The Mike McQueary verdict returned by a jury Thursday resulted in a $7.3 million judgment against Penn State.
That’s a big number, but it’s just the latest big number in the ongoing intrigues surrounding the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
So let’s look at that number and how it relates to the rest of the convoluted case and its many legal offshoots.
McQueary is the former Penn State receivers coach who became a lightning rod in the Sandusky media maelstrom as part of one of its most stunning stories. A former Nittany Lions quarterback, McQueary was a graduate assistant when he encountered Sandusky, then retired from his position as defensive coordinator, in a locker room shower with a young boy, who would later be identified as Victim 2.
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That was in 2001. McQueary reported the incident to his superiors. It was 10 years later that the investigating grand jury recommended charges against Sandusky after McQueary testified. He also testified at Sandusky’s 2012 trial, which resulted in conviction on 45 of 48 counts of crimes against 10 boys and a 30-to-60 year prison sentence. Sandusky maintains his innocence and is petitioning for a new trial.
The case rocked Penn State, resulting in huge monetary fallout.
Ultimately, the university paid out $92.8 million to 32 people claiming abuse by Sandusky. The average of that comes to $2.9 million, although different claimants received higher and lower payouts.
There were also the legal fees. A $60 million fine was levied against Penn State by the NCAA, part of a package of epic sanctions including loss of post-season play (and bowl revenue). Those sanctions were repealed, except for the $60 million payout, which was commuted to a $40 million cut going to child abuse prevention efforts in Pennsylvania and $20 million kept at Penn State and dedicated to child abuse research.
The Big Ten got into the game by withholding Penn State’s share of bowl revenues in 2013 and 2014. In 2010-11, those revenues were $2.49 million. In 2011-12, they were $2.6 million.
McQueary was sidelined after the Sandusky incident became public, his last game also being head coach Joe Paterno’s last, Oct. 29, 2011. The university announced he would be on leave after concerns for his safety. When Bill O’Brien took over the head coaching position in 2012, McQueary was let go with almost all of the staff, including Jay Paterno.
According to Sports Illustrated, the average NCAA assistant football coach salary in 2012 was $200,000. That means that McQueary’s judgment, including $1.15 million for defamation compensation, $1.15 million for misrepresentation compensation and $5 million for misrepresentation punitive damages equals about 36.5 years of pay, taking him to about age 78, or six years older than Sandusky is now and seven years younger than Paterno was when he died at 85 in January 2012.
Penn State has consistently said that the case would have no impact on tuition. The university had its first tuition freeze in decades in 2015, and 2016 tuition was also kept flat at a number of campuses.
But Penn State tuition comes to about $17,000 a year, depending on campus and major and what year a student is in. Multiply that by a four-year degree and divide the $7.3 million McQueary judgment by that $68,000 estimated price tag, and you have enough money to put 107 students through to graduation, minus room and board and books.