Tuesday, February 12, 2013

"WE ARE...UNRAVELING": Penn State scandal as seen by the Paterno Family, Phil Knight, and Kevin Murray

This past week, the family of Joe Paterno released a 238-page report, defending Paterno and refuting the Freeh Report. Within the report, high profile experts, such as Dick Thornburgh, former Attorney General of the United States and Governor of Pennsylvania, and Jim Clemente, former FBI profiler, prosecutor, and child sex crimes expert, analyzed the full Freeh Report and the treatment of Joe Paterno by his University and Penn State by the NCAA. This report, a long with a lot of commentary from experts across the country, claims that the Freeh Report was not only bias, but "incomplete and full of inaccuracies."

Former FBI Director and Investigator Louis Freeh

Paterno Family
The Freeh Report, which cost Penn State over $6.5 million, summarized it's conclusions by saying, "Four of the most powerful people at the Pennsylvania State University - President Graham B. Spanier, Senior Vice President Gary C. Schultz, Athletic Director Timothy Curley, and Head Football Coach Joseph V. 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." From the moment the report was released, it's portrayal of Joe Paterno's involvement was questioned. How much did he really know? Did he really actively hide information from the authorities in order to protect the reputation of Penn State? Former FBI Investigator, Louis Freeh sticks by the above statement that Paterno was involved in the attempt to conceal Sandusky's actions, despite following University protocol by reporting what he had been told.

From the Paterno Report: "Each one of the Freeh report's main observations about Joe Paterno is wrong: each is either contradicted or unsubstantiated by the evidence. The authors of the Freeh report chose not to present alternative, more plausible, conclusions regarding Joe Paterno's role in the events involving Jerry Sandusky." In conclusion, the Paterno Report passive-aggressively commented on the conclusions made in the Freeh report and spun mutually used information in a way that made the legendary coach look better.

Nike co-Founder Phil Knight and the late Joe Paterno
Phil Knight
Gene Wojciechowski of ESPN.com responded to the Paterno Report saying, "I can save you the time of reading through the entire report. It goes like this: Joe Paterno … good. Freeh report … bad. So whaddya say, let's return the statue of JoePa to Beaver Stadium and, hey, Peachy Paterno ice cream cones for everybody!" Unlike Wojciechowski's opinion, Nike co-founder and long-time friend and supporter of Paterno, Phil Knight told ESPN in a statement, "With the release of the report... it is clear that the findings of the Freeh Report were unjustified and unsubstantiated. When this tragic story first unfolded Joe cautioned all of us to slow down and carefully gather the facts before jumping to conclusions. We owed it to the victims, he said, to get to the truth. It was counsel we all should have followed." He followed this strong statement by saying, "Additionally, The NCAA's actions are exposed as totally unwarranted. The NCAA acted outside its charter and rendered judgment absent any kind of investigation or judicial hearing. It was simply grandstanding."

Phil Knight, probably the biggest flip-flopper in the press storm surrounding this case, is now back supporting Joe Pa after publicly acknowledging the coaches mishaps and removing Paterno's name from a child care center at the Nike complex in Beaverton, Oregon. This decision came after Knight, at Paterno's memorial service, ravaged the Board of Trustees for it's decision to remove Paterno from his position without analyzing all facts in the case. Knight's opinion on this case is extremely important considering more than half of American athletic departments have apparel deals with his company, Nike, and when he is publicly bashing the NCAA, it's schools will notice. (Damn, the NCAA just CANNOT win recently.) It will be interesting to follow Knight's involvement in this case, which I am sure will just continue to be played out in the media as long as it has a pulse.

Kevin Murray
In articles that can be found here and here, I have analyzed the Penn State scandal and the NCAA's enforcement schemes in terms of it's members. Putting into words my opinion about this case (and the way that it has been handled) is very difficult due to my bias towards Penn State as a university. Growing up in Pennsylvania, I live for the Saturday's when the Nittany Lions take the field and looked up the Joe Paterno as a higher being; sadly, I think that Joe saw himself and Penn State in a similar light. Though I never met Joe, I have heard just how humble and nice of a man he was. With that sad, it is really difficult for me to straight out "blame" Penn State and the culture created by and surrounding it's football program and coach for the harm of many young men at the hands of Jerry Sandusky. I think this issue is microcosmic in nature, as I think similar cultures exist nationwide at big-time Division-I schools where the athletes rule and the coaches are paid more than all of the teachers at the university combined. With this regression in value, clearly the athletes and coaches are going to be valued more and granted leeway that may not be available to the academic only student or English professor. I think this is where my main issue with Penn State as a university lies: the fact that administrators at the largest Public university in the world were capable of covering up (whether intentionally or not) the fact that one of their assistants football coaches was a child predator is a little bit frightening.

Although I do not have a preference for either the Freeh Report or the Paterno Family Report, both serve a purpose. As with any investigation, there will be two sides of the story. Freeh seems to represent the general public considering his report was funded by the PSU Board of Trustees, used by the NCAA to sanction the University, and recognized as the most intensive investigation into the "Sandusky cover-up". The Paterno Family Report, on the other hand, was created to give Joe's side of the story and to appease all of the Paterno backers who have held their ground through this media tornado. It is important to acknowledge both reports as being of merit, while having hints of bias and favoritism. Anytime a privately contracted lawyer or former FBI investigator is paid to give their opinion on a topic, they will have some bias towards the sponsoring group.

I do believe that the Freeh Report probably gave the most clear and extensive information available to the Special Investigative Council, but it should not be looked at as the Constitution on this topic. Just like an archaeologist will never find every dinosaur bone, an investigator will never find EVERY piece of information or know EVERYTHING about their case. The media is as bad as the NCAA for jumping to the conclusion that every statement made in the Freeh Report is the best and most accurate, rather than just the findings of one investigative team during one investigation.

My take on the handling of the Penn State scandal is that it will probably never end. Not only will it never end at Penn State, but other universities across the country will learn from what they are seeing done at Penn State and probably discover indecencies within their own schools (hopefully not to the extreme of Jerry Sandusky). In conclusion, I hope that all Universities learn from this terrible occurance and never allow such injustices to occur on a college campus in this country again.


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