The case against Joe Paterno, Part Two

As expected, we have received some excellent correspondence disagreeing with my friend’s take, with which I agreed, on Joe Paterno and the Freeh Report. The essence of these responses is that Paterno should have done more than he did to make sure that kids weren’t being abused by Sandusky.

I agree, and so did Paterno. If I recall correctly, he said before he died that he wished he had done more.

At that point, though, Paterno wasn’t being harshly denounced, and I don’t believe there was much demand that his statue be removed.

The Freeh report changed this because it raised the stakes. It raised them by finding that Paterno “concealed Sandusky’s activities from the Board of Trustees, the University community and authorities,” and that he likely did so “in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity.” It is these findings that I believe are unfair given the evidence contained in the report.

Paterno did not “conceal” Sandusky’s activities from the Board in 1998 when allegations of misconduct came to his attention. These allegations were investigated by several people or entities, and Sandusky was cleared. Thus, there was nothing for Paterno to report to the Board or to anyone else. And Freeh’s complaint that Paterno “allowed” Sandusky to retire in 1999 as a valued member of the Penn State football legacy, instead of a suspected child molester, makes no sense for the reasons set forth by my friend.

2001 is different. When the graduate assistant brought his allegations to Paterno’s attention, Paterno reported the matter to Schultz and Curley, as he should have. But Paterno should also have kept himself apprised of the situation after handing the matter over to these two. If he didn’t, then he didn’t do enough; this, I assume, is what Paterno had in mind when he said he wished he had done more. If Paterno did, then he may have been part of a cover-up. But, for the reasons stated by my friend, I don’t think the evidence cited by Freeh shows this.

Paterno’s apparent failure to circle back with Schultz and Curley doesn’t constitute concealing misconduct from the Board. When a person reports misconduct to the next levels on the chain of command, he doesn’t conceal that misconduct from the body at the top of that chain.

Moreover, Freeh cites no meaningful evidence to support his conclusion that Paterno didn’t tell the Board and others because he wanted to avoid the consequences of bad publicity. This is pure speculation on Freeh’s part, and speculation that ignores the most obvious reason why Paterno did not report misconduct to the Board and others — the fact that Paterno had reported it to the next levels of the chain of command.

Freeh’s report, then, is irresponsible as it relates to Paterno. The “findings” at the beginning of the report are not supported by the evidence that follows.

Unfortunately, I suspect that the journalists and talking heads who reported that Freeh’s report contains new, damaging evidence regarding Paterno read only the first part of the report. Once one reads the actual evidence, I think it becomes clear that the case against Paterno remains (for now) what it was before Freeh started investigating — that he should have done more, not that he concealed misconduct out of a bad motive. The more damning case that Freeh wants to make is based on speculation, not evidence.