYU, Maryland and N.C. State all populated the schedule at times, all while still playing the usual suspects and taking their best shots every year as well. And then, unparalleled success followed, and all by doing it the right way. It was success with honor, before it became a marketing slogan, and now, sadly, a punch line. You had heretofore when challenged by fate come up aces every time: Rashard Casey, nailed it. Anwar Phillips, got that one, too. Countless other players. You also recognized some bad apples, booting them. (Lavon Chisley comes to mind.) And the undeniable successes: turning around so many lives, whether it's Bobby Engram or Bob White, or seeing boys become men, like Fran Ganter, Bradley, Matt Millen, Todd Blackledge, Curt Warner, Blair Thomas, Shane Conlan, Al Golden, Mark D'Onofrio, etc. We could go on and on, quite literally, since so many of these men decided to put their children's fate in your hands as well. What do you think they are thinking about this morning? Or over the completely lost weekend this has become? Do you think any of them are wondering "I wonder if so-and-so touched my kid?" Some of them likely are wondering that, and it has to be a knife searing into your soul. I know it's been a knife straight through my head. Sure, you can give a statement asking everyone to trust in the system, and we will try. But who are you asking for? Again, the victims seem to be down the list. (At least you mentioned them, though.) But let's be honest here: the PSU football system didn't work for a lot of people in this instance. Why? Here's the answer: Money, power and secrecy. While money has always been down the list of your personal priorities, the other two almost seemed paramount to you. You have had unequaled power in this town, whether you'll admit it or not. Is there anyone else who can essentially ignore the university president and trustees? No. You built an empire and you were master of all that you surveyed. Nothing happened without your approval, without your knowledge. When this happened, you fulfilled your legal obligation, it would appear, and earned a thank you from the Attorney General's Office for testimony. However, as we all know, legal obligations and moral obligations are sometimes different. Given your impeccable moral standing, and good name, why didn't you follow up? Everyone knew Curley was your boss in name only. After a few weeks, why not ask where the heck are the police? Did you ever think to maybe have lunch with Ray Gricar and ask what's up? (Of course, Gricar's subsequent disappearance and the botched investigation raise its own questions.) Surely you have a lawyer that you can confide in. (I'd mention a priest, but the church you belong to has enough of its own problems on this subject.) Then again, you were dealing with a lot in 2002. Your beloved brother, and perhaps most trusted confidant, George Paterno passed away that summer. He might've been a good sounding board. Then again, a sick man probably doesn't want to talk about this. How about Sue? Again, you are probably too chivalrous to even bring up such a nasty subject. Perhaps the only conclusion I can come up with is you didn't follow up because you didn't want to. You were coming off back-to-back losing seasons, and you knew you were loaded for bear in 2002. If something came to light that summer, well, just perhaps PSU football implodes. I can see this very easily. 2002 becomes a huge distraction, and then 2003-4 happen naturally, and 2005 and the subsequent successful run never happen. And you, in your Byzantine (or Machiavellian if you prefer) way, you just let it slide, knowing that you can do greater good in the future by conveniently forgetting about a little boy allegedly getting molested in the Lasch Building, and also any potential future victims of the monster In Happy Valley. The military calls it collateral damage. Is that what you decided?

Of course, none of this will ever actually get answered. PSU will likely circle the wagons and crawl into the Old Main bunker and see if they can wait it out. Since they've been ignoring this problem for going on 17 years, what another couple? The difference, though, can be us. We need to say something, we need to do something, we need to demand action. Does G$pan and those genius trustees think students are going to apply in record number to come to Pedophile State (I can see the T-shirt now)? How about those Wall St. recruiters ranking us No. 1? Think they'll have any second thoughts? How about those parents that are footing the bill?

The money/power/secrecy nexus that exists at PSU must be destroyed, forever. If alleged perjurer Tim Curley and the athletic department want anyone to believe them, it's imperative. Open the books, all of them, to anyone who asks. You are raking in millions upon millions from football alone. If TC is willing to forget this, why wouldn't eyes look the other way when hundreds of millions are involved? If six people at Kansas can run a multimillion dollar ticket scam in BASKETBALL under the nose of the AD, (an arena that seats a fraction of the Big Beav), anything is possible anywhere, especially when you have the closed secret power system at PSU. And this probably isn't the only deep secret being hidden inside the athletics and football offices. Whenever power and money are involved, you know there are plenty of opportunities for trouble to follow. Perhaps we should start with why our starting QB didn't play in the 1999 Alamo Bowl, which ironically was the lead villain's final, triumphant, game, a ride off into the sunset. I'm willing to predict that secret, which isn't really a huge secret, gets revealed in full this week, or very soon.

I like to think I'm an intelligent, well-read person. Since Friday's news, I keep thinking back to a Stuart Woods novel/CBS miniseries titled "Chiefs." If you'll recall, it was about this little town in Georgia that this one influential guy (played by Chuck Heston in the miniseries) who's the town banker and mover and shaker, but who has always been above board and the conscience of the town. As you may recall, the story was told in three arcs/eras. Part 1 was the Depression era, when the town is just getting on the map. The first police chief is named, and he stumbles onto this horrific crime, and he manages to solve it but is killed just as he is unmasking the secret. Fast forward to Part 2, and it's postwar, but not quite the civil rights era, and the next chief finds the old files, and he starts nosing around, and he figures it out, but then he gets killed. Fast forward to part 3, and now the big influential guy is playing kingmaker, and the small town is now a nice quiet little city, moving up in the world. His chosen candidate is leading the race for governor (and of course, there's a new police chief, thus the title.) Anyway, on the eve of the election (or the runoff--this is the South after all, where everything takes twice as long, and I can't remember), the new chief finally figures it out: the old codger on the outskirts of town is a serial killer preying on young boys. They dig up dozens and dozens of graves. And despite his boy winning the governor's race, ol' big guy Chuck Heston has heart attack (or something like that) as he dwells on the fact that everything he's built is for naught because the only thing his little town will now be known for is a massive serial killing.

And that's the one thing I do know for certain: The legacy and name of Joe Paterno and Penn State is tarnished, badly. The stain is, perhaps, indelible. I can think of very few college football scandals that would even approach this in magnitude. No matter what, this will be mentioned in every story about the man for the rest of time. And, sadly, it doesn't matter what the courts say. Justice, in this case, will likely have to wait for a higher power, one that probably doesn't ignore heinous crimes in the ultimate ledger.

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