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Five questions the Freeh report should (hopefully) answer

Louis  Freeh, Ken Frazier AP

In a little under 12 hours from now, the Freeh report investigating Penn State’s actions in the Jerry Sandusky scandal will come to light.

Leaked emails to multiple media outlets over the past several weeks suggest the contents of the report will be nothing short of devastating to the upstanding reputation PSU has spent decades building. Most notably, the emails hint that several people, possibly including former coach Joe Paterno, willingly covered up incidents of child-sex abuse by Sandusky. But, outside of those select messages sent among university admins, we know almost nothing about the details of the report.

The lack of information, the absence of true details, has been perhaps the most frustrating portion of the Sandusky scandal from its beginning because it’s left us with nothing but questions. How could a man convicted of 45 counts of child sex abuse have been allowed to prey on young boys using his charity, The Second Mile, and his university as avenues for as long as he did?

Rightfully so, you want answers. I want answers.

Will we get all the answers we want? Certainly not. I would even count on more questions being raised.

But, for now, here’s what I’m looking for in the Freeh report:

1. Exactly what did Paterno do when informed by Mike McQueary of the Sandusky allegation in 2001?
This should be obvious. Paterno’s actions in the Sandusky scandal have been the lead talking points since the story broke open last November. I’m a firm believer that Paterno should not — nor will not — be the only person blamed in this tragedy. There are others, perhaps several depending on the information provided in the results of the investigation, who deserve equal if not greater scrutiny. But I also believe Paterno was not just a head coach and to suggest that the face of an institution of higher education was somehow able to do no more than pass a message up the proverbial chain of command is insulting.

Which leads me to question 1b: did Paterno fail to do the right thing, or purposefully look the other way? Emails obtained by CNN claim that former Penn State VP Gary Schultz had planned to contact the Pennsylvania Department of Welfare in 2001, but that changed following a conversation, presumably with Paterno.

2. Who else knew of the allegations and remained silent or otherwise aided in a possible cover-up?
To date, there are five members of Penn State who have been identified as major players in this story: McQueary, Paterno, Schultz, athletic director Tim Curley and former president Graham Spanier. Who else inside Penn State, if anyone, knew about allegations against Sandusky, or perhaps noticed odd behavior from Sandusky themselves? Emails obtained by CNN show former VP of student affairs Vicky Triponey had heated arguments with Curley and Spanier over the supposed culture of the athletic department, which apparently preferred to handle matters internally. Yes, Triponey had an ax to grind, but a culture is not limited to the actions of one or two people.

3. Did someone, anyone, at Penn State know about Sandusky’s red flags before 2001?
Penn State officials have given mixed responses on this. Curley said previously he had some recollection of a 1998 investigation of Sandusky, while Schultz claimed to have never heard of it. The misjudgment alone — if that is indeed the case — is despicable considering the subject matter, the person in question and the rank of those who should absolutely be on the same page. I would venture to guess, though, that it wasn’t a miscommunication. Sandusky was an active, high-profile member of his community. Perhaps it is for that reason that if someone did know about his history of being a “likely pedophile” (in the opinion of one child psychologist) that it was never addressed.

4. What’s up with the school’s Board of Trustees?
At least one trustee suspects a cover-up. Several of you have voiced suspicion that the board is in on it too. The curiosity surrounding the board and what they may or may not have known lends itself, at least indirectly, to the two previous questions above. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported in January that the board had been briefed on a Sandusky investigation last year — possibly as early as last May.  Assuming the timeline is correct, that would create a roughly six-month gap between the point where the board was made aware of the investigation and its decision to fire Paterno and Spanier last November.

And, don’t forget, the board has a meeting on Friday.

5. Will there be evidence that piques the interest of the NCAA? 
To be clear, and I’m not alone in this line of thought, I don’t think the NCAA has the jurisdiction to get involved with Penn State, let alone administer something as severe as the death penalty… as of right now. Today, July 11, 2012, the Sandusky scandal and any possible cover-up of his actions is a violation of the law, not of athletic rules. Involving itself with Penn State solely over criminal acts because it breaches some ethical code or bass ackwards “lack of institutional control” rhetoric is shattering the boundaries of the NCAA’s capabilities.

Now, if the Freeh report finds Penn State athletic officials covered up or failed to report an impermissible benefit or practice time overage on a separate occasion, then by all means, the Committee on Infractions can hammer them however it sees fit. But the NCAA cannot, should not, take matters of the law into its own hands.

