One of the things that didn’t bode well for Joe Paterno when the Jerry Sandusky scandal broke last November was that Paterno’s management style was very hands-on, to point Penn State president Graham Spanier felt he had to run academic matters by him. While it wasn’t conclusive, Paterno claiming he just passed up Mike McQueary’s reports didn’t fit the profile the legendary coach created for himself. Reading Sally Jenkins interview of Paterno and Lavar Arrington’s response to it, I kept wondering for myself about the McQueary incident and the 1999 Sandusky-shower incident that was reported to university police which Paterno said he didn’t know about. Not knowing a coach had a run in with campus police? Paterno advising someone else to take early retirement and just passing an incident up the chain of command? This was the coach who, three years later, would kick Spanier and athletic director Tim Curley out of his house when they came to suggest to him that he should retire.
So when CNN reported that Curley consulted with Paterno about the 2001 incident, I wasn’t really all that surprised. Granted, I had theorized that Spanier and the other officials at Penn State may have worked to prevent Paterno from finding out every single detail about Sandusky, wanting to protect Paterno’s legacy by giving him “plausible deniability”. But what really looks bad is that Curley and Spanier first thought about going to the authorities and then changed their minds after Curley talked to Paterno.
My most significant conclusion from reading the Jenkins interview was that Paterno should have retired ten years before the 2001 incident even happened; now it seems that Paterno may have indeed been more active in keeping Sandusky at large. I wanted to believe what Paterno was saying at the time; he was, after all, a eighty-five year-old man with lung cancer. He had no reason not to tell the truth, but even then, I was skeptical that he hadn’t been more involved in 2001 or known about the 1999 incident (Paterno telling someone else to take early retirement?). Sadly, we may never know the full truth of how involved he was.
I don’t know that I would go as far as Gregg Doyle has suggested, writing that Paterno’s statue should absolutely be taken away, although I could understand if Penn State did so. Ultimately, they know what is best for their community.But Louis Freeh has not filed his full report, and until then, we don’t know exactly what Paterno’s role was in deciding how to deal with Sandusky. It is still possible some people in the Penn State community will feel compelled to protect Paterno’s legacy, even though there is a sense in the community that Sandusky’s shame has stained everyone and the truth needs to come out.
Did Curley take the fall for his former coach?