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17 Responses to “Five questions the Freeh report should (hopefully) answer”
  1. dhlions says: Jul 11, 2012 10:15 PM

    Question 5. WTF.

    Yes, I’m sure Freeh skipped from child rape to impermissible benefits. From the report:

    “Yes we found additional evidence of the counts Sandusky is serving time for, aaaand Larry Johnson’s G-Series was paid for by a local car dealer. Good day.”

    I understand that this is pretty obviously a college football news site, but get some fucking perspective. This is not a football issue.

  2. alligatorsnapper says: Jul 11, 2012 10:19 PM

    Ben: This is the best journalism piece I have read that you have done yet. From my information gleaned from numerous readings of reports, transcripts, interviews with victims, and from some who were close to this unfolding scandal, your questions and observations are spot on.

    I hope the Freeh report does not gloss over any of those questions. He and his team have had all the time they needed to make a thorough investigation and provide all relevant evidence or information. I sure hope his report does not disappoint, but truly does tie all these loose ends together and reveal answers to all the questions you have posed. The victims and their families need it. The alums and fans of Penn State need it. And the largest scandal in the history of college sports necessitates it…as I hear the doctor in the family of southernpatriots often say…”we’ll see, we’ll see.”

  3. dhlions says: Jul 11, 2012 10:23 PM

    @alligatorsnapper

    You hope that Freeh didn’t gloss over unrelated incidents? Wouldn’t that indicate a potential lack of integrity as well as a waste of time?

    I just don’t see how the two can even compare, and to mention them in the same piece as if they’re part of the same seven headed dragon really belittles the suffering experienced by the victims.

  4. alligatorsnapper says: Jul 11, 2012 10:28 PM

    dlions: Couldn’t Freeh and his investigatory team address these concerns, along with others, without wasting time or risking integrity? These questions have been asked by many in research and investigative journalism pieces along the way. No one suggested wild goose chases and at no time did I imply nor should you infer that I “hope that Freeh didn’t gloss over unrelated incidents.”

  5. jimmy53 says: Jul 11, 2012 10:34 PM

    dhlions: You cannot just discount any cause for action by the NCAA. Hypothetically speaking (and yes, this is a hypothetical so don’t grab your gun and let the “fucks” start flying) if there turns out to be evidence that points to a far reaching cover-up that would include let’s say the HC, AD, VP, and prez that it would be “lack of institutional control” the likes of which have never been seen, and would need strict action.

    There is no provision that states because an incident is so morally reprehensible that the NCAA just overlooks it–rather, that is when yes, it should act. I know you’re a PSU fan, and are fiercely protective, but you can’t simply wash away transgressions because they’re “too tragic.” I find your reactions to the writer both uncalled for, rude, and off base.

  6. dhlions says: Jul 11, 2012 10:35 PM

    @alligatorsnapper

    “I hope the Freeh report does not gloss over any of those questions.”

    In my opinion, anything football related (i.e. impermissible benefits) is abjectly unrelated.

    It just seems to lack objectivity to keep the two connected in any way. If next year, after the whole Sandusky thing has been “settled” and it comes out that Freeh did uncover evidence of impermissible benefits, or whatever, great. Good. That’s fine. But let’s worry about the real issues first and put the periphery bullshit to the side for now.

    All that football has done will never equal out the pain inflicted on any one of his victims.

  7. dhlions says: Jul 11, 2012 10:42 PM

    @Jimmy53

    I can discount everything the NCAA says and does because its the height of corruption and a bureaucratic entity that the sports world would be better without.

    Besides, hasn’t a widespread cover up already been proven? Hell, wasn’t Schultz arrested tonight?

    I just don’t see how they compare, that’s all.

  8. jimmy53 says: Jul 11, 2012 10:50 PM

    I won’t disagree with you about the NCAA, but you have to admit that it is, unfortunately, the current governing body. And if the facts prove that something has been done (ie- a cover-up) then it is
    both the duty and the responsibility of the governing body to take appropriate action.

  9. dhlions says: Jul 11, 2012 11:00 PM

    And that is totally fine! I agree. In rereading Question 5, I really took issue with the last portion, rather than the overall concept.

    Nonetheless, priorities exist for a reason. Let’s keep them straight, media-types and the like.

  10. dannythebisforbeast says: Jul 11, 2012 11:04 PM

    The BOT and penn state paid the bill on the investigation. You don’t bite the hand that feeds you. Unfortunately whatever the report says I don’t believe will be impartial, complete or give us the whole truth. I think the whole thing will be targeted to a few scapegoats (not that they were innocent) that will take the fall for a much bigger problem. Hence the leaks that keep mentioning the same 3 names.

  11. Tim's Neighbor says: Jul 12, 2012 12:06 AM

    If there is an athletic department wide cover-up of criminal acts, then yes, in my opinion that counts as a lack of institutional control. How can they be trusted with the academic and social education of hundreds of student-athletes if they are perverse enough to cover-up such disgusting criminal acts?

    Does a criminal act have anything to do with a football field? Probably not. But we’re talking student athletes who are not fully adults (from an emotional and maturity POV), not professional athletes. Though I respect your opinion, Ben, I strongly disagree with your conclusion.

    Excellent stuff, however. Thank you for this ‘preview.’

  12. deadeye says: Jul 12, 2012 12:41 AM

    “Today, July 11, 2012, the Sandusky scandal and any possible cover-up of his actions is a violation of the law, not of athletic rules.”

    ===========================

    Sorry Ben, this is wrong. Of course anyone can interpret anything in whatever manner they please. But I think OKTC did a decent job of describing how the NCAA might disagree with your interpretation of the Sandusky coverup:

    http://outkickthecoverage.com/ncaa-has-authority-to-give-penn-state-death-penalty.php

    Setting rules, laws, and interpretations aside for a moment, how can anyone suggest that crimes committed by a former AD employee, in AD facilities, witnessed by other AD employees, and covered up by, at a minimum, PSU officials as well as possibly JoePa himself, somehow does not constitute a misdeed punishable by the NCAA? Add on top of all that the motive was obviously to keep the PSU reputation clean, keep the donations rolling in, keep the recruiting up, and allow JoePa the chance to set the all-time wins record. PSU got to reap all the benefits of Paterno’s record, a record that would have most likely been derailed had the story erupted in 2002. How is all of that NOT actionable by the NCAA?

    One possibly penalty is for the NCAA to have PSU vacate all their victories that occurred between the coverup beginning in 2002 and the eventual indictment in 2011. That would be just.

  13. dutchman1350 says: Jul 12, 2012 7:50 AM

    If the said “cover up” was to protect any reputation of the football program, then yes, there is lack of institutional control. The problem is the proven evidence that people lived in denial that Sandusky was a pedophile. Victims’ Mother, law enforcement, high school guidance counsellor, charity organization, state of PA D.A. had similar opportunities to prosecute Sandusky. This is why this is a tragedy, and not lack of institutional control.

  14. stoutfiles says: Jul 12, 2012 8:04 AM

    The board meeting needs to be bugged if they suspect a cover up. Everyone, and I mean everyone, that tries to cover this up needs to be prosecuted.

  15. florida727 says: Jul 12, 2012 8:37 AM

    Personally, and obviously I could be way off base here, I believe the very definition of “institutional control” is anything outside the athletic department, hence the word INSTITUTIONAL, as in “PSU is an educational INSTITUTION”. Otherwise, wouldn’t the NCAA’s purview only extend to dealing with punishment for violation of “departmental control”?

    As soon as people with titles such a VP, or Chancellor, or University President, or Board of Trustees, are brought into the discussion, you’ve extended beyond the scope of it just being an athletic department matter. It’s now a university-wide, or “institutional”, issue.

    Maybe I’m just splitting grammatical hairs here, but if it goes outside the athletic department, then I think the NCAA can punish them for “lack of institutional control”. Whether they choose to is another matter.

  16. florida727 says: Jul 12, 2012 8:40 AM

    #stoutfiles, forgot to mention one thing in my post, sorry, but “bugging” a room is a violation of the law. You cannot record another person’s conversation without their knowledge and consent. If memory serves correctly, it’s a misdemeanor. It’s also inadmissible in a court of law.

  17. kdbroom says: Jul 12, 2012 1:45 PM

    In my opinion, this is a football issue. Based on the evidence provided in the report, it’s blatantly clear to me that Paterno intervened to try to keep everything in-house. He must have done that for one of two reasons. First, he wanted it kept quiet so that it wouldn’t adversely impact the team’s ability to recruit. I think this reason is unlikely. Second, he wanted to protect his legacy. I think this is highly likely. Either way, the team benefited from the decision to keep this quiet, just like they’re being punished now that everything has come out. Paterno’s decision just punted the bad publicity (and the subsequent adverse impact on the football program) down the road a decade and a half. I’m sure he hoped that it would never come out, and that PSU would never have to answer for the cover-up. This is a football issue. The NCAA may not be able to punish PSU, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a football issue.

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